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.