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Important Liqueurs: Drambuie

February 26, 2010

Last week I wrote about the Rusty Nail, which is sometimes just referred to as S & D, or Scotch and Drambuie, if you are not into that whole brevity thing.  Anyhow I spent a lot of time talking about the scotch I use for the drink, while the only thing I said about Drambuie was that it is a Scottish liqueur.

Incidentally, I just found the 1.75l jug of White Horse on sale locally for $25 at All Star Wine & Spirits.

In general I prefer simple cocktailsDavid Embury breaks cocktails into two major categories, aromatics and sours.  Some of my favorite cocktails, the Rusty Nail included, are aromatics that consist of a base spirit with the addition of a liqueur, syrup, or some other flavoring ingredient.

I have written a few posts on bitters, but none on liqueurs.  So it occurred to me that I should correct this state of affairs, and what better place to begin than with Drambuie.

If you are going to believe the marketing materials presented by the brand, at the heart of this liqueur is a “secret elixir of exotic herbs and spices sourced from around the globe [that has been] unchanged for 260 years.”

What is difficult for me to reconcile is that they have only been bottling the stuff for 100 years.  So what did they used to put Drambuie in before 1909?  Regardless, after 100 years of keeping essentially the same distinctive bottle design, they just recently introduced a new more modern bottle.

I do not like change.

True, with the new bottle you can see the amber/golden color of the liqueur within.  And I suppose that may make it more accessible to the vast majority of people who have never heard of the stuff and have no idea what it is or what it tastes like.

Here is how F. Paul Pacult describes the taste of the liqueur in the first version of Kindred Spirits:

Concentrated licorice, freshly ground black pepper, dill-seed, spicy, waxy aromas that all rest on top of a subtle but evident Scotch whisky foundation; a keen licorice taste dominates at palate entry, then recedes, leaving herbal/whisky flavors that carry the taste buds along all through the long, luscious finish; spirity? Yes, but not overly so; ditto the sweetness factor; there’s ample sweetness and viscosity but neither of these overshadows nor overpowers the flavorful herbal qualities of this virile (what else from Scotland?) liqueur.

He gives Drambuie five stars, which is his highest recommendation.  Which is pretty much what I give to F. Paul for his keen palate as well as his lascivious writing style.

I think the anise and honeyed sweetness of the liqueur play very nicely with a simpler blended scotch.  It adds complexity and warmth.  Plus the sweetness helps to soften any rougher edges of a mass-produced spirit.  The smokiness of the White Horse is just another layer that makes the S & D cocktail a comforting option for blustery winter nights.

For me Drambuie is a bit of a one-trick pony that I use by the spoonful.  But still, I treasure it and consider it an indispensable bottle in my limited liquor cabinet.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    February 26, 2010 10:06 am

    My long-time favorite liqueur.

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