Atholl Brose is a thick, spoonable drink, made from honey, oatmeal, water and whiskey.
You mix the oatmeal and water to form a thick paste, let stand a while, then strain the oatmeal out, keeping the liquid. You mix the liquid with honey and whisky, stir or shake well, and serve. It will keep in a sealed bottle for up to 2 days.
Another version (which calls itself “the original”), calls for oatmeal and whisky to be mixed, and set covered in a cool place for 2 to 3 days. The oatmeal is strained out and discarded (or can be used for porridge), and the whisky is then mixed with cream and brandy.
Another version is cream beaten to a froth, to which is added lightly-toasted oatmeal, honey and whiskey.
An Edinburgh version of it is made without oatmeal. You dissolve honey in water, add whiskey, and froth it. It could be stored mixed like this in a bottle. Occasionally an egg yolk was added.
Some sources repeat the pure blarney that Atholl Brose was first heard of in 1475 when the Earl of Atholl — the sources never specify which particular Earl of Atholl, but which would have been Sir John Stewart (born circa 1440 – died 15th or 19th September 1512), 1st Earl of Atholl (8th creation) — used it to capture the rebellious Iain MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, by luring him into stopping longer than he should have at a small well that Atholl had filled with Atholl Brose.
The Lord of the Isles in question at the time, though, was not named Iain, and he was never captured.
In the mid-1470s, John MacDonald II (born 1449 – died 1493) was fourth Lord of the Isles and 11th Earl of Ross, answering to the King of Scots. Dating from Viking times, this realm included the Western Highlands of Scotland, most of the Hebrides Islands, and Arran and Antrim in Northern Ireland. It was the third most powerful realm in the British Isles, after that of the Kings of England and of Scotland. MacDonald wasn’t content, though, to have to answer to the King of Scotland, and wanted to rule independently in his own right. The King of Scotland at the time was James III (born 1451 or 1452 – murdered 11 June 1488.) On 18 February 1462 MacDonald struck a clandestine treaty with Edward IV of England (born 28 April 1442 – died 9 April 1483, just shy of the age of 41. Reigned 4 March 1461 till his death, with a hiatus during the War of the Roses from 1470 to 1471 when Henry VI — murdered 21 May 1471 in the Tower of London — was installed in his place.) The treaty committed MacDonald to helping Edward conquer Scotland, in return for Edward recognizing MacDonald’s realm as a fully independent Kingdom. Edward wasn’t able to assist him, though, owing to having to fight for himself in England during the War of the Roses.
In 1475, James III discovered John MacDonald’s treachery, and declared MacDonald’s lands forfeit and part of the realm of the Scottish crown.
MacDonald was not captured; but surrendered formally on terms to James on 10 July 1476 when he realized that James was about to launch an attack from both land and sea that would be futile to resist. Part of the terms of his surrender was that he give up the Earldom of Ross, and the territory that went with it, as well as Kintyre and Knapdale. James accepted and MacDonald was restored to favour, until his subsequent and final rebellion in 1493, when he was summoned to stand trial in Edinburgh. He was stripped of his titles and all possessions, and died the same year. Some sources say he died in rented accommodations in Dundee; some say he died in 1498.
For the record, the title Lord of the Isles is now held by whomever is the current Prince of Wales.
In 1844, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed for 3 weeks at Blair Castle in Blair Atholl, Perthshire, at the invitation of George Murray (Lord Glenlyon and 6th Duke of Atholl; born 20 September 1814 – died 16 January 1864.) Victoria’s first visit to the castle had been in 1842 for coffee; she would return again for a third time just for coffee in 1861, with Albert, who was still alive then. Reputedly, during her 1844 visit, she was served Atholl Brose. One documented time when she was served it during the visit was not at the castle, but after a picnic lunch with the Duke and his wife on the lawns on the ruined Dunkeld Castle (destroyed in 1560 by Protestant reformers.)
She had also had Atholl Brose during the 1844 visit to Scotland in Moulinearn (outside Pitlochry in Perthshire.)
Victoria had Atholl Brose again in 1866, as an early evening impromptu refreshment offered her by villagers in Ballinluig, Perthshire, where she and John Brown stopped to change horses.
“Brose” means “broth”, but it has come to mean a broth made with oatmeal.