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Drambuie (Scotch Whisky Liqueur)

Review: Drambuie (Scotch Whisky Liqueur) 89/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 7,  2014

I receive all manner of gifts related to my website from friends and family. One such gift received this Christmas was a bottle of Drambuie which I found under the Christmas Tree this past holiday season. The gift was tagged with a request that I review the spirit, and let everyone know my thoughts.

According to the Drambuie Website, the unique flavour of this liqueur is the result of infusing a secret blend of spices (the site mentions heather, honey and herbs) with a blend of grain and aged malt whiskies from Speyside and the Highlands regions of Scotland (some of which may be aged up to fifteen years). The original recipe for the spirit was apparently created for “Bonnie Prince Charlie” in the 18th century by his Royal Apothecary.

The website goes on to tell me that the name “Drambuie” is derived from the Gaelic phrase “An Dram Buidheach”, which apparently means, “the drink that satisfies”. My bottle tells me that Drambuie is produced by the Drambuie Liqueur Company Ltd. who are located in Scotland; however, the spirit is distributed in Alberta (and the rest of Canada) by Bacardi and is listed on the Bacardi Website as a Bacardi brand. It is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

DrambuieIn The Bottle  3.5/5

The Drambuie arrives with a rather understated presence on my bar shelf. The spirit has a rich history which should be drawn upon to make the label (and hence the shelf appearance) more enticing. Unfortunately (on my bar shelf at least) this spirit just seems to blend in and quickly becomes forgotten. The screw cap is problematic as well as this spirit is quite heavily sweetened which causes the aforementioned cap to gum up easily and become difficult to open. I understand that in the past Drambuie was a corked product, I think it would be a good idea to travel back down that particular road.

In the Glass 9/10

I poured about an ounce of the sweet liqueur into my glencairn glass and gave it a slow tilt and twirl watching as the golden-honeyed liquid laid thick syrupy legs down the sides of my glass. The legs reinforce the notion that the liquid will be quite sweet and carry a somewhat syrupy consistency.

The aroma from the glass is indeed honey sweetened carrying hints of heather and herbs within that sweetness. I also detect a little hot cinnamon in the breezes (perhaps some nutmeg and cloves as well) mixing with mild aromas of orange citrus zest. The combination of herbs and spice brings more than just a hint of menthol to mind.

Because I know that some of the malt whiskies blended to create Drambuie are up to 15 years old, I give the glass a little longer to breathe. I am hoping to catch some indications of oak running through those breezes. I am not sure whether it is the power of suggestion or whether it is a result of patience on my part; but after a few minutes with my glass, I do indeed sense the fine spiciness of aged oak (as well a certain grainy spiciness of blended scotch) in the breezes.

In the Glass 54/60

The Drambuie is very pleasant as it crosses the palate both in terms of mouth feel which I would describe as soft and thick, but also in terms of flavour which begins with a duo of honey and cinnamon caressing the tongue which is rapidly followed by the presence of soft chocolate and caramel toffee. The herbal quality of heather which was noted on the nose is more subdued initially upon the palate; but the herbal quality of the spirit becomes more noticeable with each sip as does the oak spice.

I am both pleased and impressed. My initial thoughts based upon nosing were along the lines that the spirit might quickly become cloying, but instead the variety of flavours within the liqueur is well-balanced and after finishing my first sample I am quite happy to pour a second. I also decided to experiment by adding an ice-cube. The sweetness is tempered which brings more chocolate caramel flavours into focus, and with ice there also seems to be more spice than before. (Or perhaps this spiciness has been building up over time and I am noticing it more now.)

In the Throat 13.5/15

As expected, the sweetened liqueur has a long finish. I seem to taste more oak spice and heather in the finish than I did as the liqueur crossed my palate. Having said that, after I swallow my tongue is left with lingering flavours of heated cinnamon, semisweet chocolate caramel and sticky marmalade. As I said earlier, it is easy to reach for that second glass.

The Afterburn 9/10

Drambuie is an excellent liqueur. My sense is that not only does this spirit benefit from a great combination of infused flavours, it also benefits from the use of well the aged grain and malt whisky which has been used in its construct. Spirit companies in North America and the Caribbean who are presently filling my local store shelves with all manner of flavoured and spiced rums and whiskies could maybe take a lesson from the folks at Drambuie Liqueur Company Ltd. When you use a quality underlying spirit, it does wonders for the final product.

You may read some of my other Liqueur Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

Suggested Recipe

Drambuie tastes very nice alone or over ice. It also mixes well with both cola and ginger-ale. However, I decided to go with the classic Rusty Nail as my cocktail recommendation. Particularly in the winter, this is a tasty imbibe indeed!

The Rusty NailRusty Nail

The official IBA formulation for the Rusty Nail is nine parts of Scotch Whisky to 5 parts of Drambuie.  This is a rather awkward formulation,  so Instead I will suggest a simple 2:1  formulation:

2 oz Scotch Whisky
1 oz Drambuie
lemon slice

First fill an 8 oz tumbler glass with crushed ice.
Add the Scotch Whisky and the Drambuie
Stir gently until a the outside of the glass frosts.
Garnish with a lemon slice.


I am sometimes asked what my numbers actually mean. In order to provide clarification, you may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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