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Friday 31 January 2020



Leading Scotch Whisky specialist, Douglas Laing & Co, had announced a series of Old Particular Single Cask Limited Edition bottlings for 2019, inspired by the four Elements of Fire, Air, Earth and Water. This has now seen fruition.

The Old Particular Single Cask Collection features four Whiskies each paired with one of the Elements – they were to be available globally from specialist retailers worldwide.

The Old Particular Elements series consists of Craigellachie 12 (fire), a Cameronbridge 27 (air), a Caol Ila 8 (earth) and a Jura 12 (water).

The series took off in Feb 2019 with the “Fire” bottling which, very aptly, is paired with a mocha-spiced Craigellachie 12 YO bottled at 53.9% ABV from a well-fired and characterful Sherry butt. All the Old Particular Elements Single Casks are to be bottled at natural cask strength and offered without colouring or chill-filtration. Moreover, the packaging for these specialist bottlings depicts an intricate illustration of each of the four Elements.

The second release in the Old Particular Elements Collection from Douglas Laing was a single grain Scotch whisky produced at the Cameronbridge distillery, the Cameronbridge 27 YO 1991 bottled at 56.5% ABV and paired with “Air”.

The third release was a Caol Ila 8 YO bottled at 58.5% ABV representing the element “Earth”, bottled at natural cask strength without colouring or chill-filtration. This cask was distilled in June 2010 and bottled May 2019.

A 12 YO single malt whisky that is shortly to be released will mark the end of the four-part series: the Jura 12 Years Water Edition with a cask strength of 54.3% ABV. The Jura 12 Years Water Edition was finished in a Pedro Ximenez Sherry Butt, which rounded up the Jura whisky’s salty, maritime character with wintery spicy notes and toffee aromas.


Monday 20 January 2020



Each year 43 million bottles of The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky are enjoyed in no less than 94 global markets. But what is it that makes The Famous Grouse so popular? I'll try to analyse the setup and figure out the answer, for which purpose I'll need to start from the beginning.

In 1770, Joseph Gloag set up his business as Warehouse Goods Carrier, dealing with the import of paid-for goods like wine and other groceries from outside Scotland into Perth, the county town of Perthshire. His first child, Matthew, was born in 1797. In 1815, Matthew gained employment at the age of eighteen as assistant bottler (Butler) in Scone Palace -̶ a mile and a half away and famous for housing The Stone of Destiny-̶ the residence of the Earl of Mansfield. Such was his expertise that he was drafted into the residence of the Sheriff Clerk of Perthshire, James Murray Patton-the son of Lord Glenalmond, as a handyman and general factotum.

Apart from routine chores, he was made the manager of Patton’s personal cellar and the documented official manager of the Sheriff Clerk’s cellar that was used to stock and then sell off or auction seized, impounded, confiscated and expropriated liquor, mainly whisky, gin and illicit hooch. He wisely retained access to Scone Palace. Contacts made thereby were to prove very useful later in his fortunes.

While shuttling between the Sheriff’s office, residence and the odd 'dad's client', he met Margaret Brown, daughter of John Brown, a mason by trade, living in the first floor flat at 22 Athole (Atholl) Street, above a grocery run by one Peter McRorie since 1801 and serviced by 'dad' Gloag. She too was born in 1797. They wed in late November 1817. Matthew's brother, William Joseph Gloag, took up a job as an ironmonger.

Due to financial reverses, John Brown had to send Margaret as a ladies’ maid to one Lady Seton. They retained their postal address as 22 Athole Street. John Brown recovered his losses soon enough and bought off the grocery under their flat on McRorie’s demise. He was helped out by Margaret, who quickly learned the ropes. He died in 1824 and Margaret took over, assisted by her experienced husband in his spare time. He shrewdly ensured that all groceries in the homes he frequented were supplied by Margaret and took to informally calling himself a Grocer. She added a snuff line and, with her husband's backing and expertise, obtained a licence for adding a winery to her grocery in 1831. He had also risen in social standings with time, as Librarian in the Court, Keeper of the County Buildings, Captain in the Volunteer Constabulary and was well known, popular and a good businessman in every sense. They set up home upstairs.

         Progress: Under Matthew Gloag I 1835 22 Atholl Street----->     Matthew Gloag III 1899 20-24 Atholl Street

Matthew and Margaret had ten children, five boys and five girls between 1818-1839; Joseph, John (named after Margaret’s father), Ann, Margaret (named after her mother), another Matthew (named after his father), Janet, James, William (named after Matthew's brother), Lillian and Clementina. Their nephew, William's son, was named...Matthew! Matthew Gloag II. This Gloag would show little interest in the liquor business and remain on the fringe till his untimely death in 1858. In fact, he is usually totally overlooked and often, Matthew Gloag III, the grandson of Matthew the founder, is (wrongly) called "Matthew Gloag II." There is little mention of their fifth child either, the son named Matthew. That said, every generation since has had a Matthew Gloag associated with the brand in one capacity or another, with an indisposed Matthew Gloag VI (1947-) the latest.

Matthew Joseph Gloag
Matthew Gloag I
Matthew William Gloag
Matthew Gloag II
Matthew Robert Gloag
Matthew Gloag III
Matthew William Gloag
Matthew Gloag IV
Matthew Frederick Gloag      
Matthew Gloag V
Matthew Irving Gloag 
Matthew Gloag VI

Matthew, the founder, was an outgoing and likeable person and had become adept at the liquor business, creating a pocketbook full of contacts. He joined Margaret in 1835 after his stint of a mandatory 20 years in the Sheriff Clerk's office and changed the business name to Matthew Gloag & Co. His first contribution was the expansion of the licenced liquor portfolio in the business, mainly Blended Malt whisky, or perhaps its consolidation, using his contacts across the Highland distilleries of Scotland, gaining in reputation for quality provisions, liquor and professionalism topped off with affability.

Margaret died in 1840 of severe Asthma, a serious personal blow. Putting her demise behind him, Gloag accelerated his upward journey in life with the award of the much sought-after contract to supply provisions, wines and liquor to the local Earl at Scone Palace (where he had contacts from his earlier days) when the Earl hosted Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their first visit to Scotland. Business prospered after this path-breaking success of 1842.

The Forbes-Mackenzie Act on vatting of whiskies when in a bonded warehouse was passed in 1853. A larger variety of blended malts were now available to vendors to sell. His business card showed him as an importer of wines and spirits as well as an agent for Schweppes Soda and whisky in Bond. Evidently, the truly strong blended malts (64.5-65.3% ABV) were drunk with soda. Here, the address showed him on Athole Street. What an ath!

Matthew died on 21 July 1860, the year blending of malt with grain whiskies was permitted for distillers under the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gladstone's Spirits Act. Grocers were brought into the purview of this concession under an Extension to the French Treaty Act 1863. In these three years, many other grocers got into the business full-time—John Walker, George Ballantine, Peter Thomson of Beneagles, William Teacher and the Berry brothers are good examples. His son, William B Gloag (1832-96), took over. His grandson, also a Matthew, Matthew Gloag III (1850-1912) joined the business when he came of age. 

William addressed his wine department aggressively but was quite content growing the business at a steady pace as a vendor of quality whiskies of distillers like The Glenlivet and Talisker and other blenders. He did not exploit the 1860 opportunity presented by revenue authorities allowing the blending of any spirit including grain whisky with pot still distilled malt whisky, reduced import duties of French liquor into Great Britain and vice versa as permitted by the French Treaty Act of 1860, and the subsequent inclusion of grocers into the blending clan. He thus fell far behind his contemporaries, the Walkers, Andrew Usher, George Ballantine, William Teacher and the Chivas Family, among others. His neighbours, Dewar & Sons and Bell & Sons also thrived handsomely.

He did not exploit the next major opportunity either, the triple whammy that constituted the Great French Wine Blight (1863-mid 1890s, viz., Odium mildew, Phylloxera epidemic and Downy mildew in their vineyards) that almost laid waste their entire wine industry. The Scottish whisky industry, soon to be renamed the Scotch whisky industry gained massively at the expense of French wines, Cognac, Armagnac and Champagne. William was content with the ensuing increase in the volume of his vending business, whereas he could have blended his own whiskies for guaranteed export to France, which country thirstily absorbed all imports, with space for more.

Despite repeated requests by Mathew Jr, he refused to enter the home-blending business, even though his contemporaries were raking in money hand over fist. He did, however, take a major step into commercial business by investing company profits to become, with Matthew, one of the original shareholders of the North British distillery in Edinburgh in 1887. It was only after he died in 1896 that Mathew Gloag & Son, under Matthew Gloag III, entered the home- grown blending business with his first blended Scotch, the 5 YO Brig o’ Perth, with the North British distillery supplying the grain whisky. Even these blends were bottled at ~65% ABV, as an indignant Arthur Bell once told a London customer who found his bestselling brand too heavy!


    The Initial Progression:

         >>>>>   >>>>> 

He followed his first launch with a number of other whiskies in quick succession over three years, bracketed under Gloag's Perth Whiskies, including the 7 YO The Famous "Grouse" Blend at 40 shillings a dozen quart bottles (1.132L). His supposedly “premium” whisky, the Perth Royal was marketed in 1897-98 and was the most expensive brand on his card as shown below. This brand, targeted at the affluent through Golf and other Clubs, didn’t meet with as much public approval as expected and rarely, if ever, would it emerge from the shadow of The Famous Grouse. The brand would linger on to the late 1990s, with limited sales and confined mainly to Perth and Perthshire.

All this was happening just as the 12-year low following the Pattison crash set in. A shrewd operator, the undeterred Matthew shifted tack to the increasing number of aristocratic and mainly British well-to-do Red Grouse hunting parties and adopted the red grouse, Scotland's primary game bird, as his/its motif and that whisky, prominently labelled Gloag’s "Grouse" Brand Whisky, also launched in 1897 would soon become The Grouse. He kept the price high so that he could maximise income from the socialites who had to keep up with the affluent and upper-class gentry for appearance's sake, not that it hurt the well-heeled more than a mite. He also initiated the practice of offering discounts on volume sales in the Yuletide (5,10 or 20-gallon casks), a concept that would continue year after year, even till today.

Matthew’s daughter Phillippa painted the very first, and now famous, red grouse that is seen on their bottles, albeit in black and white lithographs till colour printing came into being. It has rather different hues in the new millennium. The success of The Grouse Brand whisky was now so great that its name eclipsed that of its owner, and Matthew proactively considered stepping aside, dropping his name, and focussing on his priorities.

Matthew soon realised that he was making good money from two of his many whiskies, Gloag’s Grouse Brand and the 7 YO The Famous Grouse Blend, both of which were bracketed under Gloag’s Perth Brands. His pet whisky, The Perth Royal was only breaking even. The stocks of unsold new make whisky was increasing in his cellar. He had learned from his illustrious 'contemporaries and neighbours' that the more a new make matured in the barrel, the better a whisky it became. His bottles would soon house older whiskies, with the Brig o'Perth moving towards six years, the Famous Grouse towards eight and the Perth Royal towards ten.

One live problem was that Groag’s Grouse Brand was a bestseller only in the hunting season, just four months in a year, though with reasonable concomitant spillover. The 12th of August every year, The Glorious Twelfth, marks the beginning of the four-month (121 day) grouse shooting season, ending on December 10. The French Wine Blight had ended and Champagne had become the preferred drink of Royalty. The Famous Grouse Brand sold less per month than Groag’s Grouse in season, but when compared across the full year, it outsold the Grouse in volume but not in value. His basic outgo per brand- even if it did not sell- remained the same, eating into his profit margins.   

In its first-ever appearance on the market ~1897, The label showed the name The Famous "Grouse" Blend. It was placed in the ‘PERTH WHISKY DE LUXE’ category and The Famous Grouse Brand. Its age, 7 Years, was not visible on the front face. It was priced above the 5 YO Brig o’ Perth but below the Grouse Brand that he was assiduously trying to sell to the game bird shooting brigade. He shrewdly played the market, placing appropriate ads where they would be most effective, even marketing his Grouse brand overseas as the choice of the British Aristocracy. But he never took his eye off The Famous Grouse Blend of his Perth Brands. On the stroke of midnight into The Glorious Twelfth 1905, he re-branded the Gloag’s Grouse as The Grouse, taking his name off the whisky. More importantly, as time would show, the seven-year-old Famous Grouse Brand became the 8 YO Famous Grouse Blend. They were re-registered accordingly. Even so, he kept reminding the public at large that they were both his brands. The ploy succeeded and he pushed his increasingly popular 8 YO Famous Grouse Blend into an unassailable lead in income accrued by 1910, never to look back. The Glorious Twelfth 1905 marks the official birth date of The Famous Grouse that we see on the shelves today.


The lull in the Whisky industry (1896-1908), caused by a combination of circumstances, had initiated a softening in whisky prices and triggered a cascade of closures, contractions, and output reductions. Gloag saw this tough period through, increasing his sales of imported wines, brandy and champagne. By 1909, the industry was back on track. He did not ignore The Famous Grouse, using periodic fanciful ads while redesigning the standard newspaper advertisement to place the game bird provocatively in a large capital ‘G’, keeping it ever in the public eye. Scotland’s prime game bird lived up to its hype. And he was able to build up the age of this whisky to an 8 YO. The malts available to him then (also currently available & renamed) were Aberfeldy, Glenrothes-Glenlivet, The Glenlivet, Glengoyne, Tamdhu-Glenlivet, Macallan-Glenlivet and Talisker, plus, of course, grain whisky from the North British Grain whisky distillery.

The Scotch whisky industry expanded rapidly thereafter, with the USA targeted as a large market for most brands, including the Famous Grouse, till the onset of WW I, (1914-1918) which saw continuously increasing limitations being imposed on the use of barley and other food grains and increased taxes in a haphazard manner by the Govt. Most distilleries were rendered idle, but the existing stock of grain and malt whisky, as well as blends, could mature for longer periods in their casks. Matthew built up vast reserves of his brand for marketing as soon as possible after WW I ceased, pushing The Famous Grouse beyond the Grouse. Now he could strongly parade his best-selling whisky the world over, retaining the Grouse for the game-shooting brigade.

The war created many obstacles. Access to pubs or “public houses” was restricted in an effort to curb public drunkenness, especially among workers critical to the production of munitions and other essential war materials. The absence of several million young men on the battlefield didn’t help whisky demand either. By 1924, 77 distillers had closed down. During this period the companies that would eventually go on to dominate the industry began to emerge. Fortunately, relief was just around the corner. It would come in the form of the American Volstead Act. Prohibition in the USA from 1920-33 was the best thing that could happen to the Scotch whisky industry and they were quick to capitalise on it.

He then joined the other vendors and blenders in exporting large volumes of the Famous Grouse to Canada, Mexico, Havana and the Caribbean Islands. Like the others, and the British Govt., he simply turned a blind eye to the fact that a fair share of the whisky exported from home was being smuggled into the USA.

The Grouse was still available in the late 1930s, as seen in an advertisement on the back page of The Tatler of 12th October 1938. WW II came and went, and the hardy Gloag family sailed through this maelstrom along with most of the Scotch Whisky industry. Expansion was to follow soon after the war was won and sales increased rapidly. The Scotch industry was making waves in Asia and Australasia. The Gloags stayed with their primary markets, the USA, Canada, the Caribbean and home sweet home. They were also able to access new malts from Blair Athol, Bon Accord, Pulteney, Ben Wyvis/Ferintosh, and Inchgower.


There was no room for the Grouse now and it was absorbed by his leading brand. Even so, the labels showed the word Grouse in a larger font than its suffix and prefix, viz., THE FAMOUS GROUSE BRAND WHISKY. By the 1960s, the business had grown to such an extent that exports to America alone had risen to 12 million proof gallons. By 1968 it had risen to 33m. The future was looking rosy for Matthew Gloag & Sons. 

By then, there were a plethora of brands vying with each other for market share, if not market dominance. Strangely, not too much diversification was yet visible. The number of expressions per company remained rather low. The Gloags had just six or seven brands, and all were successful bar one.

Tragedy struck in 1970. Matthew Frederick Gloag – Matthew Gloag III’s grandson (Matthew Gloag V), a major shareholder in the company – and his wife died within two days of each other. Matthew Irving Gloag (Matthew Gloag VI, 1947-present) ran into unforeseen financial distress facing exorbitant Estate Duties and was forced to sell the company to Highland Distillers (for £1.25m), although he remained as a Director to continue the family’s involvement.

The new ownership began the transformation of the Famous Grouse into a name associated with numerous expressions. They brought Highland Park on Orkney Island and Glenrothes distilleries with them and immediately started on a number of projects. Quite a few Blended Malts and a few Single Malts were initiated. In the three decades they ran The Famous Grouse, more than a score Blended Malts and half a dozen Single Malts were casked. Great emphasis was laid on ageing these expressions, from 12/15/21/25/37 and 40 years with age statements and a few without. They acquired the 75% available stake in Macallan distillery in 1996, 25% having been bought by Suntory, from the Kemp Trust. The number of Blended Scotch also increased, mainly in the 6-10 year bracket, but bottled with no age statement (NAS). What set them apart was their unique process of maturing every blend or brand for their final six months of casking in the now freely available reused Sherry casks ex-The Macallan, probably Spanish, and at 46% ABV before bottling at the regular ABV.

Aged Blended Malts: The 21/30/37/40-Year-Olds


In 1979, the company breached the one million cases sales mark. By 1980 The Famous Grouse became Scotland’s brand leader and still is, a remarkable four decades. A new record was set in 1989, with over two million cases shipped. Sales continued to rise, and during the 1990s, The Famous Grouse grew by a staggering 25% – twice the rate of the premium Scotch sector.

To date, The Famous Grouse has produced over 75 different whiskies, totalling in excess of 175 expressions, from 5 years old to 40. Only about 60 of these have age statements. The majority remain NAS expressions, which is normal for most standard blended whiskies. The brand also has sold a remarkably large number of blended malts, and a half-dozen odd single malts. Most of these have come after it was taken over by Highland Distillers which was then fully absorbed into the Edrington Group in November 1999.

12-Year-Old Vintage Malt Whiskies: When Under Highland Distillers, The Famous Grouse had planned the release of a series of five 12-year-old Vintage Blended Malt Whiskies starting 2000. After taking over, Edrington's Board allowed the releases to go through. The release kicked off on schedule in 2000, with a 1987 vintage bottled in that same year, followed by a 1989 vintage bottled in 2001, a 1990 vintage strictly for the US market bottled in 2002, a 1992 vintage bottled in 2003 and finally a 1992 vintage bottled in 2004. These Famous Grouse Vintage Malts contain single malts from 6 different distilleries, mainly Macallan and the Orkney Island-based Highland Park complemented by single malts from the Glenrothes, Tamdhu, Glengoyne and Bunnahabhain, aimed at travel retail in one-litre bottles, with a limited number of 700 ml bottles for the local market. All of them were bottled at 40% ABV, except for the American version at 43% ABV. Edrington dropped their malt range (12/15/18/21) from the market in 2007 in favour of their regular non-vintage expressions so these bottles have now become scarce.


Since Edrington’s takeover, the process of premiumisation became ongoing at The Famous Grouse. In 2006, the peated Black Grouse was released, essentially created for the Swedish market based on their taste preferences. Swedish analysts write that it is as aromatic as The Famous Grouse but a slightly smoky blend with considerably tougher character and spice and it carries clear traces of Islay whisky. This was followed two years later by Snow Grouse, a blended grain whisky, which carried the more appropriate snowy white 'Willow Ptarmigan'. By 2010, The Naked Grouse was introduced as a premium offering as a Blended Malt, exiting the Blended Scotch category once and for all, though the odd bottle does turn up at auctions/ eBay.

In January 2009 the distillery started working with some heavily peated malt. The specifications were for the barley to be peated to between 80 and 120ppm phenols, and the resulting spirit is called Ruaidh Maor (a hunting lodge at Loch Turret) to differentiate it from the regular Glenturret. In July 2015, while still retaining the traditional Famous Grouse bottling, the company rebranded The Black Grouse as The Famous Grouse Smoky Black, and introduced The Famous Grouse Mellow Gold to the brand’s core range, which, till then comprised The Famous Grouse, The Famous Grouse Smoky Black, The Famous Grouse Bourbon Cask, The Naked Grouse, The Famous Grouse Ruby Cask, The Famous Grouse Toasted Cask and The Famous Grouse – Personalised. The Naked Grouse was taken off the core range in mid-2017. The Famous Grouse Wine Cask, finished in carefully selected Spanish red wine casks, the fourth edition in its series of innovative blended whiskies inspired by different types of oak casks, was added in September 2019.

The Famous Grouse was repackaged on the brand’s 30th anniversary as Scotland’s Number One Whisky in 2010. The bottle had a more prominent image of the Grouse, painted by wildlife artist Rodger McPhail, on a larger label. The year 1800 was subtly embossed on the packaging to reinforce the notion of heritage and longevity. The bird was lifted above the name and all bottle tops were changed to red. A fresh look was adopted again in 2018, by which time numerous fresh expressions had hit the market. A black and gold colour palette reflected the colours of the bird. Key elements of the previous bottle's design remain, including the distinctive ‘eyebrow’ bottle and label shape and the longer closure but in new black, red and gold hues. The distinctive purple on both the carton and the standard bottle makes it stand out on shelves. More is expected later this year, on its 40th anniversary as Scotland’s Number One Whisky.

The Famous Grouse Theme: Transferring the brand’s long-established icon into contemporary surroundings has been at the heart of the strategy designed to boost Famous Grouse’s appeal to younger drinkers. As many as 40 TV commercials have been released to date, the last dozen or so produced by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. The animation techniques are the same as those developed for Jurassic Park. A blasé grouse is central to the theme, sauntering along with a cocked eye, or creating an arabesque. The background music is the multi-dimensional Plink Plonk theme, which had a curious birth. It began as a waltz of assorted whisky sounds. Clinking ice, cut glass, opening bottle tops, all were pressed into play. Even the sound of a muso rolling a smooth dram of the Famous Grouse around the soft palate. This hit the right note, allowing its composers the nonchalance to drop the waltz rhythm for the plinky marimba sound.

Canned Grouse: The Famous Grouse launched a premixed can in 2010, combining one measure of whisky with cola at a steep price of GBP 1.75 a can in supermarkets. The can has been brought out to stay contemporary in the fast-expanding premixed cans market, as well as opening up a new target audience to the brand.

Edrington Group gifted a 21ft statue of a red grouse to Perth in November 2010 as part of its support for Perth’s 800th Anniversary of Perth’s Royal Charter celebrations. The imposing statue, built by Ruaraig Maciver, can be found on the Broxden roundabout, a key gateway to Perth.

Over time, the mascot has evolved from a silhouetted gamecock to the unmistakable painted likeness of not just any grouse, but an adult male “Red Grouse” (Lagopus lagopus scotica) sporting his red eye-combs while standing tall and strutting about on guard in the bleak Scottish landscape. He’s even been christened: Gilbert.

Gilbert “the Red” enjoyed a good and long reign as the lone, undisputed claimant of The Famous Grouse title. No longer. Today, there isn’t just the one famous grouse, but a small covey of famous grouse. The two new birds that have joined Gilbert on the block are the snowy Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) on the Snow Grouse, a blended grain whisky specifically designed to be drunk cold, served straight from the freezer and the Blackcock (Tetrao tetrix) on The Famous Grouse Smoky Black.

The pace of premiumisation was stepped up in its unrelenting bid to give the brand a renewed thrust. There was an urgent necessity to do so, as brand sales were flattening, losing out to the onslaught of single malts. Edrington’s Financial Report 2019 states that sales of The Famous Grouse declined in 2018-19 by 8%, despite which setback its market share grew in core markets. The chart, reflecting sales in million 9l cases, extrapolated from,’s Scotch Whisky Brand Champions 2014/19 and does reflect public opinion. Its pole position in Scotland, however, remains unchallenged, while achieving its highest-ever market share in the UK. It is also the market leader in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Cyprus. Its progress outside the EU/Europe and the USA seems to lack the same intensity. The effect of Brexit remains to be seen.

% +/-
Johnnie Walker
Pernod Ricard
Wm Grant & Sons
Chivas Regal
Pernod Ricard
Wm Lawson’s
Famous Grouse
William Peel
Marie Brizard
Black & White

The growing popularity of single malts has led some distilleries to stop selling certain malt whiskies, reducing options for blenders. The classic example saw even Edrington struggling to get enough heavily peated malt of the right style to use in The Famous Grouse Smoky Black to complement the Ruaidh Maor, a solution first thought of in 2009 in order to ensure a consistent supply of heavily peated new make in an Islay style at Glenturret – two styles, same distillery. 

But the Glenturret distillery and its single malt brands were acquired by the Swiss Lalique Group and the Swiss/French wine producer and distributor Art & Terroir half and half on 01 Apr 2019. It previously was “The Home of The Famous Grouse”. Edrington will keep this well-known Blended Scotch Whisky and will give it a new home. The move comes two years after Edrington announced plans to switch its Perth-based management office to a new consolidated headquarters building in Glasgow. The sale severs Edrington’s last physical tie to the region, although the company may well continue to be a customer of Glenturret in future as the malt is a key constituent of The Famous Grouse blend.

The other Blended Scotch brands from the Famous Grouse portfolio are the Black Grouse Alpha heavily peated and the 12-year-old. The Alpha edition glided into travel retail in 2013 and then the main market as the Smoky Black gradually fades away. Neatly designed, the noble black grouse, otherwise known as a blackcock, Tetrao tetrix retains its haughty look of disdain, with a feather added to its neck. The initial years had the sleek black bottle clad in a crocheted overlay, with the feather sticking out cheekily.


The Video game Unravel Two: The Famous Grouse - PART 8, developed by the Swedish company Coldwood Interactive in 1916 and published by Electronic Arts, an American company, helped in promoting the brand in Europe, according to Master Taster Horst Luening at and at in his review of both the standard edition and the Black Grouse Alpha Edition. Related links to YouTube are placed below the video.

The Black Grouse Alpha Edition bottle has a red cork like the eye-comb on the grouse and celebrates the annual lek, where hordes of male blackcocks strut about in full splendour trying to outdo each other and win over the watching and waiting female. The Alpha uses mainly Glenturret and Tamdhu single malts, with only traces of Highland Park and The Macallan. The expensive Alpha has a cork whereas the others use screwtops. Its ppm level is assessed as between 7-9.


SINGLE MALTS: The company released, among its half dozen odd single malt expressions, limited edition Single Malts of 1986 and 1988 vintage, bottled in 2014, generating a minor controversy. The vintage showed that the single malts were laid under the aegis of Highland Distillers, but the bottling was during the current Edrington era. The labels mentioned that this was a Glenturret single malt, which distillery was never under Highland Distillers.

The Famous Grouse 1988 was a 25 YO Single Malt bottled specifically for Taiwan. One cask was available for bottling, providing 312 700ml bottles. These were shipped at an ABV of 49.0%, labelled The Famous Grouse - Glenturret Single Cask Limited Edition 1988. Since these bottles never appeared in Europe, any controversy surrounding it abated naturaliter.

The 1986 vintage bottling controversy did build up and was quicky quashed by Edrington using legal means. The Famous Grouse 1986 was released as a 28 YO Single Malt specially bottled for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. The keen-eyed discerned that this whisky was actually 27 yr and 11 months old - not 28 years old. The whisky was subsequently withdrawn, but not before approximately 100 bottles had been sold. The label was reprinted, with the new version giving the distillation date and bottling date, rather than years. The label still denotes it is a single malt from Glenturret, bottled under the Famous Grouse brand.

The Naked Grouse, which is essentially a Blended Malt whisky that harks back to au naturelle, also had a difficult-to-find Blended Scotch version till 2015.


Visitors’ Centre: Remy Cointreau bought the Glenturret distillery from James Farley in 1981 and built a Visitors’ Centre. Highland Distillers acquired the distillery in 1990, which went to Edrington in 1999-2000. The centre was rebuilt for £2.2m in 2002 as The Famous Grouse Experience, the home of the Gloag heritage. But the Glenturret distillery and its single malt brands were acquired by Swiss wine producer and distributor Art & Terroir and the Lalique Group in Dec 2018, with a complete handover in a 100-odd days period ending 01 April 2019. Silvio Denz and Hansjörg Wyss will each own a 50% stake and have plans for their own Visitors' Centre. The previous “Home of The Famous Grouse” was closed and Edrington stated that they would retain this well-known Blended Scotch Whisky and give it a new home.

Financial Year 2019: As figures trickle in, sales are showing an uptick of around 09% in value, buoyed mainly by a shining Macallan. Overall expenses have also increased and the prognosis is a low profit of about 01-1.5%. Apparently, The Famous Grouse is lagging a bit. This has forced Edrington, given its commitment to certain social causes and steep expenses in setting up the new Macallan distillery and visitor centre, to sell off a 10% share to Japan’s Suntory, which is already a shareholder in The Macallan and distributes several brands from the Edrington portfolio in markets including Japan, Germany, Canada and South Africa, and through joint ventures in the UK, Spain and Russia. Moreover, Edrington plans to shut down operations in South Korea by the end of March this year.

The Famous Grouse was awarded a Royal Warrant by Queen Elizabeth II in 1984.

Famous for a Reason: The Story of the Famous Grouse by Charles Maclean, 2015.
The Famous Grouse: A Whisky Companion: Heritage, History, Recipes & Drinks by Ian Buxton, 2012.; Whiskypedia Scotch Whisky
Edrington Annual Reports 2015-19