Thursday, February 3, 2011

Whiskey, Haggis and Burns

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie's
a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

-Robert Burns

Two weeks ago we went to the Glenfiddich whiskey distillery in Dufftown. Situated in an area with more castles than Aberdeen has seagulls, it is clear why the area is called the “Malt Whiskey Trail.” (The castles are closed for the winter but we plan to return.) Glenfiddich has been made in Dufftown since 1886 and has been selling single malt around the world since 1963. After a tour full of smells, steam, and enormous barrels, we got to taste 3 varieties. My parents will not be surprised to learn that I liked the most expensive one, aged 18 years. When Caitlin and I first tasted whiskey in October, we swore to only ever drink whiskey that was put in the barrel before we were old enough to drink it. The older I get, the more expensive (and better tasting) shall be my whiskey. I think this is a fine benefit to aging.

On Friday Paul and I attended a Burns supper with his parents at their local golf club. One doesn’t have to be posh to play golf here. It was invented in Scotland and is a game for everyone. I didn’t see one pair of plaid pants, but there were quite a few men in kilts. Burns night is a tradition in Scotland and around the world. It’s a celebration of the poet Robert Burns, composer of “Auld Lang Syne” and “A Man’s a Man for a’ That” among others. Each year folks gather to recite his poetry and eat a dinner of fine haggis, neeps and tatties. Haggis is made of less desirable meat bits combined with barley and spiced nicely. Neeps are turnips and tatties are potatoes, both served mashed. I had lots of fun listening to people recite long Burns poems from memory and share some laughs. Unlike the “traditional Scottish evening” I attended as a tourist in Inverness years ago, this was an actual Scottish evening complete with haggis, music and dancing and it took place among a real community of friends. The evening closed with everyone signing Auld Lang Syne (including all the verses American’s leave out). I learned that to sing it in Scotland involves holding hands with your neighbors with your arms crossed in front of you and bobbing to the beat. What a night!

Song of the Day: Auld Lang Syne, performed by Scottish legends The Tannahill Weavers and sung to a lesser-known tune.

Photos: Glenfiddich Distillery (2) and Haggis with neeps and tatties (and cider), Paul and Me on Burns Night

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