By Richard Thomas
If The Famous Grouse does one thing well, it is produce interesting and reasonably priced spins on its core blended scotch. The peaty Black Grouse is one example, and The Famous Grouse Port Wood Finish is another.
Old port barrels are not unknown for use in finishing, but they are hardly commonplace. Scotch-makers prefer old bourbon and sherry barrels by and large, and port-finished scotch is often of the very aged variety, such as The Balvenie’s 21 Year Old Portwood. Bourbon-makers only got into the port-finishing act very recently, with the introduction of Lincoln Hendersen’s Angel’s Envy. None of these whiskeys are even remotely in the budget category, so if you are looking to try an inexpensive, port-finished (scotch) whiskey, Famous Grouse is the way to go.
The Famous Grouse Port Wood is basically normal Famous Grouse blended scotch, but given an extra several months’ worth of aging in old Port wine casks. As such, it bears no aging statement and is bottled at the standard 40% alcohol. The label is a porty, maroon-colored variant on The Famous Grouse standard, and the bottle is topped with a metal screw cap.
As a general rule, scotch from The Famous Grouse is usually darker than is the norm for the type, and has an orange tinge to its coloring. That is especially the case for the Port Wood Finish, with an orangey mid-amber coloring so deep it almost reaches into the coppery amber of bourbon.
The scent of the Port Wood Finish is sweet with dried fruits, a little musty and earthy, and with a slight oaky undertone. The Famous Grouse tends to be woody anyway, so the port finish has certainly made for an interesting, sweet spin on that. It also mellowed the woodiness, something that is quite noticeable on the palate as well. The flavor is one of mild oak, with sweet undertones and a dash of spice.
The finish is short, but mid-bodied. It starts oaky and trails off into spicy.
In my opinion, the Port Wood Finish loses something with a splash of water or on the rocks, so unless you have whiskey stones handy, always drink this one neat.
Compared to virtually any other port-finished whiskey on the market, scotch or otherwise, Famous Grouse Port Wood Finish is a bargain. It might not be as refined as the other Portwoods out there, but I’ve seen it priced at €14, or about $18.