The annual Scottish celebration is almost here, as people all over the world are preparing for Burns Night on the 25th of January.
Many of us have probably enjoyed some haggis or a few glasses of whisky on Burns night, listening to the different Scottish tunes played throughout the evening.
But what many may not know, is that Burns Night is actually held to commemorate the birth of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.
Burns Night has quickly become a global event, with just as many people celebrating the great poet in Asia, as they do in Scotland. The night is a joyous, happy occasion which includes haggis, speeches, songs, and best of all, a whole lot of whisky!
Whether you’ll be attending your very first Burns Night event and want to learn a little about the man himself, or if you simply want to brush up on your knowledge of the famous poet, this is the place.
It’s time to learn about Robert Burns, or Rabbie as he was known to friends and fans, and what makes Burns Night such an important event in Scottish culture.
Robert (Rabbie) Burns
Robert Burns was born in 1759 in Ayrshire, Scotland. He was a bright young man, who excelled in his education and chose a very different path from his father, who was a rather unsuccessful farmer.
Robert was a passionate supporter of the French Revolution, and a true believer in freedom. For six years he served as an excise officer which, in those days, was a position of significant authority and power.
Long after his death, Burns inspired the founders of liberalism and socialism, while many of his poems and songs are considered a cornerstone of Scottish culture. He wrote in both standard English and the Scots language, often delving into politics, freedom, and independence.
Burns night celebrates all things ‘Rabbie Burns.’
Many enjoy the Burns Supper on the night, which includes haggis, a traditional Scottish dish made of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt. The haggis is usually served with mashed ‘neeps and tatties’ which are swedes, turnips, and potatoes.
Scotch whisky is the main drink of the night, as Burns himself was a proud whisky lover.
Throughout the night speeches are made speaking of Burns’ life and successes, while many of his own poems and songs are sung, sometimes accompanied by bagpipes!
The night usually starts with The Selkirk Grace, a well-known speech in the Scots language, which gives thanks before a meal. Auld Lang Syne, which is perhaps Burns’ most well-known song, is always sung near the end, bringing the evening to a close.
Burns was never shy about his love for whisky, often including references to it in many of his poems and writings. He mentions it several times in this passage from his poem Tam O’ Shanter:
‘Inspiring bold John Barleycorn! (whisky)
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi’ tippenny (ale), we fear nae evil;
Wi’ usquabae (whisky), we’ll face the devil!’
Burns was introduced to whisky at the age of 22 and since then, mentioned it in numerous poems, often delving into the whisky politics of that time. Scotch Drink, another of his poems, was written in 1785 and was seen as one of his ‘political’ whisky poems, inspired by the injustices towards Scottish people and the land.
Burns night is just around the corner, and we have just what you need to fully experience the Scottish celebration and all the traditions that come with it. Our top three whiskies to sample on Burns Night are:
- The Laphroaig 16 year-old is for the lovers of peat, smoke, and wood. A few drams of this will wonderfully complement the strong flavours of haggis!
- The Glenlivet 19 year-old should be enjoyed during dessert, as it will soothe the palate and balance out the sweetness or intensity of the dessert you’re enjoying.
- The Port Ellen 35 year-old is an extremely rare bottling and should be savoured on its own. Pour yourself a dram as the Auld Lang Syne plays in the background, and for a few moments immerse yourself in Scottish culture.