Drink Review: Black Grouse

November 22, 2020
4 mins read

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A timely innovation from Famous Grouse – this blend is based on peated Islay malts, and promises ‘reassuring smoothness with aromatic, peaty flavours’.

Black Grouse Scotch Review:


Grouse is one of the sherry-aged Speyside peat-chylished malts. However, its other essences are of course Islay, with its potential for burnt matches, dried rubber, smoke and peat-laden sea-spray. Despite the contrast between the fruity malts and the brine-scrubbed Islay, Black Grouse manages to be light, fresh and enjoyable. 

All the barley comes through; it’s perfectly integrated in this blend (there’s not the typical barley-mash-smell of an Islay whisky which many Speyside players often bring to the table). perhaps that is due to the hefty Pedersen blend of his own. There’s a creamy, elegant, sweet-bordering-on-slightly catty quality in the way this whisky seems to drape itself over the nose. Elegant, but you can’t help but think it’s a bit lacking. Like ice-cream in the form of a whisky.

The taste is almost perfect. A solid blend with the peat / Islay / barley-adjacent malts (which goes a long way to explaining the lack of Islay-coffee-like smokiness). this is a very pleasant all-rounder; probably the best in the Famous Grouse range. its not one of those, all-over-the-place Speyside blends that you cannot quickly identify until you’ve taken a while to sip and mull for a moment.

Black Grouse Scotch Review:

With a name like Black Grouse, I expected a black-dashing-off-to-see-the-night type dram. something with thick, gravelly ebony notes and ultra-potent complexity. Beautiful. The aroma is spectacular, particularly given the relatively low abv, with occasional delicate herbal notes (I get a vision of green stemt/Geranium/mint). The palate is fairly parched, but there is clearly enough here to satisfy most Islay malterdom. And within the lands of the aforementioned ‘oily-burnished peat-smoke’, one gets surprises such as a frosty, sudsy combination of brine and rubber and smoke. The finish is long, warm, and gentile but very smokey and salt-like. Warming up; hopping down the neck – great.

However, remember, this isn’t the traditional Speyside Islay that tastes of peat smoke, and instead is a lighter, more delicate, fruity whisky that is certainly reminiscent of the Galerounian Islay. Not earth-shattering, but pure malt whisky that does the job well. go easy on the water by all means, or you may drown it out.


Perfect islay blend, a very nice blend at heart.

Palate: Nose / Taste / overall:

A tasty foray into Islay malts. Perhaps a little more forward in the palate than some whisky barrels, and despite the Islay tag, a little difficult to identify. Very enjoyable, and a very mature dram, but for me, a little too different.

Black Grouse Scotch Review:

Nose: No Islay peat here, but there are images of those coppery-hued sandalwood, caramelized sweets and orangey-clove notes which are island-based. Rather like a cross between a Leamington stand-out, and a more delicate (and hence burnished and oily) Speyside whisky. There’s on the nose a sense of freshness, burning stickiness, like smouldering rubber, but with the smoking-roast quality of smoky peat.

Taste: Soft, sweet, with a little salty quality to the finish. This is the real character of this whisky; it is a novel blend. Delicate citrus notes and rough, oily elements hang on in the palate, adding balance and warming up the malt.

Finish: Warm, smooth, with probably a little more character than the previous character notes. I find there is a ginger note on the finish, which adds balance; with the background smokiness of Islay peat acting as a refreshing counterweight.

It’s a very tasty whisky, reassuringly well-rounded in strength and outline, and all the more enjoyable for its lack of intense personality and strong Islay character.

Black Grouse Scotch Review:


This is a medium-bodied blend, with a decent balance of malt and single malt character. The taste is a simple one, as far as malt whisky goes; a little in the way of smoke and silky, earthy oils, with a plain, lightly-sweet, underlying tannic background. The addition of the chocolate malt in the blend gives it a slightly spicy edge, but isn’t entirely overt; it’s quite in the background. A very complex and rounded whisky.

Finish: The finish is warming, oily and herbal. I get a sense of dry grass, somewhat tannic-spicy.

Pairing: The backbone of this whisky is the subtle sweetness and mellow, balanced character, but it is the underlying Islay smoked quality which I find makes it versatile. From a grilled-haddock-and-whiskey dinner, to a juicy steak, to a dry malt whisky with sweet sherry-like intentions. This is a good, medium-bodied whisky which should be enjoyed at a range of temperatures.


Nose: The peat is not in the forefront here, but the barley and dimensions of the delicate Islay smoke and brine are. Cocoa, smoky, with hints of orange sludge and brine. It’s beautifully integrated, but hard to pin down exactly. A very consistent blend, but one which is difficult to pin down.

Taste: Again, quite grainy. I find a slight fruity element, perhaps even a tangerine or lemon honey. The barley comes through, and follows with a honey, caramel sweetness with a saltiness – and I can almost taste the soapiness of the sea on the tongue, in the context of the balanced malts and the Islay basking in the sun. With a little water, you can envisage a certain ‘soapy’ quality, perhaps even in the way a salt-water sea smells; clean and refreshing but slightly thick with the minerals of the ocean floor.

Finish: The barley holds the flavour and the balance is lovely and creamy. It’s a simple, Mediterranean malt, but with a complex hint of summertime in there. This is a complex malt, but, despite the dark background, one which is very easy to drink.

Black Grouse Scotch Review:

It’s an experience right from the start. I don’t think I have ever had such a tasty, straight-forward, honest malt in this price range.

This proves to be a good malt whisky. A good, honest and simple malt. There is a great deal to be said for this blend as far as the quality of the whisky goes. It’s well-structured, and with a mouth-watering balance of malt and Islay core.

I almost enjoy and savour this blend, and there is something wonderful about overindulging in the beauty of the malt of this kind.


The Islay mystery is easier to fill in here on the nose than in the taste, but it is a taste one which still manages to be good, with a nice balance and sense of balance. I can see why this is a rising malt, and I think it’s a good malt for a growing appreciation of Islay malts. I’m yet to drink an Islay and then not like it, and this is just as Islay-like and a pleasure to drink as the other Islay blends I have tried, but yet is comfortably mature. This is a xperience, malt whisky as good as I have tasted.

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