Review: The Black Grouse Blended Scotch

Review: The Black Grouse Blended Scotch

A move is afoot, and if you’ve been reading the whiskey pages here at Drinkhacker over the last few months, you’ve probably got a whiff of it: Wood.

Wood is in in a major way. More wood. Stronger wood. Stranger wood. Every whiskeymaker from California to Kyoto seems to be experimenting with extra or unique wood aging techniques.

The Black Grouse is a woodier spin on The Famous Grouse — the best-selling blended Scotch in Scotland, by the by — though a bit of a lesser-known mainstay here in the States. The Famous Grouse has a nice pedigree as it is: It’s made primarily of Highland Park and Macallan whiskys. And with The Black Grouse, things take a deeper, darker turn.

It’s clear from simply looking through the bottle that this Grouse is, as the name implies, a darker spirit in color. And you’re just getting started. The nose indicates quite clearly that you’re getting into peat territory — none of the constituent whiskys in Famous Grouse are heavily peated, if they’re peated at all — its smokiness lingering in the nostrils as it plays on the tongue as well.

But Black Grouse offers more than just a simple smoke bomb. Once you push past the peat — moderate, in the end — it’s extremely sweet, sugary with a  finish that reminds one of the vanilla-laced kick of a moderately old Bourbon. There’s no escaping that smoke and woodiness in the end, but Black Grouse is really quite balanced in a way that so many ultra-peated single malts miss out on. I would still probably rather drink a nice Highland Park or Macallan on any given weeknight, but when something heartier and meatier — yet cheap — is called for, this will do the trick.

80 proof.

B+ / $26

The Black Grouse Blended Scotch




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. J. Lindsey on October 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I’m a big fan of Famous Grouse and have been dying to try this expression. I’ve never seen a bottle, though. Any idea of its availability in the States? If it’s starting to make its rounds we may see it in my neck of the woods eventually.

  2. Christopher Null on October 1, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Just making its way into the US… give it a month.

  3. cange on October 1, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Drinkhacker, please review the Famous Grouse. (You haven’t right?) I just tried a bottle and want to know you think. I learn from your reviews, not from the employees at the liquor store. Inevitably, they’ll say something like “This one’s good with Sprite.” I admit, I might be visiting this site more than I probably should. At 8:00 a.m., I should be checking out talkingpointsmemo, and not reading about alcohol. I don’t blame you. Maybe it’s genetic.

  4. Christopher Null on October 1, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    cange: No, you’re doing it right. You need this site BEFORE you read about politics. Will see what I can do about the standard Grouse review. Don’t have any on hand.

  5. cange on October 1, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you, drinkhacker! This is my one-stop shop…thing for alcohol reviews/info. on what’s new in the spirit world, so to speak. “You da’ man!” to quote Michelle Bachman from TPM. (Sorry.) You know, you should partner with a talkingpoints or Huffington or MSNBC even because I think that’s a money idea there! (I’m drunk now and would not remember to come back and sue you for running with the idea.)

  6. Simitt on October 10, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Available at Costco in Austin

  7. Gary on November 5, 2010 at 8:09 am

    I picked up a bottle at the Heathrow duty free shop on my way back from a trip to Europe in August. This is a nice scotch. I had a bit of it last night myself! I have to check my local shop to see if it is carried.. if not. I’ll certainly ask them to.

  8. Jim on November 10, 2012 at 4:57 am

    I found The Black Grouse at the Virginia ABC store yesterda when i intended to resupply Famous Grouse. They only had it in 1.75 L size and I bought a bottle and am glad I did. I’ve been a Famous Grouse drinker for at least twenty years and this expression is a great addition to the brand. The light smoke combined with a slight sweetness makes for a very enjoyable drink. I will continue to enjoy it.

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