The Famous Grouse Review: The Definitive Guide

let’s begin

Not too long ago I received a box of whisky samples / bottles of the full The Famous Grouse Range. This, then, is the definitive The Famous Grouse Review. Or should that be 'covey'?

Yeah I didn’t know that ‘covey’ is the term for a small group of grouse either… but then you learn these things when putting together the (quasi) definitive The Famous Grouse review.

The range being reviewed comprises:

  1. The Famous Grouse
  2. The Black Grouse
  3. The Black Grouse Alpha Edition
  4. The Naked Grouse
  5. The Famous Grouse 16 Year old

What a line up, but first things first. 

As this is a 5 in 1 The Famous Grouse review of the entire The Famous Grouse family, it made sense to bring in a whisky-loving part of my family, Tom, my father-in-law. We are going to review the whiskies in order of ‘rank’ within the range so we go up the tiers as we go through.

The Famous Grouse gets a bit of a bad rep in some, mostly southern, parts of the UK as being ‘just a blend’ and ‘low end scotch’ but the reality is that both of those statements are patently untrue.

The liquid within The Famous Grouse is very high quality and in fact one dram of The Famous Grouse is sold every three minutes in the UK making it the biggest selling whisky in the United Kingdom, so it must be doing something right. Now we have that cleared up…

Greg’s note: Very delicate, moreso than expected, A hint of grain but not too much, there’s a sweetness there but not sickly, more subdued, like a warming dessert. A really good blended whisky for the price and one that a lot of people should reconsider.

Tom’s note: Not a fan, would not choose it for home or when out.

Now, I’ve been a huge fan of The Black Grouse since being introduced to it at a trade show a couple of years back. Its peaty, peppery brilliance stunned me and is both a frequent resident in my whisky cabinet and recommendation to people looking for a great whisky for a reasonable price. Plus a percentage of each bottle sale goes towards saving The Black Grouse species from extinction.

Greg’s note: The nose is quite peaty, more than you’d expect, a hint of wood, the palate is more oily than I was expecting but this is not a bad thing, citrusy notes come to the fore once it hits the tongue, with the peaty power re-emerging as I moved towards the finish. Really nice dram. Nice and smoky.

Tom’s note: Very, very, very good occasional whisky. Not outstanding but more than palatable. If you didn’t know it is The Black Grouse I think I would buy, drink and recommend, in fact I would drink vs. buy this one, maybe a misconception about the The Famous Grouse brand I know but that’s how I see it.

You can tell from the bottle that the modus operandi for this SKU is clear – let the liquid do the talking. A premium version of The Famous Grouse, The Naked Grouse has more Macallan and Highland Park than the original.

Greg’s note: The darker colour suggests this whisky might be heavy or in some way deeper in flavour than the regular The Famous Grouse. This is only partially true; more of a savoury dram, I got no sweetness at all, more spice, liquorice but still very smooth with hints of dried fruits.

Tom’s note: Didn’t expect it to be great but smells lovely. Great recreational whisky – spicier than I thought it would be. Surprising.

The Black Grouse Alpha has a higher percentage of peated whisky in it, some a lot older than in the original, presented in a bottle made of black glass (nice touch) and with a red top tying the design back to the red accent on The Black Grouse itself. The original release came with a grouse feather attached to a neck band reminiscent of a bird’s ankle tag.

Greg’s note: Raisins, spices and toffee come across on the nose, not as much smokiness as I had thought it would pack. Then I take a sip. Wow this takes The Black Grouse to another level, even smokier than the last whisky. Much more noticeable, the smoke is complimented with dried fruits again and a hint of spice. The finish is shorter than I thought it would be but a very nice dram to have in.

Tom’s note: There’s something a bit ‘kung fu fighting’ about it… lots of punch, spice, power and fun. What a great whisky. Tastes a bit strange but in a good way, hard to explain but its my favourite of the range.

Dram 5 - The Famous Grouse 16 year old - 40% - £65.00

The most impressive visually, with a gorgeous illustrated secondary pack (box) by Vic Lee, the purple and copy packaging stands out and is a sign of things to come as the range gets a revamp in May 2015. Note this is a limited edition and may not be available everywhere, duty free is your best bet for obtaining this whisky currently.

Greg’s note: You immediately get a sense that this whisky is grown up, it stands tall having been matured in first fill Spanish Sherry casks and first fill American bourbon casks. The liquid is bright gold in colour, the nose is potent but not overly powerful but the palate exudes nutmeg, cinnamon all with a soft vanilla undertone, very spicy throughout.

Tom’s note: Smells like a ‘standard’ whisky, sweet, not distinctive. Not wow but bloody good. There isn’t that punch in the face or stomach but still a bit of burn keeps the interest. Like it but cannot tell you why. Just something about it.

The Famous Grouse Review: The Verdict

In summary, I was impressed but not shocked at the breadth of flavours The Famous Grouse Range had to offer, it really feels like there is something for everyone, from smooth and light to peaty and powerful with layers in between. This is one of the most coherent whisky ranges I have had the privilege to try and I’m glad I got to sample the full grouse covey in one tasting – and hope I’ve done the range justice in this 5 in 1 The Famous Grouse review. 

Tags: The Famous GrouseThe Famous Grouse rangeWhisky Tasting
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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