The Famous Grouse, one of our favourite budget blended scotches, is a great daily drinker, but lacks appeal for the large segment of the market that loves their whiskies to be heavy with peat smoke. Released over two years ago, The Black Grouse is The Edrington Group’s (Famous Grouse’s owner) attempt at creating a whisky with the appeal of Famous Grouse, but the peatiness of a good Islay. Named “The Best New Scotch Blended Whisky” in Jim Murray’s 2008 Whisky Bible, it seems that they have hit the mark. Here’s what we think:
Black Grouse starts on the nose with a mix of sweetness and smokiness, with brown sugar the highlight. At first taste, the brown sugar caramelizes to produce toffee and oaky flavours. A drop of water opens up these flavours in the nose as well, with light smokiness enhancing the aroma like a dash of salt in cookie dough. The mouth feel is neutral and light on the palate, with a medium oaky finish. All in all, this is a whisky that would be a good first introduction to peated whiskies, particularly for someone who drinks primarily blends. While lacking the intensity of an Ardbeg or Bruichladdich, The Black Grouse achieves a nice balance of smokey and sweet which is likely to appeal to a wide range of whisky consumers.
One note to make: this bottle got ignored on the back of my shelf for the better part of 4 months with only an inch to spare. I came back to it and it had lost any charm it once had, and was flat with negligible peatiness. Don’t forget, store your whisky properly, or risk this happening to your high-dollar bottles!