What do you think of when you hear/see the word scotch? Smoky sweetness, earthy peat, combined with dried fruits, and sea salt, maybe. Well, that’s all good and true, but there is one scotch whisky that transcends everything you ever thought about scotch. If you haven’t already experienced it’s uniqueness, today I am going to introduce you to one my most favorite adult beverages, an amazing elixir called Drambuie.
Originating with Prince Charles Edward Stuart, aka the Bonnie Prince Charlie, this blend of aged whisky, heathered honey, herbs, and spices was his majesty’s favorite drink, known as “dram buidheach” (boo-yock) in the Gaelic, meaning the drink that satisfies. After his defeat by the British at Culloden, Highland clans aided the prince in his flight from the crown, one of them being the MacKinnon clan. As a reward for his help, Prince Charlie gave the MacKinnon his recipe for his favorite beverage, who began making it. Over the decades, the recipe has changed hands a few times, and been tweaked a wee bit, but almost 270 years later, it’s still pretty much the same.
What is Drambuie? It’s scotch, although it’s usually stocked with the liqueurs in stores, but it’s the added ingredients that make it so delicious, and special. Imagine every Christmas morning of your childhood, contained in a bottle, the smell of aromatic spices, the tang of herbs and smoked meat wafting from the oven, the sharp, sweetness of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and citrus fruit drizzled with honey come to mind each time I smell Drambuie. The taste reflects the aroma, but I love the top note of licorice, or anise maybe, the bottle just lists ingredients as heather honey, herbs, and spices, what those herbs & spices actually are is a closely guarded secret, but the first sip always reminds me of the black jelly beans, everyone else picked out of their Easter Baskets as undesirable. The nip of licorice quickly fades, and blends into a finish that reminds me of mulling spices, and clove oranges mingled with honeysuckle and wildflowers.
Now, Drambuie is excellent alone, neat, on the rocks, or mixed with a splash of water. My personal favorite is mixed with blended scotch, ( I prefer a blended whisky to a single malt, mainly because I refuse to defile good whisky, but blended scotch tends pair better, the complex flavors melding rather than competing, as would say an Islay, or any heavily peated single malt would. Although, if you want to tone down the sweetness, try it.) such as Monkey Shoulder, thus creating the cocktail once the trademark of the Vegas RatPack, known as the Rusty Nail. Of course, since I restrict mine to using only Monkey Shoulder, it has since been dubbed a Rusty Monkey. Ask for it at Lock & Key whiskey bar in Baton Rouge, and tell them you read about it here. You can also find some very unusual, and interesting cocktail recipes online, at drambuie.com, and shaunthebartender.com .
So, if you’re tired of the same old, same old, and your taste buds need an adventure, I highly recommend trying Drambuie, or if it’s been awhile since you last tried it because you weren’t too sure about the licorice, try adding it to your favorite sangria recipe, and in cooler weather it’s quite nice in coffee, or cocoa, and makes the best medicinal hot toddy. If you find you truly enjoy this extraordinary drink, and want to explore further, there are two more excellent expressions from the House of Drambuie, First is the Drambuie 15, made with a selection of 15 year old Speyside single malts, and the very rare, and expensive Jacobite Collection, created with 45 year old malt whisky.
As always, drink responsibly, and please, designate a driver!
Nancy McGehee Guillory