We love us a bit of tradition. Not so much that it feels dusty and boring – on the contrary. We’re all for learning about and giving a respectful nod to history but only if the information is delivered in a fresh and relevant way.
The Glenlivet are definitely on our wavelength. Here’s a premium single malt whisky with almost 200 years under its belt, yet there’s nothing fusty, exclusive or remotely outdated about it. That was the vision of George Smith when he became the first legal distiller in Glenlivet in 1824. It didn’t make him popular with those who were doing the similar things in less salubrious ways around him mind but that boldness, that drive to move the category forward has remained true to the brand ever since.
Sure you can enjoy George Smith’s legacy in a dram but really, that’s only half the story. Each expression also works like a charm in an array of top notch cocktails. Not something that traditionalists might expect to hear but then The Glenlivet has always prided itself on its tradition of breaking traditions. Not just in whisky but culture as well. Why? Call it a desire to set new standards and challenge conventional ways of thinking.
That’s why its distinctly smooth, rich and deliciously fruity characteristics set the benchmark for the signature style of Speyside Single Malts and why it’s the number two single malt IN THE WORLD. That’s also why it has built up an array of appreciative fans including Charles Dickens and King George IV no less and why The Glenlivet is the perfect whisky to toast in Burns Night, 2021-style.
Let’s be honest, we all need something to celebrate in the current climate. But we do know that this year’s Burns Night is going to very different to most. “We talk a lot about being slightly alternative and embracing change here at The Glenlivet,” says Ambassador David Robinson. “And that’s our approach to Burns Night 2021”.
What’s all the fuss about Burns Night?
Before we get to the whys, a prelude: this is the first celebration of the year and while there’s no denying that it won’t be the way it normally rolls, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make an effort to enjoy it.
Don’t let the fact that Burns Night has its roots in Scotland put you off, it’s very much a global affair with more people honouring the occasion every year. With good reason. It’s a commemoration of the life, times and works of Scotland’s most prominent poet and revered ‘everyman’, Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns.
In his relatively short life (Burns died aged 37 from rheumatic fever), he penned over 500 poems and songs, including one we may have sang recently, Auld Lang Syne. Significantly, as a proud and passionate Scotsman, many were written in Scots dialect and had a social and political bent. Little wonder why he’s regarded as Scotland’s national Bard and why his prose is held in such high regard hundreds of years after they were first penned.
The annual observance, held on or around 25 January, Burns’ birthday, is usually a big affair, centring around his works whilst highlighting many of the things we associate with Scotland. Like bagpipes, a hearty meal of haggis, tatties and neeps (that’s mashed potatoes and swede for the uninitiated), and of course, plenty of whisky. It’s all packaged up in a congenial and traditional Burns Supper shared with plenty of friends.
Not this year. Instead of going down the mainstream route, The Glenlivet is calling on us to honour the great man in our own inimitable way. Here David Robinson gives us the lowdown:
So David, let’s start with what Burns Night mean to you.
For me, like many, it’s the perfect time for a celebration. During the last few months we’ve all proved that we’re pretty hardy but even so, we’re looking forward to the next time we can all be together. I’m looking forward to doing that on Burns Night, albeit in an alternative way.
And what does Burns Night mean to The Glenlivet?
Burns was a social commentator and spoke about the land as it was at the time, while Burns Night is about coming together and celebrating. We talk about these things as well, embracing where we’re from, sharing convivial moments and toasting them with whisky. It’s more important now than ever for us to celebrate the small things and represent the best of what we are. This year’s Burns Night is about brushing 2020 under the carpet and looking forward to a brighter future.
Amen to that! But how do you propose that we celebrate Burns Night in lockdown?
We can’t be together in person and it’s likely that we’ll be celebrating over Zoom, video conference, in our ‘bubbles’ or even alone but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make it a fun evening. Burns Night is the first big event of the year and we want to be part of that, driving things forward. We’re encouraging people to join in and embrace it with much more positivity in the hope we will get out of the current situation very soon.
My whole push on Burns Night 2021 is very much in keeping with The Glenlivet ethos: to challenge preconceptions. We shouldn’t think that we can’t do Burns Night because we can’t get together in a big dining hall. We can do it. We can celebrate Burns’ life and his observations of Scotland but it calls for thinking in a slightly different way this year.
For instance, does the haggis have to be served with tatties, neeps and a dram of whisky? No. You can take the traditional things associated with the occasion, the whisky, poems and haggis and turn them on their head.
Be inventive and mix things up by preparing something unexpected like haggis tacos, or if you crave the mashed potatoes that’s usually part of a Burns Night supper, how about making some haggis croquettes? Serve these dishes up with a delicious peach and vanilla hot toddy or something like a marmalade whisky sour. They’re wonderful ways to enjoy the occasion.
That sounds amazing – we’re in! Are the cocktails easy enough for people to make at home?
Absolutely! We’ve looked at classics like Old Fashioneds, Sours, hot toddies – things like that and stretched them a bit but just enough to still make them accessible and easy to replicate at home. None of the recipes require any fancy infusions or complicated techniques, instead they take in flavour notes that people can associate with while keeping the preparation of the drinks nice and simple.
Give us some examples.
Take your regular hot toddy for instance. Yes, it’s a delicious drink in its basic form but instead of honey, try adding vanilla syrup, then instead of hot water joosh things up with a peach herbal tea. All of a sudden you’ve got something much more interesting. People look at the ingredients and are immediately curious – they think the recipe is really cool and want to try it. Not only by tasting it but having a go at making it for themselves. Consumers are much more adventurous these days and want to try different things and for people who don’t think they like whisky because they think it’s an old man’s drink, these cocktails are a great introduction to the category.
How will you be celebrating Burns Night?
By doing exactly what I’m preaching. I’ll be having haggis tacos which I’ll accompany with some homemade pineapple salsa – I’m experimenting with some recipes at the moment – and of course, I’ll be putting together some wonderful cocktails. Like most people, I won’t be able to have a large party but I will get in contact with my friends in Scotland and hopefully, stream some of the recipes into people’s living rooms.
Which The Glenlivet expression best captures Burns Night for you?
Ooh, that’s a tricky one – there are so many standout initiatives in the range including the creation of The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, which is a great representation of the distillery’s signature style. There’s also The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve with its cask exploration, while The Glenlivet Capsule Collection is a fine example of category defining innovation – either of which would fit the occasion perfectly.
However, if pushed, it has to be The Glenlivet 12, it’s the embodiment of our history and everything that we’re about as a brand. This particular expression has a really beautiful, light style which is bursting with orchard fruit and there’s a wonderful tropical note in there too. For me, it’s what Burns Night is all about – it’s a celebration of everything that’s great about Scotland.
Much like the delicious recipes below. Give them a go this Burns Night.
The Glenlivet cocktails for Burns Night
Peach and Vanilla Hot Toddy
50ml The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve
15ml lemon juice
15ml vanilla syrup
75-100ml brewed peach herbal tea
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Build the ingredients in an insulated or enamel mug, stir lightly and garnish with a clove-studded lemon wedge and star anise.
Mood: Throw on your cosiest jumper, sit back, relax and enjoy.
Spiced Spey Coffee
40ml The Glenlivet 12 Year Old
15ml liquid chocolate
10ml Demerara sugar syrup*
75ml filter coffee
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
40ml lightly whipped double cream
Warm a small wine glass with boiling water, allow it to sit for a minute and pour out. Add the chocolate, whisky, coffee, syrup and cayenne pepper together in a heated glass and stir lightly. Once the ingredients are mixed, gently pour the cream over the back of a spoon to create a creamy layer on top, then garnish with chocolate shavings and another small pinch of cayenne pepper for kick.
Mood: Cosy up on the sofa and embrace true indulgence.
50ml The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve
25ml lemon juice
2 teaspoons orange marmalade
1 egg white or 20ml quafaba aka water from a can of chickpeas (optional)
Into a cocktail shaker, add all ingredients and shake contents without ice first to emulsify the egg/chickpea water if you are using it. Add ice to the shaker and then shake for a second time before straining the contents into a tumbler filled with cubed ice. Garnish with a bright twist of orange.
Mood: Whoever said marmalade was just for breakfast?
The Glenlivet Old Fashioned
50ml The Glenlivet 12 Year Old
10ml Demerara sugar syrup*
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 dash Orange bitters
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass over lots of ice, stir for roughly 20 seconds to lightly dilute the drink and allow the flavours to harmonise. Strain into a Rocks glass over ice and garnish with a bright zest of orange. Mood: Elegant, classic evening indulgence.
* To create the Demerara sugar syrup:
Dissolve 300g of Demerara sugar in 250ml of water over a low heat, making sure not to boil. Allow the crystals to fully dissolve and then let the syrup cool before decanting into a sterilised bottle. Store in the fridge for up to a month.