Which drams will whisky makers be having at Hogmanay?

What is the perfect dram for Hogmanay? 

It’s a tough question, with a lot to consider. Does one opt for prestige – treat yourself to a more expensive dram to mark the special occasion – or is it better to opt for something familiar – a tried and tested favourite as warm and familiar as an old Christmas jumper?

Make the right choice and the new year is off to a flying start. Choose poorly and you’ve just started your year on a bum note. Or perhaps we’re overthinking it. 

Nonetheless, Hogmanay is likely to see pub and bar customers across Scotland choosing a dram to see in 2024 and, with that in mind, SLTN approached whisky companies to see which of their drams they would personally select to bring in the bells. 

Jenny Karlsson of Adelphi, parent company of Ardnamurchan Distillery, reckoned the distillery’s Paul Launois release would be well suited to Hogmanay, with its use of casks from the Champagne region helping to give a sense of celebration. 

Or, if customers are opting for a traditional Scottish ‘hauf n hauf’ to see in the new year, perhaps Ardnamurchan’s AD/Cask Strength 2023 bottling paired up with a Ritterguts Gose. 

On Arran, Lagg Distillery manager Graham Omand recommended a drop of Arran 18 as a solid Hogmanay dram, switching to either Arran Sherry Cask or Lagg’s own Corriecravie Edition paired with Williams Brothers’ Joker IPA or Brewdog’s Punk IPA if opting for a hauf n hauf. 

In the north of the island, Omand’s colleague Stewart Bowman – manager at Lochranza Distillery – chose Arran 10 year old as his go-to Hogmanay dram, switching to the distillery’s Quarter Cask expression if he was pairing his celebratory whisky with a beer – in this case either Holy Goat Brewing’s Damnation IPA or Vital Spark stout from Fyne Ales. 

Sticking with the Scottish isles, Adam Hannett, head distiller at Bruichladdich on Islay, reckoned the season calls for a healthy dose of peat smoke. 

“Port Charlotte 10 Year Old is a lovely dram to bring in the bells,” he said. 

“It’s a complex and versatile spirit with so much depth – something to really savour and enjoy on special occasions. Heavily peated with notes of golden caramel, ginger, nutmeg and elegant barbeque smoke, it’s the perfect whisky for a cold winter’s night by the fire, surrounded by good company.”

And if customers are asking for a beer to pair with their Port Charlotte, you can’t go wrong with a stout, said Hannett, with the deep roasted flavour of the beer matching the smoke of the whisky.

But it’s not all about smoke – even on Islay – and if customers prefer Bruichladdich’s unpeated Classic Laddie whisky then Hannett suggested Islay Ales’ Big Strand lager as the perfect pairing. 

Islay was also first choice for Maree Chisholm, brand manager for independent bottler and distiller Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers. 

She said the company’s Mac-Talla Mara bottling – a cask strength Islay single malt from an unnamed distillery on the island – would be her choice for a Hogmanay dram. 

Promotional shot of Mac Talla whisky bottleBut the company’s recently-launched Old Perth Palo Cortado whisky would be her top pick for a hauf n hauf – paired with Pilot Brewery’s Peach Melba Sour. 

Chisholm said the peach, raspberry and vanilla notes in the beer ‘contrast perfectly’ with the ‘nutty, biscuity whisky’. 

In fact, the Leith brewer’s sour was a popular choice for pairings, with David McLaughlan, key account manager at Glen Moray, also recommending it as the perfect match for Glen Moray’s 18 year old whisky.

Elsewhere, McLaughlan named the distillery’s Twisted Vine expression – a recent release matured in ex-Cognac casks – as a strong choice for a dram to see in the bells. 

For those customers looking for something special to close out the year, a limited edition whisky might be a strong choice, and James Evans, brand manager at Fife distillery Kingsbarns, pointed to that distillery’s limited edition Bell Rock cask strength release as a solid example. 

But for customers opting for the hauf n hauf, he recommended Kingsbarns’ Doocot whisky paired with Camden Town Brewery’s Off Menu IPA.

Not everyone will want their whisky neat, of course – or be interested in pairing it with a beer – and there are plenty other options available (see cocktail panel on the left). 

In the Scottish Borders, for example, Borders Distillery director John Fordyce has already decided on a highball serve to bring in the new year.

“This year, I’m going to bring in the bells with our latest limited-edition blend, the Long and Short of it, in a highball, served with soda and a dried orange slice,” he said.