7 great Scottish whisky liqueurs to enjoy

Our list takes you through the history and outlines the key characteristics of the most treasured Scottish whisky liqueurs

Published 19th Oct 2015
Updated 30 th Apr 2024

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The ideal drink for those looking to ease themselves into the world of whisky, perhaps not having been able to get on with straight-up single malts in the past, or those just looking for a different way to enjoy a dram after dinner, Scottish whisky liqueurs have been around longer than you might think, with “brose” – a mixture of whisky, honey, oatmeal and, if desired, cream – being produced for centuries.

Drambuie is the best-known modern iteration, a mainstay of gantries around the globe. A blend of whisky, heather honey, herbs and spices, its name is derived from the Gaelic phrase “an dram buidheach”, meaning "the drink that satisfies".

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Legend has it that Bonnie Prince Charlie gave the recipe to Captain John MacKinnon of the clan MacKinnon in return for sanctuary on the Isle of Skye, where he fled after the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

The recipe was then given in the late 19th century to James Ross, who ran a hotel on Skye, where he developed the recipe and began selling it to patrons in the 1870s, with the name being registered as a trademark in 1893.

Ross's widow was obliged to sell the recipe to make ends meet, and did so to another (unrelated) family named MacKinnon, which began producing the drink in its current form in Edinburgh in 1910. In 1916 Drambuie became the first liqueur to be allowed in the cellars of the House of Lords and was shipped to British soldiers stationed around the world.

The liqueur has been produced at the Morrison Bowmore Distillers facility in Glasgow since 2010 and in 2014 the brand was sold to William Grant & Sons for a rumoured price of £100 million.

Buy Drambuie on Amazon for £27.45.

Also well-known is Glayva, made from a blend of whiskies, spices, tangerines, cinnamon, almonds and honey, now produced by Whyte & MacKay.

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Created in 1947 by wine and whisky merchant Ronald Morrison, a member of the Invergordon family of distillers, who was based at the port of Leith and as such had easy access to the exotic ingredients that gave his liqueur its distinctive, warming flavour, its name comes from the exclamation of his warehouseman upon tasting it that it was “gle mhath” – Gaelic for “very good”.

Buy Glayva on Amazon for £37.25.

Named for the Gaelic word for “dream”, Bruadar is a blend of single malt whisky with honey and sloe berries, giving a sweet, soft and subtle taste.

Made in Perthshire by Morrison & MacKay, this is a versatile liqueur, intended as equally suitable for an after-dinner drink or sipping from a hip flask on a cold day in the great outdoors.

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The Whisky Exchange currently has Bruadar available for £24.95.

Also from Morrison & MacKay, Columba Cream was originally created on the Isle of Mull in 1982, taking its name from St Columba.

A rich and smooth blend of single malt, fresh cream and honey, based on a centuries-old family recipe for brose, this is one to try if you're familiar with Baileys Irish Cream and is served the same way; chilled, over ice, or even with ice cream.

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The firm's Ginger Tam's is a rich, spicy, biting blend of a single malt whisky with honey and ginger, giving it plenty of kick and making it an excellent winter warmer and common cold defeater.

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Produced since 1989 by family firm Meikle's of Scotland in Newtonmore and made with a blend of Speyside whiskies and fermented heather honeycomb, Stag's Breath has distinctive waxy, musty overtones with a drier taste than other liqueurs and a lower alcohol content.

Master of Malt stocks Stag's Breath for £21.94.

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Also from Speyside, Master of Malt Speyside Whisky Liqueur is aimed at single malt aficionados, matured in sherry casks to give it a depth of character and flavour and blended with cinnamon, orange peel and cloves.

Intended to be served over ice, and with an additional squeeze of orange peel, the liqueur comes in 10, 15 and 40-year-old varieties – although the latter will set you back around £520.

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