A Volley of Grouse [Famous, Snow, Black, Black Alpha]

1 - A Volley of Grouse

(Thanks to /u/muaddib99 for the Black Grouse Alpha)

This may count as a volley. Or not. Grouse tend to be solitary, so when one finally sees a bunch of grouse, it’s hard to say if it’s a volley or not.

That being said, I’m talking about whisky, and not birds. I’d hate to see what would happen if I ate 4 different types of wild game in a row and reviewed them. I’d be called the Fat Reviewer or something.

Continuing on my now delayed series (The Blender: A totally not rip-off of /u/tintin777‘s review series), I move onto the next multi-review, the Grouse brand.

Currently produced by the Edrington Group under Beam-Suntory Inc, the Grouse line of products is quite popular in Scotland. It has been the highest selling whisky in Scotland since 1980. That’s a pretty amazing record, if I do say myself.

The grouse itself is Scotland’s national game bird. Take that Turkey!

I’ll avoid going too much into the history, however let’s just say that this whisky has been produced since 1896, and only changed their name to “Famous” once it was actually famous. So that’s respectful

So, let’s see how the line-up fairs.

2 - The Famous Grouse

Up first we have the entry level malt, The Famous Grouse. This blend is matured in oak casts for up to six months. So don’t we feel special. It’s also known as a Christmas treat, as most of the sales of the brand come at Christmas, and the marketing for it goes into full swing with TV advertisements ramping up during the Xmas season.

It’s also mainly made up of Macallan and Highland Park, which is pretty cool. I’ve found some Macallan’s I didn’t mind, and I know I like Highland Park. So that bodes well.

3 - The Famous Grouse

Price: 29.95 (CAD) (Currently on sale for $2 off, big savings)

Region: Blend

Abv: 40%

Colour: Light Gold

Nose: Caramel, marmalade, nail polish remover, vegetal, weak tea smell

That is a rough as nails nose on this one. Like a kick in the grapes by a futbal player. Some parts are nice, and others could take the paint off the walls.

I don’t like it, is what I’m saying.

Taste: Cinnamon gum, lime, wood, orange, grassy

Luckily the taste doesn’t follow the nose. Otherwise I’d think this was poison.

It’s weak. Smooth, nothing coming out and slapping its dick in your face. Overall nice balance of flavours. Still watery though.

Finish: Nutmeg, honey, orange, cereal, wood, pepper

Again, nice, woody, medium length finish. You can tell they wanted to go for something smooth, and while I don’t think it’s that great, it’s not bad. It’s just meh.

Conclusion: Good in cocktails, probably. Overall the nose is rough as heck. As the first whisky I ever had (at age 11), I could see what I liked and didn’t like. That nose is pretty rough.

Smooth though. Give it to some non-whisky drinkers in a Rob Roy or a Rusty Nail, it’ll do well in there.


1001 Whiskies to taste before you die review #192

4 - The Snow Grouse

Snow Grouse is labeled with a ptarmigan, or as non-English speakers call it, “You’re fucking with me, right? That’s not a word.”

This is a blend of grain whiskies that was “designed to be drunk cold.”

I don’t know if I should trust this….

Alright, it’s novel, I’ll give them that. They used a unique filtration process to gently chill filter it. As such, I’ve reviewed it both at room temperature and after it was in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Let’s see how the ptarmigan stands up in the volley, shall we?

(Quick note: I’m only archiving the Room Temp review score, as that’s what I typically review my whiskies at).

5 - The Snow Grouse

Price: N/A in Ontario

Region: Blend

Abv: 40%

(Room Temp) Colour: Light Yellow

(Chilled) Colour: Light Yellow

(Room Temp) Nose: Lemon, Pear, cereal, nail polish remover, mango candy

(Chilled) Nose: Lemon sorbet, faint alcohol, cereal

So, at room temp it was similar to the Famous, however a little less abrasive. In the cold it tasted like a booze slushy.

I’ll say that I liked the booze slushy, though it was somewhat weak.

(Room Temp) Taste: Jujubes, dried fruit, banana, coffee, earthy

(Chilled) Taste: Lemon ice cream, banana, hot chilli flakes

In the cold this tastes like lemon ice cream that quickly melts and burns. It’s blaw. At room temp, while it’s still pretty weak, it does tickle my sweet tooth a lot. It’s not amazing, however I still like it at room temp more.

(Room Temp) Finish: Papaya, dry, woody, raspberry sorbet

(Chilled) Finish: Lemon sorbet, grassy, pepper, light mint

So we have a pretty simple, short, very short, finish. And it’s refreshing.

The issue is that my mouth warms up the cold one before it can do anything in the finish. So after some quick drinking, I was able to get the cold flaours, and they weren’t tasty.

Room Temp wins finish.

Conclusion: It’s a weak, boring whisky overall. Don’t get me wrong, there’s better out there, and it’s better than the Famous, but only by a little.

The cold just makes it more basic and boring. It does bring out other flavours, however those flavours are easier to get with Banana Vodka and a blender full of ice. Pass.

(Room Temp) 66/100

(Chilled) 55/100

1001 Whiskies to taste before you die review #193

6 - The Black Grouse

Sweden has brought many great things into the world, usually with an umlaut or three. One of the things they can raise up is our next whisky, The Black Grouse. Originally developed for the Swedish market, this whisky takes the Famous Grouse blend and adds some peated whisky.

From where? I’m going to guess either Ardmore or Bowmore, just based on what I tasted.

Now The Black Grouse has left the cold, northern country of Sweden to pillage unfeathered… er… unfettered. Let’s see how it tastes.

7 - The Black Grouse

Price: $34.95 (CAD)

Region: Blend

Abv: 40%

Colour: Orange-Brown

Nose: Smoke, earth, mint, lemon Pledge

Pledge is a wood cleaning product, in case your Google is broken.

Simple, very light. Really light actually. I haven’t had a super light peated whisky in a long time. Kinda hard to tell if there is anything other than peat, really.

At least it’s not abrasive like the Famous.

Taste: Peat, candy, anise, strawberry, mushroom

Sweeter than I was expecting. The Highland Park elements pop up a little more here, with the sherry influence from it (and probably the Macallan) pairing well with the peat.

Granted, it’s all lost in a weak flavour that mostly candy and anise, and generally doesn’t do much, however I can confirm it was liquid, so there’s that. It’s smooth.

Finish: Candy, earth, smoke

Good length on the finish. Now if it was anything interesting, I’d probably go on, however it’s generic and boring.

Conclusion: I’d drink this over the famous, however not unless I had to. It’s meh. Nothing offensive, nothing trying too hard, and just some peat added in. Oh well. Use it for Cocktails.


1001 Whiskies to taste before you die review #194

101 Whiskies to try before you die review #50

8 - The Black Grouse Alpha Edition

Have you ever flown Air Transat? It’s interesting. I used them to save some money flying 2 years ago. And the flight was fine, I had enough room, food was tasteless, etc, etc.

But the thing that bugged me was the amount of niceties that they nickel and dimed you on. You’d see someone with a blanket… Oh, that was $10. Or someone was able to board before you… because they paid for it. Or someone could have 2 pops… because they paid for it.

And I get it. I saved money. Yet at every single turn they informed me I could have paid more to be treated better. Even when the baggage was put on the turnstile, I was informed I’d wait an extra 20 minutes for mine.

And that brings us to The Black Grouse Alpha Edition. This malt is The Black Grouse from above, but they use more complex and mature malt in it.

So you could buy The Black Grouse, or be reminded that they made a malt they gave a shit about, The Black Grouse Alpha Edition

9 - The Black Grouse Alpha Edition

Price: Currently not available at the LCBO

Region: Blend

Abv: 40%

Colour: Milk Chocolate

Nose: Milk, brown sugar, cocoa, nutmeg, peach jam

So here’s a change: The nose actually has some notes to it, that I can smell, and there’s no painful alcohol note in it. Granted it’s still pretty weak by other standards, however it’s nice.

Taste: Nutmeg, smoke, molasses, hot chilli flakes, tomato, strawberry

A little hot, however you can actually taste a lot of BBQ notes here. Almost completely like drinking BBQ sauce, without the, you know, horrible aftertaste of BBQ sauce chugging.

Which I don’t recommend.

Finish: Smoke, vanilla, rich currants, coffee, oregano, walnut

Nice long finish. The nut note at the end will keep amping itself up over time, however the rest balances well enough. Not too strong or anything, but nice.

Conclusion: Probably the best Grouse product out there, still not that great. I’d say it’s a nice change from Johnnie Walker Black. They tried with this one, and while it shows in comparison to other Grouse products, it’s still just sorta a smooth, meh drink.

For the price you pay for this, it should be a higher Abv, it should be wowing you, and it shouldn’t just be the best of some lame ducks. And that’s what it is: The top of a meh sandwich. I gave it an okay score, however unless you’re not able to buy anything else in this score range, I’d pass on it.


Scotch reviews #263-266, Blend reviews #24-27, Whisky Network reviews #396-399

One thought on “A Volley of Grouse [Famous, Snow, Black, Black Alpha]

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