Review: Drambuie Whisky Liqueur 15
I like to think that I am sufficiently wise nowadays not to do so, but there was a time when I could be lured to purchase a spirit simply on the basis that it claimed an impressive age statement. Such behaviour was born out of the assumption that, when it came to spirits at least, older was always better. Having been stung one too many times with a suitably old but unsuitably tasting spirit, I have realised that more time inside a wood barrel does not necessarily make for a better product.
Like ‘regular’ Drambuie, the 15 expression contains a blend of malt whisky and a secret herbal elixir. On the face of it, the difference is simply smarter-looking bottle design, and the use of 15 year old Speyside whisky as the base (the standard Drambuie does not claim an age statement). The result is however an altogether more refined liqueur that achieves a delightful and delicate balance between the elixir and the whisky, making this a unique product in its own right; not just an older version of the standard Drambuie. The sweetness has been toned back and the whisky brought to the fore, whilst the herbal elixir is still prominent but somehow in a more sophisticated and subtle way.
Nose: An understated aroma of aromatised and sweetened whisky. Surprisingly light and fresh with aromas of cut grass, corn, cherry and citrus balanced with a smidgeon on peat. Honeyed heather sits quietly in the background alongside some subtle spice.
Neat: Much less sweet than the ‘regular’ Drambuie and all the better for it. The initial burst of honey dries to reveal a liqueur that is whisky-forward and well-balanced in so far as no one spice dominates. Hints of salted caramel and curry spice work together with raisiny notes and the characterful whisky base that offers the delicate peat and fruity palate of the Speyside whisky’s. A little more spicy than the nose and a touch of bitterness on the palate might be viewed by some with a particularly sweet tooth as detractors for what is after all a liqueur, but I’m nit-picking here, this is tasty stuff.
The high sweetness of many liqueurs means that they are often not suitable as the primary base ingredient in cocktails. The drier nature of Drambuie 15 however allows it to be used in much greater volumes, enabling the herbal elixir flavours to be brought to the fore. The signature Rusty Rob Roy (see recipe below) shows off this liqueur to it’s very best, with a perfect balance of soft aromatic herbs and sweet spiced-fruit whisky. Of course whisk(e)y cocktails are the obvious choice for most libations with Drambuie, and the herbal profile means that it is great friends with vermouth, resulting in some delicious twists on a Manhattan. The classic Rusty Nail cocktail was conceived originally with the standard Drambuie, but those who like their drinks a little less sweet will be rather impressed with how the 15 works in its place. Like most liqueurs, perhaps the best fun for a home bartender can be had simply by replacing the sweet element in cocktails with Drambuie 15. You might find you need a little extra sugar to boost the sweetness, but you’ll certainly achieve some tasty libations. Its one weakness is the sour category of drinks, where the combination of herbal and citrus flavours just don’t quite work together. Aside from that, it is a very enjoyable product to mix with.
Signature Cocktail – Rusty Rob Roy
50ml Drambuie 15, 10ml sweet vermouth, 3 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.
Drambuie 15 is the more sophisticated and refined older sibling of the standard Drambuie expression. Whilst remaining faithful to the original product, it delivers a drier, and more whisky-forward flavour profile that is equally at home on its own over ice, or mixed in a cocktail. This whisky liqueur is well worth seeking out.
Drambuie 15 is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.