Bertie’s Bar at the Fife Arms has 365 different whiskies, one for each day of the year. Unusually, they are arranged not by location or by type, but by flavour profile: fragrant, fruity, rich and smoky. Dotted around the drinking den there are Orkney Malts and Taliskers, new releases from Torabhaig in Skye, and historic favourites from Craigellachie, all glowing amber by the firelight.
Clearly, sitting in the shadow of Balmoral, the owners of this 18th century coaching inn turned impossibly luxurious Scottish hotel (there’s a real Picasso hanging in the drawing room, to give some context) know a thing or two about old-school opulence.
To create this smoky Old Fashioned, the Bertie’s Bar team have used Lagavulin 16, a whisky which takes its signature peaty flavour from Islay in the Hebrides. Probably the most pungent of all the Islay malts, Lagavulin is not for the faint of heart.
“We have taken the traditional Old Fashioned and added a level of opulence that Edward VII would be proud of,” explains Bertie’s Bar Manager Mark Shedden. “The drink is inspired by the famous royal bon viveur, known for his notoriously spirited behaviour and appetite for the finer things in life. Blending sweet and smoky flavours gives this cocktail a velvety texture that matches a cold evening spent inside with the fire roaring.”
The Old Fashioned itself was first invented in 1900 to dilute the taste of smuggled whisky. Nowadays, the aim is to let the single malt shine through the subtle sweetness. Demerara sugar is a game-changer, introducing a caramel flavour we usually associate with baking. And, even if you can’t get your hands on Lagavulin 16, try something from Caol Ila or Laphroaig — also both from Islay — which share those deeply peaty characteristics. Or, for a smoother drink to ease your way in, Glenmorangie X will do the trick.
How to make ‘Bertie’s Smoky Old Fashioned’ from The Fife Arms
- 60ml Lagavulin 16 Whisky
- 10ml Demerara Syrup
- 10ml Maraschino Liquid (spooned from the jar of cherries)
- 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Twist of Orange Peel
- 2 Maraschino Cherries
- Begin by making your demerara syrup, stirring 1 part demerara sugar into one part water until dissolved. Set aside to cool.
- When ready to make your cocktail, add 4 dashes of bitters to a mixing glass with the demerara syrup and maraschino liquid, and stir to combine.
- Add the whisky and stir again.
- Pour the mixture into large old fashioned glass with one large cube of ice.
- Garnish with an orange twist and cherries and enjoy, preferably by a roaring fire.
Want more cocktail recipes? Here’s how to make Jack Savoretti’s ‘Portofino & Tonic’…
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