By Richard Thomas
At the time of publication, “12 Years Old” is very likely the oldest age statement you will see with any frequency on a bottle of The Famous Grouse. The label produced a handful of limited edition malt scotches from 2004 to 2010, the oldest of which was a 30 Year Old. At this time, however, the blended Gold Reserve 12 Year Old is the oldest whiskey The Famous Grouse has in regular production.
One word of warning about the semantics surrounding this scotch: do not confuse it with the 12 Year Old Malt, also from The Famous Grouse. The two whiskeys are easily separated visually, although their titles are a bit confusing. The malt was part of the aforementioned limited line of whiskey, but is still widely available. It comes in a standard Grouse bottle with a green label.
The Gold Reserve 12 Year Old, on the other hand, is a very different creature. It is the premium, aged blend from The Famous Grouse mainstream, and comes in the stockier bottle you see depicted on the left. This is the modern design. There is an older version of this whiskey going under the same name, and that ancestor has a label with a darker, stormier style.
The 12 Year Old comes in a hefty, eye-catching bottle, with a classy, heavy foil wrapper around the neck. I expected a wood and cork stopper to lie underneath a foil wrapper like that, but instead I found a plastic screw cap and an aerator. The aerator annoys me, but the screw cap at least is of better quality than some of the cheap caps I’ve commented on elsewhere.
This blend is made with a higher proportion of malts from Highland Park and the Macallan, contributing to its role as the label’s premium issue. Aged in oak, the scotch is bottled at 40% alcohol. On the palate, the scotch has a silky character. The flavor begins with rich sweetness, before giving way to some full-bodied woodiness. The wood extends over into a dry, mild finish.
In the glass, the Gold Reserve has a charming mid-amber color. The scotch is quite aromatic, with sea spray and the crisp scent of apples and pears.
The Famous Grouse 12 Year Old is supposed to retail for around £23 in the UK, and I usually see it priced for less than €30 in Europe. In the United States, a price just slightly higher than $30, like $32 or $33, seems to be the norm.
The Famous Grouse 12 Year Old won a silver at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.