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Updated 04/24/2013


Atholl Brose

The word brose is a Scottish form of brewis or broth, deriving from the Middle English browes. In Old French broez. Brose is oatmeal with boiling water or milk poured over it, and Atholl or Athole Brose is a mixture of oatmeal, whisky and honey. The drink appears in Sir Walter Scott's Heart of Midlothian (1818) - 'His morning draught of Athole Brose' - though it is supposed to have its origins in the fifteenth century, when the Perthshire Duke of Atholl captured his great enemy the Earl of Ross, repu- tedly by filling the well at which Ross regularly drank with the mixture and then taking him prisoner as he slept off the effects.

The term whisky brose is first recorded in 1822, 'Whisky-brose shall be my breakfast'. McNeill makes the point that 'Strictly, Atholl Brose is not brose, but crowdie, for that is the generic name for any mixture of meal and cold liquid. But Atholl Brose it has been called for centuries, and Atholl Brose it is likely to remain'.

Late in 1475 a sentence of death and forfeiture was pronounced upon John, Lord of the Isles. The Earls of Atholl and Crawford were sent into the West with a fleet to enforce the sentence, and the rebellious Lord took to the hills.

The Earl of Atholl discovered where the fugitive was drawing his water, and ordered that the well be filled with a mixture of whisky, honey and oatmeal, so as to beguile him into staying put while he surrounded the place. Thus was Lord John captured, and thus came into being 'Atholl Brose'.

Cream is an optional addition, particularly for festive occasions.  Simon (1948), in a recipe attributed to the Royal Scots Fusiliers, gives the following proportions, to be mixed:

7 parts oatmeal brose
7 parts whisky
5 parts cream
1 part honey

The brose is prepared by steeping a volume of oatmeal overnight in three times as much cold water, then straining the liquid through muslin.