The Black Grouse is the smoky one in the Famous Grouse stable of blends. The Famous Grouse itself is a decent blend and very popular, and it has been joined in recent years by the Naked Grouse (sherried), the Snow Grouse (all grain and to be served chilled; and best this way as otherwise you might be able to taste it) and the Black Grouse which sees the core Grouse blended with Islay malts. Which Islay malts, I’m not sure. I’ve not really tasted my way around the smoky blend corner of the market and so I’m intrigued to see how this compares to entry-level smoky malts.
The Black Grouse (40%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Sour, farmy peat with strong mossy, vegetal undertones. Some woody/spicy notes and after a while there’s a little dark honey or maybe it’s caramel. Much later there’s a bit of dried orange peel as well.
Palate: Ashier smoke here but not much else. Very watery mouthfeel. With time there’s a slight stony/minerally sweetness but there’s really not a whole lot happening here.
Finish: Medium. Dry smoke and ash and a sort of chalky sourness.
Comments: The nose surprised me. First, for being more farmy than I was expecting from a blend with Islay malts in it; I’d guess there’s peated Bunnahabhain in here–it’s certainly not very medicinal/phenolic. And second, for actually developing some complexity. The palate, however, is a bit of a washed out one-note affair and while the finish is longer than I’d expected I think I’d be fine with it being shorter. Not particularly grainy–I wonder if that’s just the Islay malt component drowning the grain notes or if there’s less grain whisky in this blend. Not a bad choice if you want something smoky at the price–I’d take it over an entry-level malt like the Bowmore Legend in the rough price bracket (and it’s far smokier than the Legend). But I can’t see myself buying it except as an affordable way to add smoky notes to home blending experiments.
Rating: 79 points.
Thanks to George for the sample.