By Richard Thomas
Like so many other blended scotches, the Famous Grouse starts with a 19th Century Scottish grocer, in this case one Matthew Gloag of Perth. Like many Scottish grocers, Gloag started a family business that included making blended scotch whiskeys, which grew into the Grouse Blend under Matthew’s namesake and grandson in 1896. This was later renamed to The Famous Grouse.
Today, The Famous Grouse is a scotch line that sits on the shelf right up there with Grant’s, Johnnie Walker, and Ballatine’s. Billing itself as “Scotland’s best-selling whisky for 30 years,” entry-level Famous Grouse scotch is the number one scotch Scandinavia, coming in first in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and in the top three blended scotches in Finland. As I can attest to from personal experience, the scotch is also damn near universal in Portugal as well. In the UK, you apparently need to live in Plato’s cave in order to escape the company’s Christmas advertising, and it is noted for its sponsorship of rugby there.
Entry-level Famous Grouse, with the characteristic little red bird on the label, is a blend that includes scotch from The Macallan and Highland Park, among others. The whiskey is married and matured in old sherry casks for up to six months, and bottled at 40% alcohol. The Famous Grouse has no aging statement on the label. On the plus side, the bottle has a metal screw cap, but on the minus side it usually also has an aerator.
Once in the glass, the scotch has a pleasantly clear, light orange-amber color. The scent of The Famous Grouse carries its woody, sherry-cask maturation well, mixed with a sea spray-like crispness and citrus hints. On the palate, the oak is at the forefront of the flavor, but balanced with a spicy graininess and a touch of spice and peat smoke. The finish continues on the spicy and smokey notes, running out into a middling warmth.
Some whiskey fans like adding a splash of water to their dram, and in this instance I found that the water unlocked the sweeter side of the scotch. So, if you like your scotch to have a more floral, citrusy flavor and you have Famous Grouse on hand, add a little water to it.
I usually see The Famous Grouse on the European shelves for between 11 and 13€. In the United States, the scotch typically runs for about $20.
The Famous Grouse received a gold medal at the 2009 Scotch Whisky Masters, and silvers at the 2006 and 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. At the 2007 International Wine and Spirits Competition, the Famous Grouse also carried a silver.