Is there a more misunderstood food than the noble haggis? A simple food born from frugality that made sure nothing went to waste. These days it’s seen more as something to have on a special occasion here in Scotland, most notably on Burn’s night. It was with that in mind we set out on a simple mission – to find out what you should drink with your haggis.
We sat down in the lovely Smith and Gertrude; a relaxed Edinburgh wine bar which opened in 2015. They brilliantly highlight simple, culinary pleasures, so it seemed like the perfect destination to try our humble haggis experiment. We were joined by some of their delightful staff along with Rupert from Buck and Birch, a chef who provided one of the haggises and one of our favourite new drinks - Aelder Liqueur.
We were treated to 4 different types of Haggis along with mash (we decided to forgo the neeps...Arthur claimed “nobody eats them anyway!”):
- Crombies Traditional Haggis.
- McSween’s Vegetarian Haggis.
- Simon Howie’s Gluten Free Haggis (we were curious!)
- Buck and Birch ‘Five Beast Haggis’ – Created by Rupert from Buck & Birch it was made up of a selection of tasty morsels including venison, pork, pigeon and more!
The list of whiskies included-
- Robert Burns Single Malt
- Compass Box Hedonism
- Glenlivet Nadurra First Fill American Oak Cask Strength
- Auchentoshan Three Wood
- Balvenie 17 Year Old Doublewood
- Springbank 15 Year Old
- Benromach 10 Year Old
- Islay Mist
- Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition
- Ardmore 12 Year Old Port Finish
- Marquis De Montesquiou Extra Old Armagnac
- Aelder Liqueur
Our conclusions were simple. There were a couple that didn’t work so well, but on the whole single malt whisky tends to go very well with haggis. The Auchentoshan Three Wood which, due to the heavy sherry cask influence, we had assumed would be a sure fire hit. Unfortunately, its light bodied nature meant that it was dominated by the spicy haggis.
The other surprise was the Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition. The whisky was loved by everyone but the dry smoke clashed with the spice of the haggis. The consensus was that this whisky would have been better to simply round the night off with on its own. The Balvenie 17 year old Doublewood showed very well as did Springbank 15 year old with weighty spirit and sherry combining with the haggis to make for a delightful culinary experience. However, the two best matches came from two whiskies on the lower end of the pricing structure: Islay Mist and Benromach 10 year old. The slight touch of smoke in each worked wonders and the Islay Mist Blended Whisky was a particular favourite. Isn’t it a pleasant surprise when your favourite is the cheapest? As for the wild cards, we tried an Armagnac and the delicious Aelder liqueur. The Auld Alliance of Armagnac and Haggis split the group, but if you’re looking to have a haggis that is led by gamey flavours this year then look no further than Aelder Liqueur. The meaty, fruity cacophony is something that you should dive right into if you have a chance. At 17% ABV it is also a lot more accessible than a whisky for those that don’t like spirits.
There we are. Not only have we found out what goes well with Haggis but we’ve also figured out that it may just be the cheapest dinner party around! Some good haggis, some nice potatoes and a bottle of Islay Mist. It’s a simple recipe for a great night with friends.