The Famous Grouse Review

The Famous Grouse122

40% abv

Score:  67/100


There’s a reason I smuggle a flask into each year’s company Christmas party.  That reason is The Famous Grouse.  And no…that does not mean that I am clandestinely sneaking the Grouse into the event in my coat pocket; it means I am usually discreetly (*) sipping Ardbeg while the ‘scotch n’ soda’ crowd merrily glugs their Grouse.

Honestly.  I can’t drink this stuff.

In my heart of hearts I know it’s not that bad of a blended whisky.  I mean, c’mon…all those bonny Scots cannae be wrong, can they?  Just so we’re all on the same page…please take note that this is the best selling whisky in all of Scotland.  Incredible.  Now…it’s no secret that those of us with some of the blue and white in our blood are…uhhhhh…rather acutely financially aware…but I’d like to think that there is some inherent appreciation out there of the whisky for its own merits and not simply an adoration for the supermarket sales sticker.

I gotta say though…to me…in its simplest deconstruction, this is a bland, generic caramel flavour meeting a bit of malt and a faint touch of smoke.  And y’wanna know why I think it really grates on me?  Simply because I know that this has a backbone built on Macallan and Highland Park (with a hefty helping of Glenturret, among others).  Really?  Really?!  You have Macallan and HP to work with and this is the best you can do, Edrington?  That’s like Brad and Angelina having ugly babies.  In principle, it seems so far-fetched as to be borderline impossible.  Somehow though…exactly that has happened here.  Macallan and Highland Park have had ugly babies.

Nose:  Malt heavy (notes, that is, not actual malt whisky ratio).  Loud grains.  A bucketload of cloying caramel.  A solid whiff of smoke and some floral notes.  Orange peel.  A little like cheap leather and old wood.  I’m sure there’s a bit more in there, but that’s really all you need to know.

Palate:  Lightweight (through low ABV), but still sits too heavily.  Caramel and barley.  Cheap cigar.  Syrup and just an absolute f*ck tonne of sour off-notes.  Shudder.

(*) How discreet can you be really, when a cloud of smoke and peat reek emanates from both your glass and pores?


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

3 thoughts on “The Famous Grouse Review

  1. Jeff

    This is the one that started, and temporarily stopped, it all for me. Long ago, knowing nothing about scotch, I went to the LCBO and asked for a recommendation and was pointed to this, in a large-size plastic bottle. I never touched, or even thought about scotch again for a decade. Scars inflicted young are slow to fade, so that experience could be why I have a generally negative attitude toward the LCBO and the scotch industry in general even to this day. On the other hand, it was a valuable and enduring lesson: people will, quite cheerfully, sell crap whisky to the unsuspecting.

    Down here in the score basement, it’s silly to quibble, but I do put Famous Grouse, like JW Red, over Black Grouse on the basis that the former know they’re mixers, while the Black has pretensions of being a sipper. Sure, it is a case of principle over real assessment of quality, but the Grouse line’s challenge to principle is much stronger than its quality, so this whisky already picked the ground on which it fights.

    To continue with the Brad and Angelina analogy, the real question is just how much of their DNA is involved, because this IS far from a vat. If 35 malt/65 grain is ballpark for blends, just what is this? Malt content here is very low, perhaps even lower than the quality/age of the malt committed to it. That’s hardly a surprise given the retail value of higher quality malt, but the grain spirit could actually be even worse – John Glaser isn’t fighting anyone to put it into the next batch of Hedonism. You can probably make a decent cocktail out of it, but the Famous Grouse is simply an alcohol delivery system and success would depend on skill of preparation and the quality of the other ingredients.

    Has anyone tried Black Grouse Alpha?

    1. ATW Post author

      To cop a line from ‘My Cousin Vinny’: “dead on balls accurate.”

      Never tried the Alpha, but will be reviewing a few other Grouse soon, including Naked Grouse, 12 yo Blended malt and one or two others.


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