Glenturret Burns Night
Sydney Opera House
January 25, 2020
Reimagining a traditional Sottish gathering and weaving in indigenous Australian components is an exercise that demands a delicate balance, let alone when it comes to honouring the memory of the Ayrshire-born Scottish poet Robert Burns. Then again there are commonalities that can be drawn and one could make a connection between Burns’s agency as a member of the lower middle class, who took pride in supporting his family independently to what indigenous Australian communities struggle with to this day.
This 2020 localised incarnation of a night celebrating all that Scotland stands for was well-orchestrated and rich in nuances: A nuanceful calibration honouring two different cultures, which culminated in specifically powerful crescendos when e.g. indigenous artist Eric Avery joined forces with one of Scotland’s best known musical exports, i.e. Breabach. While it was an evening of merrymaking, one could hear a needle drop during some of the musical performances while on the other end of the spectrum proceedings where counteracted with the whole room joining in in unison when poetry was recited or toasts where delivered with poise and conviction.
Eric Avery is from the Ngiyampaa, Yuin, Gumbangirri and Bundjalung people of NSW and being an interdisciplinary artist, who is used to combine and fuse dance and music, it was interesting to see him incorporate the cultural theme of the evening.
Scottish contemporary folk band Breabach provided the soundtrack of the night, channelling their idiosyncratic melange of intensity and musical prowess in not only traditional songs but also contemporary compositions with commentary on the state of affairs of the world we live in.
Summa summarum, a well-curated musical potpourri that acknowledged and respected the origins of both Australia and Scotland. the music they play and the roots of the band whilst embracing the future with new ideas, energy and belief is a key attribute of the band and another theme that is strongly conveyed through this new release.
Having had Scotland’s what can be considered Scotland’s oldest distillery Glenturret as a sponsor certainly added not only decorum but also highlighted the merits of whisky distilling and in the distilleries case, blending, as the lion’s share of Glenturret’s liquid emissions served as the foundation for expressions of Famous Grouse.
While my favourite, i.e. the peat variety, was unfortunately not on offer, a dram of the Glenturret ten-year-old was an appropriate and nice way to open proceedings. With its apricot aromas that are married with earthy, fungal and oaky caramel undertones, the nostrils are given an idea for what is to materlize on the palate: Sweetness in honey-esque syrup and cereal form rest of a bed of fruits, framed by oaky nuances, which by adding a few drops of water open up to include a distinct nuttiness. The latter then extends into a medium finish, which goes full circle to the apricot aromas and a very welcome sooty and oaky appearance of tannins. Certainly a great starting point for anyone interested in delving into whisky territory.
The menu (of which a vegetarian alternative was available) of the evening was again an ode to both traditional Gaelic and cuisine down under, proffering seared kangaroo and Kingfish at arrival, beef with pickled local mushrooms and greens and – before an excellent dessert comprised of vanilla watlle seed mousse and local berries – a traditional shared haggis.
While Burns Night had so far not been an integral part of my calendar, tonight’s event put it on my map and I look forward to attend future one’s equipped with a bit more knowledge.