Highlights of Scotland

[Scottish Liqueurs]

[Drambuie] Drambuie

Prince Charles Edward's Liqueur Drambuie is produced and bottled by The Drambuie Liqueur Company Ltd., Edinburgh.
Note that there is also a Drambuie Cream Liqueur.

The front label says:

This ancient and delicate Liqueur was prepared in Skye when the Recipe was first brought to Scotland in 1745.
and the back label reads:
Drambuie forms a link with one of the most romantic episodes in the history of Great Britain. When Bonnie Prince Charlie came to Scotland in 1745 to make his gallant but unsuccesful attempt to regain the throne of his ancestors, he presented the recipe to a MacKinnon of Skye as a reward for his services. The secret of its preparation has remained with the MacKinnon family, and the manufacture has been carried on by successive generations to this day. It is the only traditional liqueur to use a base of 100% aged Scotch Whiskies, many of which are 15 to 17 year old malts, blended with the finest herbs and honey. Drambuie comes from the Gaelic: "An Dram Buidheach" meaning the drink that satisfies.
Around this text is written:
Cuimhnich an tabhartas orionnsa -- Remember the gift of the prince
As for the remark where the name Drambuie comes from, the entry on Liqueur Whisky in the booklet Bluff your way in Whisky says:
Note that 'Drambuie' derives from the Gaelic for 'yellow drink', rather than 'an dram buidheach' - 'the drink that satisfies'. Scotland is full of hills called Ben Buie and logs called Loch Buie, and none of them is supposed to be satisfying.
The origin of the Drambuie as given above is taken from the label of the bottle and it is linked with the stories of Bonnie Prince Charlie's attempts to regain the (Scottish) throne.
Michael Shoshani wrote me an email saying that he has "a guide to whiskey written by Jim Murray, who has been the Glenfiddich Whisky Writer Of The Year three times, and it mentions Drambuie, but with no connections to either the MacKinnons or Bonnie Prince Charlie. His entry on Talisker Whisky [the only malt whisky produced on Skye] contains the following:"
It was about this time (1892) that a liqueur made at Broadford Hotel on the other side of the island [of Skye] by the proprietor, John Ross, was beginning to gain in popularity. On April 24, 1893, Ross applied for and obtained from the Patent Office in London the trade mark for a liqueur which he called "Drambuie" at the suggestion of one of his customers (in Gaelic it means "the dram that satisfies"). In 1965 a relation of Ross recalled in her unpublished memoirs: "I remember helping to peel the lemons and [Ross] used loaf sugar -- pure cane sugar and Talisker whisky and saffron."
"I wonder what the real story is," Michael adds, and so do I. It is, of course, possible that these two texts refer to the same drink: that the liqueur made at the Broadford Hotel was a form of the Drambuie given to the MacKinnon of Skye. When Michael checked the story with the Drambuie makers, he got a very polite denial: they had never heard the story and it must be mistaken. So the mystery of the origin of Drambuie remains hidden in the famous mists of Skye ...

Quite some time after the above was written here, Ben Geary (a distant decendant of James Ross) blew away the mists of Skye with this explanation:

The reference to John Ross is true, yet it was his son James Ross that applied for patent in London. He also was the first to bottle and sell it, first to friends then later he sold it around the country and overseas. When he died it was his widow who could not sustain the business sold the rights to a different MacKinnon family to the original Captain John MacKinnon's. This side of the true history was originally on the bottles of the drink, yet the MacKinnon's changed the label to remove the Ross Family out of the History. Recent cases against the Company by decendents of the Ross Family have forced the company to remove denial of Ross' involvement, yet this is not enforced. His decendants on the isle repeatedly defend the true history of the drink.
The entry on Liqueur Whisky in Bluff your way in Whisky also refers to MacKinnon, by the way, but with a "was supposed to have been given" to MacKinnon.

Picture of the bottle:    JPEG-format (5.6 kb)   /   GIF-format (16.8 kb)

===> Availability of the liqueurs
There is also a Drambuie fansite on the web.

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last modified: 9 October 2011