Nov 052013
 

The Naked Grouse417

40% abv

Score:  88/100

 

Ummm.  Yeah.  Not sure what just happened here, but I’m dumbfounded.  This is not a bad Grouse.  It’s not an ok Grouse, nor even a decent Grouse.  This is really, really tasty stuff.

Being honest here.  I generally like this brand less than a good hard kick in the junk.  OK…it’s maybe not that bad, but it’s still certainly far from a hot commodity in my place.  Like most blended whiskies, Grouse is one I have tried oodles of times (yes…that is a proper measure, about as accurate as my interpretation of ‘dram’), in various incarnations, and almost always found to be somewhat repellant (the exception so far being the 12 year old blended malt). 

I like being able to put down my sword and shield for a moment and embrace this one, instead of the continued sparring with the FG brand.  Goes to show you that blanket statements (i.e. ‘Grouse sux’) are the tool of idjits (and yes…I use ’em) and simpletons.

Joking aside, this is a good dram.  If what I’ve read is correct, there is a higher proportion of both Macallan (carrying its sweet high quality sherry influence) and Highland Park (bringing some heft and a slightly malty, smoky edge) here than in the standard offering.  The Naked Grouse is being positioned as a slightly more ‘premium’ blend.  I’m behind it wholeheartedly.  Certainly not your average young blend.  In fact…I think I’ma put a couple of these aside for rainier days.

Nose:  Malty caramel.  Raisin scones.  Buttery, with some nice dried fruits (figs and apricots).  Plum and milk chocolate.  Spiced nuts.  Vanilla.  Just a faint fanning of smoke.  Finally in a Grouse I’m getting those notes of Macallan that should have been front and center in all other editions.

Palate:  Sherried tartness meets sherried sweetness.  Neato.  Almost like a neutered (40%? c’mon) sherry bomb.  Grape juice.  Spices are well-balanced.  As unbelievable as this may seem…there are hints of watermelon.  And a little cantaloupe.  Beautiful accents.  Grape, oak, chocolate and apple.  One of the better blended whiskies I’ve ever tasted.  Lovely stuff.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:42 am
Oct 312013
 

The Famous Grouse 12 y.o. Blended Malt004

40% abv

Score:  80.5/100

 

Here’s a whisky that is not going to score outrageous marks or anything, but will certainly hold a bit of a special spot in my dark, shriveled l’il heart.

Any constant readers here will know that the Grouse and I…we ain’t exactly tight.  Both the standard expression and the Black Grouse are bottles I wouldn’t even consider levying on my enemies, let alone pouring for mates.  With that in mind, I concede that I walk into any new Grouse expression with a skepticism and tripidation almost paralleling the optimism with which I embrace new Ardbeg or Amrut releases.  Right or wrong, it is reality, and sort of hearkens back to an expression an old boss of mine likes to use: ‘You are what you’re perceived to be’.  Meaning, of course, that the Grouse, to me, will always be defined by those initial foul encounters, until I can taste enough decent ones to change my overall perception of the brand. 

So…imagine my surprise when I find this 12 year old blended malt (‘vatted malt’, damn it!) is actually pretty damn good.  First things first, there is obviously no grain whisky in here.  This is a polygamous marriage of nothing more than single malts.  With a stable of whiskies including the Macallan, Highland Park, Glenrothes and such to work with, it shouldn’t be stretch to come up with something decent.  And thankfully, that is exactly what has happened.  Finally…one of my least favourite brands releases a whisky I can really get my teeth into.  Nice!

Now if only they’d take some ‘lessons learned’ from this and apply them to the standard Grouse expression.

Nose:  Orange and crunchy red apple right up front.  Prune and chocolate.  Some nice smooth sandalwood notes and a little clean oakiness.  Maraschino.  Could be something with a little age in here, I think.  Nice balance and very surprising.

Palate:  Orange and other fruit mish-mash.  Somewhat bubble gum-like somewhere in there.  There is some malt and characteristics of some sherried malts buried herein (i.e. rich, if underpowered, and bearing echoes of fruitcake, not to put too fine a point on it).  Fades to grains.  While still quite  good, the palate can’t deliver what the nose hints at.  Either way…I’m happy with this one.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:17 am
Oct 102013
 

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

 Posted by at 1:13 pm
Jul 152012
 

Black Grouse

40% abv

Score:  71.5/100

Unapologetically I have to be the dissenting voice here on the Black Grouse.Having read more than one review suggesting that this was a top notch peated blend, I truly found myself in a whirlpool of doubt. I even held off reviewing this for several months, trying this at various times, and with various company, concerned that my palate was perhaps just not up to snuff each time. I’ve knocked the hell out of half a bottle now…shared with many others…and finally, others’ opinions notwithstanding, I have to commit and say…This is not good.I know some of the malts used to weave this blend. More than one I truly adore. Others I at least respect. This motley collection, when presented as a unified front, is just not firing on all cylinders. As a result, certain characteristics of some of those malts, stick out at odd angles and make for a really uncomfortable ride.

Now. Please forgive my cynicism. There is a certain someone out there who holds a lot of sway in the wider whisky circles. I truly wonder if some of the published opinion of said individual hasn’t helped lead others to their own weigh-in on this one. I honestly have so much trouble with this Grouse that perhaps I’m grasping at straws to cover my own stunted palate. Who knows.

On to the juice…

The nose delivers an attack of cloyingly offensive peat. Overpowering directly out of the bottle. Kinda like a mulekick right to the beak. It’s hard for me to admit that, as I know what is supposedly contributing this peat reek. Here, for whatever reason, it is terribly sharp and dirty. It is smoky and cigar rich, qualities I normally admire, though here they just don’t quite work. it is bitterly prunish, almost like raisin fruit tarts, but…not. Pungently malty like a young Highland Park (hint hint), almost to the point of sticking your head in a mash tun.

The delivery brings that tangy maltiness and bitter peat right up front. Then those sharp almost-mincemeat fruitcake flavors hit the palate, but sour and marbled with what seem like off-notes. The fade is slow into tobacco and peat. Normally a long finish is a necessity in my whiskies. Here…shaving a few minutes off would not necessarily be a bad thing.

Hey…call me out on it if you think I’m wrong. Perhaps I have a faulty batch. The door is always open. I have a half bottle here only a few months old and any brave souls are welcome to have a go, and tell me I’m wrong.

Now…I gotta say something here to ease my conscience. There ARE some pleasant notes in here. It’s sort of like a faded old tapestry with the odd brilliantly colored thread woven throughout. In the end however…it still looks like an old rag.

 

Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 1:58 pm