Whisky Review – Famous Grouse – The Black Grouse

Famous Grouse – The Black Grouse

40% ABV

~£20.00 from supermarkets and general availability 

  

Having a bit of a Grouse session. Finally, we have the Black Grouse. This is a smokier blend of whiskies and has a good reputation for quality and enjoy ability factor considered the relatively lower price point. 

Nose. 

Mmmmm. Quite a bit of dirty earth and smoke to this blend. Bonfire smoke. Wet twigs smouldering. Sweet peat smoke. Slightly medicinal. Lots of burnt brown sugar and honey. Some herbal liquorice comes through with time in the glass. Quite a bit if maritime as well. Wet ropes and a touch of tar. Aniseed sweets. Pontefract cakes (remember them?). Quite a smokey intense Islay experience. In the background we do have some sweet runny honey and whiffs of vanilla. 

Palate. 

Bloody hell I’d love to try this a litter higher ABV with No chill filtration. But anyway. There is some more obvious grain in the palate, vanilla and coconut cram is the most forefront flavours. The earthy peat bog/smoke starts coming in in the development. Damp moss, some damp soil. Sweet peat. Herbal heather honey, touches of aniseed come back in little burps. Towards the end of the development there is a little spirit coming through showing its youth.

Finish.

Slightly bitter and drying tea leaves, with some burnt sugars and wood char hanging around for a medium length finish. The finish is the only real weakness in this dram. 

Adding water. 

I don’t think this will benefit from water, but I have been proven wrong in the past so a few drops inserted here. The smokey nose is more medicinal now. I don’t think the dilution has done much in the way of a favour for the smoke, it’s extinguished. There is more herbal now and it’s still quite interesting. The palate is lighter, sweeter, greener. Much more herbal, a little drier, some bitter herbal tea. Cough candy twist sweets come to mind, but weaker than the real sweets. The finish reflects the herbal nature. It’s an interesting dram to water, but for me it removes a little bit too much. 

Conclusion. 

A very close second place favourite in the Grouse camp for me of the whiskies I have tried so far. There is some prominent youth and a slightly bitter finish that lets this blend down slightly. But for the money this is a good little peaty moment that is getting more and more expensive to experience nowadays. 

Note – I have just read this expression is being relabelled as Smokey Black. I don’t know if the blend has changed at all but if I get a chance to do a sidebyside test I will and report!

This one is from my own collection. 

Whisky Review – Famous Grouse – The Naked Grouse

Famous Grouse – The Naked Grouse

40% ABV

~£25.00 from supermarkets and general availability 

  

Having a bit of a Grouse session. Next up is the Naked Grouse. Famed for having more malt than the normal blends and sporting a slighter higher price tag around the mid £20s. 

When I first opened this bottle I felt a little underwhelmed, so I have left it for a few weeks after having a few large drams from it. It has made all the difference. Never judge a book by its cover, or even first couple of chapters!

Nose. 

This is a more sherry concentrated blend. With sherry aromas up front, a decent slab of Christmas cake, fully loaded with alcohol and spiced fruit. Cinnamon and clove spices, sweet, plump raisin, some light cherry and vanilla. There is a noticeable grain presence, but this is more backgrounded thanks to the malt, though I still get some creamy vanilla, buttery popcorn effect hanging in there. There is a slight cardboard effect which goes away with time in the glass. With that additional time we get more honey coming forward. 

Palate. 

Sweet and slightly dry arrival, of honey and syrups. With fruit coming into the development, spice ridden and quite warming. Sherry influence is very prominent, but still quite light and not too overpowering. Ripe cherry juices amongst some sweet ginger and other Christmas spices. The mouth feel is quite light, although there is a richness which is moreish and very enjoyable. Some vanilla cream backs up the experience. 

Finish. 

Ginger and pepper accompany a short-medium length fruity finish. A touch of wood char and some vanilla custard creams. 

Adding water. 

Does not need it. Added a drop anyway. The drop of water has extinguished the spice notes. More oak and fruit is front and center now, less complex. The palate is even weaker in the mouthfeel. The flavours weakened by the dilution. Nothing really added and more taken away. The finish however, seems fruitier and slightly longer. There’s definitely an effect a small drop makes to this dram and it’s worth the experimentation, but for me, personally, no water to be added in this one. 

Conclusion. 

A very lovely blended experience. Giving slightly more malt than you would normally get from a blend and that added experience is worth the extra few quid. In a day and age when the prices malts is going from strength to strength it is nice to know there is something out there at a good price which is still a good experience. A great warm up dram for a tasting, or to sip away an enjoyable night. This is my personal favourite of the Grouse blends I have experienced so far. 

This one is from my own collection. 

Whisky Review – Famous Grouse Mellow Gold

Famous Grouse Mellow Gold

40% ABV

£25.75 from Master of Malt 

  
A new addition to the base Of Famous Grouse. Mellow Gold is a blend created for smoothness and mixing really. Using a higher proportion of sherry cask to the mix and utilising more first fill casks. 

Here’s a snippet of the PR release:

Gordon Motion, Master Blender described his new premium blend:

“In Mellow Gold we’ve carefully selected a particular combination of casks to create a rich and smooth whisky. As with all Famous Grouse expressions, we’ve used sherry and bourbon-seasoned casks – but for Mellow Gold we’ve used more first fill casks imparting a richer, sweeter flavour.

 

The effect is added complexity with vanilla notes and subtly-sweet spice to create a gentle, velvety dram. Mellow Gold is a delicious achievement – and a subtle, smooth indulgence to be savoured.”

 

“On the nose, The Famous Grouse Mellow Gold has scents of orange peel and vanilla, perfumed with a hint of lychee. On tasting sweeter notes come to the fore, combining the delicious flavour of spiced crème brûlée with heady cedar notes, followed by a twist of lemon peel and lingering spiciness to finish.”



Here’s my thoughts. 

Nose. 

That higher level of first fill and sherry casks are evident on the nose, with much more of a sherry profile coming forward on first pour. Lots of vanilla, raisin, clove and cinnamon. Alongside a dominance of creamy corn and custard. There is a slight twang of bitter orange with time in the glass. 

Palate. 

Medium sweet immediately on the palate, then turning slightly wood sour, with some prickly heat. After the heat subsides, we get creamy vanilla, some charred oak, burnt caramel, and some mild orange rind. A little chilli pepper, cardamom and oak spices come along for the ride as well. 

Finish. 

Medium length finish. Bittersweet. Some dry treacle, toasted caramel, charred oak. A little bitter orange citrus. Leaves a touch too much in the way of bitter tannins to the side. 

Adding water. 

Personally this would be better adding lemonade to rather than water, but I do the water thing with every dram for reference. So. A few drops. The nose is diminished, now more pure ethanol coming through and the pleasures from the first fill casks has been reduced significantly. The palate is all about the grain. Lots of creamy corn and vanilla, slightly alcohol, again vastly destroyed by water. Do not water this one at all. Lemonade, or the mixer of choice is the best option here. 

Conclusion. 

This is a whisky aimed at the masses, for consumption with mixers, and as that goes it does a great job. Personally I cannot recommend this as a sipping whisky, but I think that comes as no surprise. However, as a whisky in a long drink for warmer summer nights this performs very very well. 

Big thanks to Famous Grouse for the review sample.