Wi’ tippenny, we fear nae evil;
Wi’ usquabae, we’ll face the devil!
– Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns, 1790.
Isle of Arran Distillers are Patron of the Robert Burns World Federation and bottle the only official whisky to carry his name. There are both blend and single malt expressions on the market but I’ll be reviewing the latter. The Robert Burns single malt is produced at Arran Distillery in Lochranza, matured in American Oak Casks and bottled at 43%. Before we get onto the whisky though, let us first look at the man himself.
Burns was born into a farming family in Alloway in 1759. An avid reader from a young age, the works of Alexander Pope, Henry Mackenzie and Laurence Sternie inspired him to try his hand at Poetry when not working on the farm. When his Father passed away in 1784, Robert was left in charge and began what would be a significant relationship with Jean Armour. When Jean’s father objected to the two’s union, Burns took up with another woman, Mary Campbell, with whom he arranged to move to Jamaica. In order to raise money for this trip, Burns arranged to publish some of his writing. He gained some considerable critical acclaim in response to this volume and when Mary unexpetedly passed away, he cancelled the trip and moved instead to Edinburgh where he could mingle with the literary society there.
Financial Security eluded him though and in 1788, Burns returned to Dumfriesshire where he rekindled his affair with Jean Armour. His fame as a poet found Jean’s father in more receptive mood when it came to their coupling and the two were married the same year. After trying his hand once again at farming, Burns attempted to find a more steady income by taking work as an exciseman in 1791, no doubt bringing him into contact, even conflict, with the illicit distillers of the time.
Burns’ life was one of passionate affairs, excessive drinking, poetry and song. He died in 1796 aged 37, from Rheumatic Fever but his memory lives on. He is seen as Scotland’s National Poet and his birthday on the 25th of January is marked all over the world with readings of poetry, suppers of Haggis and of course, a wee dram or two…
The Scores: About the Scoring…
Smell: 15 / 20. The nose is Malty and a little Musty with Vanilla, Cream, Shortbread, Apple and Orange.
Taste: 16 / 20. Quite a lot of Spice on the palate followed by Vanilla, Honey, Caramel and Orange Cream
Value for Money: 7 / 10. Usually available for around £25 – £30 and it’s an interesting enough wee dram for that price.
Overall: 39 / 50. A bit hot at first but it mellows over time with the addition of a little water and a nice malty character comes through. It’s very reasonably priced but it’s worth noting that the Arran 10 year old is usually around £35 and I’d much rather spend the extra few pounds on that. Still, if you’re looking for another spin on the Arran single malt the Robert Burns is certainly worth a wee look.