Blend something famous with The Famous Grouse

The Famous Grouse introduced Brussels to the art (or science) of blending last week. Global Brand Ambassador Lucy Whitehall was ready to submerge a group of 8 food bloggers, including yours faithfully in the range of The Famous Grouse. Only then we were deemed ready for the real work: carefully blending a whisky from selected samples.

After a short chat with Bart from Nullam Microwaveum and Stefaan from Whisky with Friends and devouring a rather large plate of sandwiches part one of the evening could set off.

Lucy guided us through the four stages of appreciating a whisky: gazing, smelling, tasting and enjoying every sip of the whiskies. According to her there are a few tricks to deal with the alcohol rising from the glass. You can literally blow away the alcohol by holding the glass at 45° and blow softly. On top you can detect the lighter citrus and flower flavours. Heavy flavours like peat are detectable on the bottom.

Lucy Whitehall, Global Brand Ambassador at The Famous Grouse

For the finish she also had a few romantic and fun associations. A short finish to her is something like "Cheerio, goodbye!' and a medium finish corresponds to a "kiss on the cheek". What a long finish could be... I'll leave that to your imagination. 

A famous tasting

The Famous Grouse, 40% ABV

The Famous Grouse is the best sold blend in Scotland and number two in the U.K.. It is named after the willow grouse, Scotland's national bird.

Nose: The North British signature is definitely present. Grain biscuits with pieces of apple and a whiff of flowers.

Taste: Again grain biscuits. Rather creamy mouthfeel. Some spices and pepper drizzled with honey.

Finish: The honey sticks to the tongue but with a fair dose of pepper.

A whisky that pairs beautifully with cheese like Brie or Cheddar.  

Trivia: Before the final whisky gets bottled, the Master Blender and his team will have nosed it approximately 8.000 times. 

The Black Grouse, 40% ABV

The grouse is an endangered species. Edrington started a partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Bird. For every bottle of Black Grouse that gets sold, 50 pence is donated to a campaign to maintain the grouse population in Britain.

Nose: More robust. Smoky and sweet with oak influences.
Taste: Honey, caramel and spices coated with a layer of peat smoke.
Finish: A peppery aftertaste with vanilla, dark chocolate and some smoke.

The Black Grouse is an excellent match to dark chocolate (70% or more) or chocolate with chili. Salmon is another perfect match to this lightly smoky blend. 

The Naked Grouse, 40% ABV

The Naked Grouse is worlds apart from the standard expressions of the brand. This is a blended malt with a focus on Oloroso sherry maturation. The engraved bottle, wooden stopper and bird's foot at the bottom of the bottle only add up to its premium character.

Nose: Peaches with sugar syrup, apricots, cherries and raisins.
Taste: Typical British Christmas pudding with mixed dried fruits and raisins.
Finish: "A kiss on the cheek" with raisins and chocolate.

The rich sherry notes are well suited to be paired with a coulis of red fruit and chocolate mousse. 

While tasting the three drams, Lucy entertained us with stories on her work for The Famous Grouse Experience and let us smell the different species of barley - malted barley, peated barley and maize - and new make from every distillery Edrington owns. And my god, how delicious was that heavily peated new make... She also passed on 4 very different samples of 7yo Glenrothes whisky to show the difference between various casks. From a very pale refill bourbon to a delicious Oloroso sherry cask.

Blending something tasty & famous

The blending had to be done with 6 flavour profiles: Grain, Vanilla Creamy, Citrus Fruity, Medium Peat, Fragrant and Spicy. After some educated guessing we managed to identify the Fragrant as a Glenrothes Alba Reserve and Spicy as a Macallan Amber. And that Medium Peat could have its heimat in Orkney... But you did not get this information through me!

Composing a blend demands the right tools and a good dose of meticulousness 

Lucy gave us a few guidelines before we could really start blending. She advised us not to use more than 60ml. of grain whisky and, more importantly, to be very careful with the bottle of peated whisky. Unless you were aiming for a peat monster of course.

After a few small scale tests, I decided to go for a light and fruity blend.

My recipe

  • 50 ml. grain
  • 40 ml. fragrant
  • 30 ml. citrus fruity
  • 20 ml. vanilla cream
  • 10 ml. medium peat

The result was a clean and light dram packed with fruity and citrusy flavours, influenced by bourbon casks and a whiff of smoke. I took a 10cl sample home to nose it more thoroughly within a few weeks and set it side by side with the original Famous Grouse.

A Tasty Dram blend
meet my very own tasty blend...

A master blender in the making?

Did we become master blenders after one evening of blending? Of course not, we lack a few tons of experience and the trained nose of a real blender. But it was a fun evening to experiment with a few whiskies and ending up with something drinkable.

Thanks to the team from Oona and Lucy from The Famous Grouse for a superb evening.