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Issue 56 - A captivating cocktail

Whisky Magazine Issue 56
June 2006


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A captivating cocktail

Ian Wisniewski looks at the Atholl Brose

Various classic recipes can be attributed to bartenders inspired by a special event, a particular customer, or just their own natural creativity.

Atholl Brose came to prominence when one Scottish aristocrat was inspired to serve it to a fellow nobleman. This wasn't however so much a tribute as a special event, in the sense of setting a trap, as the Earl of Atholl's mission statement in 1475 was to capture the rebellious Earl of Ross.

With a death sentence hanging over him, the Earl of Ross had gone undercover by heading for the hills. However, the Earl of Atholl discovered whereabouts he was hiding, with intelligence sources also confirming that the Earl of Ross emerged from the hillsides to drink water from a certain well. Once in possession of this information, and having called for reinforcements, the Earl of Atholl devised a cunning plan.

The well was filled with a combination of honey, whisky and oatmeal (being a well this naturally provided the other ingredient required, water). Whether the earl actually invented Atholl Brose at this time, or made strategic use of a recipe which was already in circulation, is uncertain.

But it certainly worked, as the Earl of Ross lingered and drank more from the well than he should have. Hardly on red alert for any sign of trouble, let alone able to mount any resistance or attempt a get away, he was an easy target.

While it's clear who put the Atholl into Atholl Brose, the 'brose' part of the name raises a question. As brose refer...

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