Drambuie is a Scotch whisky based liqueur. Honey is used to provide the sweetness and a secret blend of spices and herbs gives it its unique flavor. Lemon, saffron, and nutmeg are reputed to be some of these additives.
According to legend, Drambuie was created by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). In 1746, after an unsuccessful invasion of England, he escaped to the Isle of Skye where he was given sanctuary by the MacKinnon clan. In return, he bequeathed his cherished liqueur recipe to the MacKinnon clan as thanks.
From the MacKinnons, the recipe was given to James Ross who ran a hotel on the island in the late 19th century. Ross refined the recipe and shared the drink with his friends and patrons. Eventually, he was distributing the drink beyond Scotland to continental Europe and the United States.
When Ross died young, his widow was forced to sell the recipe by twist of fate to a MacKinnon family unrelated to the MacKinnon clan. This MacKinnon family has produced Drambuie ever since.
The name of the drink may come from one of two sources. It could come from the Scottish words dram buidheach which means "the drink that satisfies". But the literal translation of the word drambuie means "yellow hills".
If you weren't lucky enough to be a friend or patron of James Ross, you could start buying Drambuie from a liquor shop beginning in 1909. From this point the MacKinnon family worked to grow the market for Drambuie.
The Drambuie Liqueur Company was established in 1914 while the English House of Lords chose Drambuie as the first liqueur to be stored in their cellars. British troops during World War I received Drambuie all over the world.
Because of the importance of the herbs and spices used in the recipe, the matriarch of the company, Gina MacKinnon, controlled the selection and use of these vital ingredients. Ever since, the recipe has been handed down on the female side of the family.
During the 20th century, Drambuie had its successes and challenges. It grew steadily in popularity until the latter part of the century, when changes in contemporary culture forced the company to become more creative with its marketing. The company adapted and still thrives with a combination of cutting edge advertising and a reputation for history, tradition, and unchanging quality.