It’s All Hallow’s Eve! We think the most chilling night of the year is certainly best spent in Edinburgh – a city rich with history, mystery and its fair share of spooky goings on, particularly at this time of year. However, if you’re not in bonny Scotland, how better to celebrate Halloween than with a dram of devilishly good Scotch? Visitor Experience team member Rebecca Orr has got a cracking selection of Halloween-themed whiskies to get you into the “spirit” of things…
“To me, Halloween is one of the greatest nights of the year. It’s right in the heart of autumn, it’s theatrical, it’s a chance to be creative and over the top, and there’s sugar. So much sugar. As a child, I went guising (the Scottish way of saying “Trick or Treating”) and used to love coming back with armfuls of chocolate and sweeties and cakes and all manner of delicious treats. Who wouldn’t? Alas, I am now a bit too old to go guising. But with age comes a new way of treating oneself in celebration of All Hallow’s Eve: drinking a good Scotch whisky.
This year, I was very excited to learn that one of my favourite Speyside distilleries has released a Halloween whisky – The Glenrothes Halloween Edition. It was distilled in 2004, on the 31st of October, and is thirteen years old (of course). Unfortunately, I was unable to get my hands on any, but it did get me thinking that perhaps there are some other Scotch whiskies that would be ideal for any Halloween celebration, whether that’s a big fancy-dress party or a quiet evening in watching horror films.
Turns out, there are a fair few to choose from, so I’m sticking to whiskies from the Highlands and Islands – areas that will always be my favourite. Like the Glenrothes, these whiskies are all limited edition, and fit the Halloween theme perfectly with their dramatic aesthetics and eldritch themes. No tricks here, only treats!
Named after a terrifying, ghostly hellhound that has apparently tormented the people of Tomatin for centuries, this whisky certainly fits the bill for a perfect Halloween tipple. In particular, the 2006 limited edition Cù Bòcan comes in a wonderfully spooky black bottle with a fiery, spectral hound’s head on the label. This whisky is a lightly peated version of Tomatin Distillery’s usual spirit; the 2006 edition being matured in Sherry and Bourbon casks. It’s absolutely bursting with spice – pepper, cloves, cinnamon – and maintains a gentle sweetness at the front of the palate, with a biting warmth in the finish.
They say that when one of the distillery workers reached out to touch the hound’s dark fur one night, it disappeared into the mist. The opposite can be said of this whisky – it will linger on your palate and in your memory for quite some time.
The Bruichladdich ‘Black Art’ Range
I have never been lucky enough to try any of Islay distillery Bruichladdich’s Black Art whiskies personally, but believe me when I say I’m keeping my eye out for them. The Bruichladdich Distillery produces some of the peatiest whiskies out there, but they’re certainly nothing to be afraid of. Personally, I’ve loved everything I’ve ever tried from this distillery, as I enjoy whisky that manages to balance that intense peaty character with plenty of other briny, nutty and fruity flavours.
I’d be curious to try any one of the Black Art whiskies simply based on the mystery surrounding the creation of it alone, but I think what makes it perfect for Halloween is the packaging design – fantastically witchy symbols adorn another striking black bottle. Take it along to your next coven meeting!
Bonus recommendation: If you are interested in the more traditional and magical side of old Halloween rituals, make sure you head into Edinburgh city centre to see the Samhuinn performances by the Beltane Fire Society.
This one may seem slightly more unusual, but hear me out. I once went as a hippy for Halloween, with a colourful headband around my long hair, pink sunglasses, and the baggiest flares I could find. It was one of the happiest costumes I’ve ever worn. So if you’re into the lighter side of Halloween costumes, but an intense style of whisky, this is definitely for you. Named after the deep grooves present in the heavily charred red wine casks used to mature some of the spirit, Ardbeg’s newest limited edition, ‘Grooves’ is a gorgeously warm and spicy dram. As expected, the smoke and iodine aromas are present here, combined with rich barbecue flavours and a lovely sweetness overall. To be honest, this would be welcome at any party, not just Halloween!
Highland Park ‘The Dark’ 17 Year Old
Words can barely describe how perfect this single malt is for these chilly autumn months. At 52.9% ABV and aged in sherry casks, The Dark certainly warms you through to the core. Slightly smoky, with intense fruitiness and nutmeg on the palate, Highland Park has encapsulated the spirit of Halloween perfectly – strong and dramatic, with plenty of flavours to work through.
In a distinctive Viking-themed black bottle, embellished with a twisting serpent, this certainly stands out in a crowd. All you need is a big fluffy beard and horned helmet, and that’s your Halloween celebration sorted.
So how will you be celebrating Halloween this year? As a ghostly wolf, a witch, a Viking? Out and about in full fancy dress, or tucked away under a blanket watching the perfect spooky film, dram in hand? Either way, I hope it’s a good one – Happy Halloween!”