Rob Roy Revisited

Rob Roy

We pulled up the eight blended whiskys that we happen to have on hand: Buchannan 12, Chivas Regal 12 Chivas Regal 18, Famous Grouse, Johnnie Walker Black, Johnnie Walker Green, Johnnie Walker Red, And Suntory Hibiki for evaluation. We promptly put the Hibiki back away where it belongs, before my wife beat me.

The Rob Roy was First served at the Dorchester Hotel London, 1909 and Johnnie Walker was the Scotch of choice. Hence our inclusion of the three most common varieties of Johnnie Walker in this test.

We’ve decided to persue the “Perfect” Rob Roy, also known as Beal’s Cocktail which is made with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth, a couple of dashes of bitters and Blended Scotch Whisky.

Since this a scientific research, we needed to make sure our results weren’t tainted by any external factors. I prepared the base drinks identically with 3 drops of bitters, 5ml each of sweet and dry vermouth and my wife added 30ml of Scotch to each of the glasses. She numbered the glasses and recorded which whisky was where. We were a bit suspicious about the accuarcy of the pours due to the giggling, snickering and other unscientific mirth eminating from the other room. Clearly they were not taking this as seriously as we were.

We added a couple of ice cubes to each and stirred to chill. Then we had to taste each one, note pads and pencils at the ready Mike started at seven moving back and I worked my way up our little scale. My first tase confirmed my previous fears:

Many of the Scotch whiskeys that I would choose are “done”. The idea of using Vermouth and bitters to “enhance” a scotch seems like using neon spray paint to enhance the David.

My first sample was smoky and smooth. The Scotch was there, but the dry vermouth was the most prominent flavor. I’ve had a lot of cocktails, and this one was good but I was a bit dissappointed that after tasting a good Rob Roy, all I really wanted was the underlying Scotch. Determined not to give up so easily, I continued on and tasted the rest. The next three were unremarkable, vermouth taking center stage and subtle differences from the Scotch keeping some distinction between glasses.

Number five was interesting, very rich and slightly peaty and standing up to the vermouth a bit. At that moment five was my favorite. Number six was completely different (for reasons I’ll explain in a moment) It was sweet and oakey with a lot of body. Amazingly, number six seemed like the first drink on the table that played well with the vermouth.

Down to the last, number seven. This was my favorite of the bunch. I knew instantly what Scotch was there and not only did it stand up to the vermouth, it knocked over the table and told vermouth to sit down before a new definition of bangers and mash was demonstrated. Johnnie Walker Green was the only vatted or pure malt on the table and it’s differences were obvious. A good cocktail is made by bringing together elements that can work together harmoniously and adding their voices to create something new and more beautiful than the individual parts. Vermouth and Johnnie Walker Green are more like two of your best mates at the pub arguing over some foolish thing as if the outcome is determined by the decibels of their voices while bitters moves the furniture so nobody gets seriously hurt.

So that’s what we have here then, not a chorus raising your spirits, but a scrap in a bar to get your heart pumping.

We chose our top three, Mine being Seven, Five, and One. Mike selected Two, Seven and Five. Here’s the whiskey list for these drinks:

  1. Buchannan 12
  2. Johnnie Walker Black
  3. Chivas Regal 12
  4. Famous Grouse
  5. Chivas Regal 18
  6. (see below)
  7. Johnnie Walker Green

About number six… Mike had been doing some shopping recently and his additions to the box were scattered about HQ, some having been put away and others not. The grain bill for before dinner tasting included Bushmills 1608, Canadian Club Sherry Cask, and Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20 year old. Number six ended up not being a Rob Roy at all, but instead, a Perfect Manhattan. I had picked this one as my number three, but we had to eliminate it on a minor technical note.

Now all things considered, we set out to find the Whiskey Bros. Rob Roy, and we did:

  • 1/4oz Itallian Sweet Vermouth
  • 1/4oz Itallian Dry Vermouth
  • 3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 5cl (2oz) Johnnie Walker Green

Prepare by mixing the vermouth, and bitters with ice in an old fashioned glass. Stir until chilled. Empty the glass into the sink and rinse well. Add the Johnnie Walker to a cool clean Glencairn or brandy snifter and enjoy. Garnish with a couple of drops of water.

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