Grand Old Parr Scotch Review


By Richard Thomas

Rating: B

Grand Old ParrGrand Old Parr is one of the key fixtures of the upper shelf in many a watering hole, supermarket, and liquor store in Europe, North America, South America, and Japan. My guess is that if a bar stocks 12 year old blended scotch, it will be one of two brands, if not both: Johnnie Walker Black and Grand Old Parr.

Yet for something so ubiquitous, hardly anyone knows anything about Grand Old Parr. Even people who drink it don’t actually seem to know much about who made it, what’s in it, or who it is named for. The brand doesn’t have a website, and other offerings, such as the 18 Year Old, are as rare and the main 12 Year Old is commonplace.

First, Grand Old Parr is named for Thomas Parr, a semi-legendary Englishman reputed to have lived for 152 years, from the late 15th to the mid-17th Centuries. “Old Parr” was  certainly a real person, and undoubtedly lived for a very long time by the standards of the day, but stories of his century-and-a-half lifespan or fathering bastards at the age of 100 should be taken with a pinch of salt. His remains are in Westminster Abbey, so you can visit them on your next trip to London. The Grand Old Parr brand dates back to 1909.

Nowadays Grand Old Parr is owned by Diageo, the drinks conglomerate that owns the aforementioned Johnnie Walker, Cardhu, J&B, and a couple of dozen other blended and single malt brands. Little information is available on where the blend comes from, or how it might have changed over the years, but running down the Diageo list of distilleries will provide a good starting point for guessing what might be in it.

Old Tom Parr

Old Tom Parr
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Whiskey
I usually don’t go for brown glass whiskey bottles, but Grand Old Parr’s is undeniably cool. It’s turtle-shell surface and squat, squared design come together with the labeling style to make it look like something straight out of a pirate flick. I can easily imagine Graham Chapman swinging into the rigging on the set of Yellowbeard guzzling from a bottle of Grand Old Parr… and if you believe the Parr legend, somehow that timing seems to fit. It is bottled at 43% abv.

In the glass, the scotch has a gold and slightly coppery appearance, suggestive of more body than the typical 12 year old blend. That point complements the 43% abv, which is also somewhat more than one expects from the typical blend of this type.

The nose is mellow and rich with musty oak, plus a generous helping of malty cereal, with notes of dried grass and sea breeze, and a little candied dried fruit. It’s rich and malty sweet on the palate, with some toffee and dried fruit flavoring, and a dash of spice. The finish is a long, lingering one, but only slightly warm and slightly peppery.

This stuff has a rich, full-bodied, but understated character to it. For a plainly mass market 12 year old blend, Grand Old Parr is actually a very pleasant and enjoyable scotch. If you haven’t tried it yet, do so. It’s easy to find, so there are no excuses.

The Price
In the U.S., expect to pay around $30 to $35. Strangely, I’ve seen it priced more expensively in Europe, around €35, but that might be due to high local VATs.

Share :


  1. When you write about Scotch please can you spell whisky correctly. Whiskey is an Irish (or American) version of the original.

    • Our editorial policy on “whiskey” and “whisky” has evolved over time.

      Right now we spell it “whisky” whenever it is a specific reference, such as Johnnie Walker whisky or French whisky vs. Irish whiskey and Knob Creek whiskey. Only when making a broad, general reference do we default to “whiskey” now (“Scottish and Kentucky whiskey”).

      That was not the case almost two years ago.

    • Please get the F over yourself

  2. I got a bottle of this from duty free when I flew back from Japan, and I loved the stuff, Im really struggling to find it here in the UK now

    Im relatively new to Whiskey, can you recommend anything similar to Old Parr which might be easier to find online?


    • Off the cusp and thinking of what is available in the UK, try Haig Dimple. It’s in the same vein and also a good one. Check our review here.

  3. Where might I purchase a bottle in the United States, in store or online.

  4. Where in Mn and SD can I buy Old Parr???

  5. The Old Parr they sell in the US is not the good one. If you have a chance to buy it on any duty free store in South America or the Caribbean or even in The US on your way out, buy it and when you get back home, compare it to the one they sell domestically. The difference is like night and day, you will notice a huge difference in taste and experience. The good stuff has the words “EXTRA RICH” in red under the name, the one they sell in the US market do not bear those words and is measurably inferior. The EXTRA RICH one is my favorite and probably the bes there is out there, even superior to 18 or 25 year scotch. Don’t miss the chance to try it.

  6. Everyone but One was right on in the description and character of Old Parr. I was pleasantly surprised on a visit to Costa Rica 11 Years ago with a glass of this great blend. I have been addicted to it ever since. Quite plentiful and available in Central America, at All of the airport Duty Free shops leaving everywhere down there. In Costa Rica, Panama and Columbia, from my observation, it is a distinct favorite among the locals.
    The version in the states, which was very rare for quite some time, but now at most liquor stores. Not the same version as out of the country as described by one above. “Extra Rich” is on all Central American bottles, with a noticeable taste difference than that bought in the US.
    Old Parr “Superior” is an all encompassing Treat, the bottle to find and enjoy, by the sip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *