Review: The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

Famous Grouse 1.jpg
Scottish Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

The “Grouse Blend” was originally produced by Matthew Gloag, a grocer and wine merchant in Perth, Scotland. The blend was created in 1897, slightly after the big explosion of blends in Scottish whisky history. The blend became so popular that shortly it was renamed “The Famous Grouse”. Originally, it was likely supplied to sportsman who came to Glasgow to hunt. Now, it is the biggest selling blend in UK. It is produced by the same company that owns Macallan and Highland Park – who are big users of sherry casks, which does show up in this blend.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Lots of malty fruit, caramel is present, along with more malty notes and slightly sour notes reminiscent of irish pot still whisky. It’s also quite creamy and buttery, which I mainly noticed it while tasting alongside some others. I get aromas of tea as well (black pekoe) , a touch of cucumber, honey, light heather, orange, and some medicinal smells reminiscent of some peat, although I don’t smell much peat here.

Taste: Quite sweet, malty, and smooth with a surprising bit of prickly heat on my first sip. Malt seems to play center stage here, however – the backdrop is not so bad– some dried fruits (apricot and lots of raisin), slight spice, toffee, and a touch of salt. The sweetness carries on throughout the taste. The raisins seem to build and build. Peat comes in at the end (not smoke, but peat) and adds some earthiness and moss. Quite light – there’s some slight heat but not really much in the way of spices attached to it other than a touch of black pepper at the end. Additionally, the buttery-ness from the nose is here.

Finish: Malty, light, and sweet with a touch of dry-ness and slight fruitiness as well. The malt remains but isn’t that present, and there’s just a touch of spice and vanilla.

Has some good uses...I infused orange peel into this which mixes quite well.

Value: Low, even at a relatively low price. you can do better at bottom shelf prices, especially in North American whiskies.

Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

I really never understood this one, or it’s popularity – until cocktails. What happens with ice – orange kick and the weaknesses get lost – or even add subtelty – amidst the other strong flavours in the cocktail.

The nose is a bit rough, with lots of nutty spirit that is youthful and a bit unpleasant (this is why I don’t return to this one often to sip) – but it does present some nice orange peel, heather, light touches of baking spice, orchard fruit, and mixed stone fruit. The palate has more orange peel, lots of honey, and a decent dash of malty notes. The finish sits with heather, honey, and orange peel – mainly. Short length, but longer than you might expect.

As you can see, I wasn’t too enthused to put together tasting notes for this, but I wanted to revisit it – this time, though to ask the question – what happens if you serve this straight up (chilled with a bit of dilution)? All of the sudden, the orange and honey intensify, and the weaknesses are muted into a light roughness which is appealing in a cocktail. The palate is focused on orange peel and nuttiness, and the finish is reduced to honey. It’s no wonder bartenders love the stuff – it’s pretty rare to have such an optimization happen with added ice, where the weaknesses fade and the strengths are enunciated clearly.

I often have a bottle of this, but not to sip – to mix. A penicillin cocktail is great with this, as are many old fashioned or sidecar variations.