The English and Scottish borders were ruled by the sword between the 13th and 17th century. Awash with robbery, raiding, and riding, born out of the need to survive, a war-like race of men seized their place in British history.
Christened The Border Reivers – and nicknamed the ‘Steel Bonnets’ after the helmets they wore for protection – they left behind a trail of blackmail and extortion, and a blood-line which stretches to, among others, presidents Johnson and Nixon, Neil Armstrong, T.S. Eliot, and the Scottish bard Robert Burns.
From poems to songs and satires, Robert Burns composed some of the most recognisable lyrics. Whether welcoming new beginnings with Auld Lang Syne or describing a man or a mouse (or even a louse), his treasured verse has been recounted for centuries.
Each year, on 25th January, his life is celebrated with music, storytelling, Scottish fare and, of course, whisky. If you’re planning to raise a glass to ‘Rabbie’ this year, here’s how to make it the perfect gathering:
Customarily a piper plays as guests arrive, but traditional Scottish music can be an enjoyable alternative. The welcome speech sees guests seated, followed by grace, usually The Selkirk Grace, which is attributed to Burns.
Supper begins with soup. By tradition Scottish broth, although often this is replaced with potato, leek, or smoked haddock soup.
Burns Night centres around the entrance of the haggis, welcomed to the sound of bagpipes. When on the table, guests enjoy a recital of Burns’ ode Address to a Haggis and, with the addition of tatties and neeps, a whisky toast marks the beginning of the feast.
Menus can vary but this year, in our Bistro, we will follow the haggis with a roast venison main course, served with braised red cabbage and The Lakes Whisky sauce. A traditional Scottish dessert of cranachan typically completes the banquet or, depending upon your preference, a whisky trifle, panna cotta or cheeseboard.
When it’s time for coffee, The Immortal Memory is a fitting tribute to Burns’ life. Offered with good cheer, poetry, song and whisky toasts, the only thing left to do is come together to sing Auld Lang Syne.
The Whisky Pairing
An essential part of any Burns Night, our preference is a fitting tribute to Robert Burns who was indeed a Border Reiver. Steel Bonnets, the first cross-border blend of exceptional English and Scotch malt whiskies, honours those who lived in the Border Marches. A coming together of kindred spirits, with The Lakes Single Malt at its heart, creamy vanilla and comforting woodsmoke interweave to create a whisky born of the unique rugged character and heritage of the borderlands.
The Whiskymaker’s notes: Steel Bonnets has a creamy, slightly nutty and full-bodied flavour. Notes of vanilla, ginger, nutmeg, and hints dried fruit are all held together with a sweet layer of woodsmoke. Non-chill filtered and bottled at the natural colour at 46.6% ABV, it retains the smoothness and the depth of flavour imparted by the casks.