The Famous Grouse
By Franz Scheurer
The Famous Grouse is a vatted malt, made using whiskies including Bunnahabhain, Glenrothes, Highland Park and Tamdhu. Due to an intensive advertising campaign in the 1980s it became Scotland’s number one blend and number two in the UK and a large share of the US market. But taking a step back, in the early 1900s, Matthew Gloag was sent to France to learn all about the wine business and when he returned to take over the family wine store in Perth (Scotland) expanded the business by offering his own blended whiskies. He called his blends ‘The Grouse Brand’ and in 1920, with instant success, he tacked on the word ‘Famous’. Initially exported to the Caribbean, then into the US by a group of smugglers, the Famous Grouse already had an established market when Prohibition finally ended.
Hers is a comparison tasting:
The Famous Grouse
Vatted (blended) malt, no age statement, 40% a/v
Bottled in a screw-cap bottle this is the most affordable expression of the Famous Grouse.
Colour: Light gold.
Nose: Barley, malty and dusty dry.
Palate: Dry soft start on the palate, slowly developing some sweetness, alas finishing with quite an alcohol hit, short and one-dimensional.
Comment: Not my kind of dram.
The Famous Grouse 12
Vatted (blended) malt, 12 y/o, 40% a/v
Colour: Old gold with a pale rim.
Nose: Quite closed at first then developing tropical fruit not unlike a Viognier.
Palate: Softly textured with a highly salty maritime front palate and a surprising kick for a 40%er. Finish is short and sharp.
Comment: Quite interesting in a curious way but rather unbalanced.
The Famous Grouse 18
Vatted (blended) malt, 18 y/o, 43% a/v
Colour: Light mahogany.
Nose: Sharp, focused and grassy.
Palate: Lots of forward oak and green, grassy, stalky, asparagus-like flavours with a hot, long, one-dimensional finish.
Comment: Might appeal to a rum drinker and would make a good mixer with its no nonsense focused flavour profile.
The Famous Grouse 30
Vatted (blended) malt, 30 y/o, 43% a/v
Colour: Maple syrup with a hint of sunset red.
Nose: Hints of cigar box and old sherry, strong, tight and together.
Palate: Surprisingly fresh for its age, integrated and balanced. This is a complex dram, with sheer power rather than elegant finesse. Its finish is long, dry and full of memories of a stroll in the woods in autumn.
Comment: This is an excellent vatted malt that I’d be happy to offer to my guests.