Robert Burns and His Love for Whisky

Robert Burns & His Love for Whisky

Why is Robert Burns Night a night for tasting whisky?

Every year on January 25th, Scotland and beyond come together to celebrate Robert Burns, the national poet. People enjoy suppers, address haggis, and most importantly, sample whisky.

Robert Burns’s love for whisky is well-known. He was not shy about praising Scotland’s national drink in his works. Throughout history, reports suggest that Burns himself enjoyed a drink from time to time.

Burns Night is celebrated worldwide to honor the poet’s birth. Many of Burns’s poems and songs talk about whisky and hospitality. One famous poem is “Tam o’ Shanter.”

In “Tam o’ Shanter,” Burns describes the joy of sharing whisky with friends and facing life’s challenges. The poem captures the spirit of Burns Night celebrations.

Burns was introduced to whisky at 22 when he was an apprentice before becoming a farmer. He casually mentioned whisky in various poems and songs throughout his life.

In “The Jolly Beggars,” Burns mentions a Scottish distillery named “Kilbagie.” This poem talks about a visit to a tavern where Kilbagie whisky was the drink of choice.

Burns wrote several poems centred around whisky, like “John Barleycorn.” In this poem, he not only praises the drink but also the process of making it. Whisky, according to Burns, can evoke a sense of bravery.

In “Scotch Drink,” Burns writes about how whisky can change a person’s mood. The poem defends whisky’s place in Scotland and addresses political issues with Scotch whisky producers.

Burns has consistently expressed his love for whisky in both songs and poems. In 1787, he wrote his famous song, known for toasting in whisky sessions, titled “A Bottle and A Friend,” as celebrated by Charles Maclean in his whisky tastings worldwide.

Burns’ most quoted and famous whisky writings come in 1786 with “The Author’s Earnest Cry and Prayer,” which starts addressed to “The Right Honourable and Honourable Scottish Representatives in The House of Commons.”

It is a passionate read in response to the Scotch Distillery Act of 1786, which imposed an extra duty on Scottish spirits exported to England, making it much more difficult for Scottish distillers to do business there. These writings represent an age-old argument with Scottish whisky exports even to the present day.

Glencairn proudly supports Robert Burns and his passion for whisky. Check out our limited edition Burns poetry set, which includes illustrations from Jim Drysdale featuring “Tam o’ Shanter” and “The Jolly Beggars,” among others.

Shop Now

Burns Night 2024 Events

Robert Burns Night 2024 Events

Are you looking for somewhere to celebrate Robert Burns Night?

It’s almost time to celebrate the bard’s birthday, and as whisky seamlessly intertwines with Robert Burns festivities, we’ve curated a list of the most exceptional events throughout the UK.

Save the date 

On the 25th of January, Scotland and beyond come together to honour the “bard,” the national poet Robert Burns. While this celebration holds worldwide recognition, it’s particularly renowned for traditional songs, poetry, dancing, and hearty food. It’s a time when even the commitment to dry January can be set aside, giving in to the indulgence of the “water of life”—whisky. And what better way to savour such spirits than in the exquisite Glencairn glass?

What do you do on Robert Burns night?

The observance of Burns Night typically entails a series of events, commencing with a robust supper at the centre, featuring the iconic haggis, neeps, and tatties—a dish celebrated in one of Robert Burns’ famous poems. Over a few glasses of whisky, toasts are commonly raised to Scotland, the delectable spread on the table, Robert Burns himself, and the nation’s beloved drink, whisky. What once was a celebration confined to Scotland has now transcended borders, with Burns events springing up all over the UK and beyond.

Find your local Burns Night.

That’s why we’ve crafted this list of events, showcasing the bard’s influence all across the UK. While this is a concise compilation of the finest events, there are still numerous others waiting to be discovered. If you’d like us to include your event, please reach out, and we’ll gladly add it to the list.

Slàinte Mhath!

The Glencairn Glass crime short story competition is back

The world’s favourite whisky glass – the Glencairn Glass – is once again delving into the dark side of crime fiction with the launch of its popular annual crime short story competition.

This year it launches on 27th October, once again in partnership with the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival and Scottish Field Magazine, offering the winning writer a prize of £1,000 and their story published in Scottish Field and online.

Over the last two years the competition has attracted hundreds of entries from both experienced and novice crime writers internationally. Writers from around the world are invited to compose their stories, in less than 2000 words, on the theme: “A crime set in Scotland” – the competition closes on 31st December 2023.

In addition to the £1,000 prize, the winner will also see their story published in Scottish Field Magazine in the spring. The runner up will receive a cash prize of £500. Both stories will be published online on the Scottish Field website, as well as on the Glencairn Glass website (

The Glencairn Glass is no stranger to the ‘dram-atic’ world of Scottish crime fiction. The Scottish family business Glencairn Crystal has celebrated and supported the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival since 2020 with its Glencairn Glass sponsorship of the McIlvanney Prize for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year and the Bloody Scotland Debut Crime Novel of the Year awards. Earlier this year a new three-year deal was agreed to secure the company’s commitment and sponsorship until the end of 2025.


The judges

This year’s Glencairn Glass short story competition judging panel includes Callum McSorley, a Glasgow based writer whose debut novel Squeaky Clean won this year’s Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year. He is joined by Kate Foster the Edinburgh based national newspaper journalist and author, whose debut novel The Maiden won this year’s Bloody Scotland’s Debut Prize and has become a Times and Waterstones bestseller.

Glencairn Crystal’s marketing director Gordon Brown, who is also one of the founding directors of the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival, is the third judge. Gordon, who is also a crime writer, has had eleven crime and thriller books published to date.

Gordon commented: ‘We are delighted to set out on the search for a great Scottish set crime short story once more. The Glencairn Glass’s sponsorship of the crime writing prizes at Bloody Scotland and its success globally, makes it the perfect glass to toast all those writers that are about to sit down to pen a classic crime short story.’


Previous winners

Last year’s short story competition was won by Frances Crawford from Glasgow, whose captivating tale The Dummy Railway told the story of a disturbing discovery through the eyes of a young Scottish girl. Frances graduated last year, at the age of 60, with an MLitt (First) in Creative Writing from Glasgow University and says that winning the competition has opened many doors for her.

Frances commented: “What attracted me to the Glencairn Glass Crime Short Story Competition was the fact that it is so inclusive and open to everyone, whether absolute beginner or published author. Since winning, I developed The Dummy Railway as a full-length novel, with very promising agent interest. It was an honour to win such a prestigious prize. I would encourage crime writers at all stages of their writing path to enter”.

The winner of the first Glencairn Glass Crime Short Story Competition in 2021 was Brid Cummings, a fiction writer and occupational therapist in South Australia. Her story Halmeoni’s Wisdom was a dark tale of human trafficking, illegal trade and a desire for freedom. Winning the competition gave Brid the confidence and encouragement to complete her psychological suspense novel and she has recently been signed up by a UK literary agency.


How to enter

All short story entries must be submitted at The competition closes at midnight on Sunday 31st December 2023. The winner and runner up will be announced in March 2023.

Bloody Scotland’s Festival Director, Bob McDevitt, said: “Bloody Scotland has always been dedicated to supporting and discovering new writing and this short story competition provides a great opportunity for writers to flex their creative muscles and explore the broad church of crime writing.”