Whisky Magazine Issue 13
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With Burns Night fast approaching Martin Betts examines the short, but eventful, life of Robert Burns and the role whisky played within it.
An cut you up wi' ready slight,” recites the chairman as his knife slices through the haggis with all the precision of a surgical scalpel. There is much applause before the guests toast the Burns Night meal with a fine malt that glides over their taste buds, leaving them all with a satisfying sensation of warmth that courses through their bodies.
In the midst of winter a meal of hot soup followed by haggis, neeps and tatties, and Typsy Laird (sherry trifle) washed down with a good Scotch is as welcome as finding out that you have won the lottery. Celebrating the birth of Scotland's bard, Robert Burns, is cracking fun, therefore it's tempting to think of Burns during the festivities as a jolly Scot who wrote excellent songs and poetry that often celebrated whisky. However, before you enjoy your Scotch this Burns Night, consider this: whisky played an important role in the story of his life, a life that saw Burns fight poverty, depression and adversity in an attempt to create a better environment for his family and himself.
He was born against a backdrop of uprising and revolution in Alloway, Ayrshire on the 25th January 1759. Some thirteen years before Robert's birth the Jacobites had marched into England only to be later slaughtered by an army led by King George III's brother - Butcher Cumberland. Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stewart), who had led the Jacobite uprising, was forced to flee to France. Others were executed, murdered or jailed – where they were lef...