When I drink scotch I drink it neat, maybe a tiny piece of ice if I’d like a bit of mellowing to the flavor. With that, I came in to this week thinking that the Rusty Nail could improve upon straight scotch. That turned out to not be the case at all, at least not for scotch that’s tasty on its own. My scotch collection certainly isn’t as extensive as I’d like it to be, but it spans a fair range none-the-less. So, I had visions of trying a lot of them in this drink. My direction changed as I got started.
Thinking that this drink was likely most often mixed with a blended scotch I decided to expand my collection with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. Using the Joy of Mixology recipe I got started. With this scotch the Rusty Nail is very lightly peaty and lightly smoky. There is a nice, yet subtle, sweetness from the Drambuie. No single flavor shines above the others which I would attribute to the skill of both the Johnnie Walker and Drambuie blenders. Overall this is a good cocktail, but even after only one a thought that ran through my mind was that I think I’d simply prefer the scotch alone.
From there I decided I’d change things up and try some single malts. First in the mixing glass was Ardmore, one of my favorite medium smoky scotches. Makes a great deal of sense then that the resulting Rusty Nail is noticeably smokier which does a good job of offsetting the sweetness of the Drambuie. While I prefer this mix over the Johnnie Walked, I’m still torn as to whether I’d simply prefer the scotch on its own.
Next up I pulled down my bottle of Macallan 12. Subtler smoke here. Still feeling like this is a waste of good single malt though. The Drambuie if very nice and certainly doesn’t hurt the overall flavor profile but it does mask some of the subtler notes of the scotch. After this mix I decided I wasn’t going to do any more experiments with single malt for this drink. Simply wasn’t worth it.
Finally, I decided to wrap things up with another blend. Specifically one I’ve used here before, The Famous Grouse. This mix was very smooth. Truly nothing took over the flavor profile. After these experiments my inclination is to think that this drink is really intended to be made with a blended scotch. While the drink with any scotch is no doubt good you lose what’s really special about a single malt, the subtle complexity of flavor.
As for the recipe itself I really like this ratio. I tried dropping the scotch to 2 oz, thereby bumping up the Drambuie ratio. The resulting drink was a bit too sweet for my tastes. As with all cocktail recipes though I suggest you tweak it to your liking.