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Burns Night 2015

Tonight I am reading the poetry of Robert Burns and drinking Scotch whisky, very special Scotch whisky – I am drinking the award-winning Benromach Organic Speyside Single Malt Whisky, hand-made by just two men at Speyside’s smallest working distillery operated by Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin.

Time for another dram!

The whole process – raw ingredients, production, maturation and bottling is certified to the rigorous organic standards set by The Soil Association.

Big dram!

I have googled this and printed out a “Scottish lesson” to read to a small group of (soon to become) aficionados!

“The company work to source organic barley grown and malted to an exact specification ..”

I drink and read on …

“One of the key components in whisky production is maturation and with no sherry or bourbon casks certified as organic, the company – in a first for the industry – have used new American oak from environmentally managed forests in Missouri.”

Now that’s what I call detail – and the whisky is surely unique. It has a heather-inspired honey sweetness, a totally buzzing resonance and length, it is a real bumble bee of a whisky!


So to the poetry: I am so impressed by the depth and quality of Robert Burns’ work as we read it this evening; many of his lines are well known but there are real insights when one reads a little further in – what a romantic: ​

… pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or, like the snow-fall in the river,
A moment white, then melts forever.

From Tam O’Shanter

And profound political thinker, sage and sadly, prophet:

Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

And (wait for this one!) a C18th feminist:

While Europe’s eye is fix’d on mighty things,
The fate of empires and the fall of kings;
While quacks of State must each produce his plan,
And even children lisp the Rights of Man;
Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention,
The Rights of Woman merit some attention.

From The Complete Works

The night wears on and given the good nature of the whisky, I am glad to have some vegetarian haggis for the late repast.

So to the end of this Benromach and to something I read in the letters page of the London Evening Standard last week: appreciation of the Gordon & MacPhail from Elgin brand extends apparently to the very heart of Sassenach England where, last week a bottle of Gordon &MacPhail House of Commons Scotch was signed by David Cameron and George Osborne to be auctioned to support Homeless Veterans.

I wonder what Robert Burns would have thought of that?
I think he would have approved –

The brave poor sodger* ne’er despise,
Nor count him as a stranger;
Remember he’s his country’s stay,
In day and hour of danger.


From When Wild War’s Deadly Blast Was Blawn

A moment of pause, then a second whisky is brought out –
This from my local Co-op, their own brand 12 year old Highland Single Malt Whisky which picked up a silver medal at the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) and International Spirits Challenge (ISC) last year.
Another dram please before we read its history: It is matured in American white oak casks and aged-Olorosso sherry butts. Well, that’s fine with me! Darker in colour than the organic with a more traditional flavour, strong but with an after suggestion of almonds and even marzipan coming through. A very satisfying, good, goodnight whisky. I wonder what Robert Burns would have made of it.


Scotch Drink

Let other poets raise a fracas

“Bout vines, an’ wines, an’ drucken Bacchus,

An’ crabbit names an’stories wrack us,

An’ grate our lug:

I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us,

In glass or jug.

… John Barleycorn, Thou king o’ grain!

The next morning was rather different: a bit groggy and maybe also a bit unkempt, I walk down to the shops for bread and milk and recall other of the great poet’s lines:

Wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:

Shaun Traynor


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