Stag’s Breath liqueur is made by the family firm, Meikles of Scotland Ltd., in the Highlands, using Speyside whiskies and fermented heather honey-comb. The name comes from a document detailing the inventory of SS Politician sank in the Outer Hebrides in 1941. Stags Breath was the name of one of the varieties that made up the 50,000 cases of whisky on-board. Precise details of what the Original Stag’s Breath was like have been lost to time.
The bottle is beautifully simple and elegant, with its neat, hipflask like design and plain, gold lettering in the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The liquid inside is a rich, golden colour.
The nose of Stag’s Breath caught me completely off-guard. Having not tasted a whisky liqueur in a little while, but being drawn to the familiar temptation of a glass of golden liquid, I lifted it to my nose and found… something that took me a moment or two to get to grips with. There were definitely some honey notes, but any sweetness was overpowered by a dominant, malty, hop-like mustiness. A few woody-whisky notes and some faint heather or herbal notes are intermingled with this, but the mustiness is really inescapable.
Just as I went to taste it, I realised that the scent at the beginning that was really throwing me off was one of cheese (DBS managed to narrow it down a tad further to Camembert).
On the tongue, it was thick, but silky, and quickly seemed to dissolve, so that it also managed to come across as quite light. As with the nose, I was caught off-guard by the (non-smoked) cheese-like start, that was interrupted by a sweet burst of honey, before heavier whisky note come into play. Unfortunately, I found that these quickly disappear, leaving behind a persistent malty flavour that reappeared when breathing afterwards.
On the plus side, the sensation of drinking it was pleasant: there was a little warmth after swallowing and the flavour hangs around for a few minutes, before quietly disappearing, as if to not outstay its welcome. It also had just the right level of natural sweetness, making it perfect for sitting and sipping at the end of long day without getting a sugar rush.
Despite my fondness of the bottle and the neat warmth of this liqueur, I found that I just couldn’t ignore that savoury mustiness that I associated – rightly or wrongly – with cheese; something that I couldn’t fully appreciate next to the whisky and honey flavours. Despite this, it was refreshing to taste a liqueur that is so unique and I can imagine this being something of a love-it-or-hate-it product – if you’d like to try a different whisky liqueur, I’d definitely recommend trying this one.
– Mrs. B.