Scotland is a nation known for its Scotch. Boasting over 120 distilleries, the country has been making this spirit for over two hundred years, and it’s actually the only country on earth that can actually make Scotch—hence the name.
Out of all the distilleries in Scotland, none is more prominent than The Famous Grouse. It is safe to say that this distillery is the country’s favorite.
The brand helped popularize Scotch as the premier drink of Scotland. Before the inception of The Famous Grouse, the country didn’t really have a drink to stand behind. Rum has always been fairly prevalent in the country, but not anything like Scotch came to be.
The Famous Grouse isn’t just a household name in Scotland, though. The distillery’s products have become iconic all over the world. Every single year, the brand produces 43 million bottles of its blended Scotch whiskey. It’s sold in over 90 global markets.
Over the last century, The Famous Grouse has grown into one of the world’s leading Scotch producers. Many have attempted to imitate their products with their own expressions of the drink but to no avail.
Why is this brand so popular? Read on with Saucey to learn about the history of The Famous Grouse.
It all started with a humble grocer
The origin story of this brand starts in the 1800s with a grocer named Matthew Joseph Gloag and the love of his life, Margaret Brown.
When Matthew was eighteen, he got a gig at the office of the Sheriff Clerk of Perthshire to manage their cellar. This cellar was used to stock and sell off liquor seized, impounded, confiscated, or expropriated. The inventory mainly consisted of whiskey, gin, and illegal hooch.
This job gave Matthew access to Scone Palace, a historic house located near the village of Scone and the city of Perth. This house was known for housing The Stone of Destiny, an ancient artifact made of red sandstone, used for centuries in the coronations of Scottish monarchs.
During this time, Matthew made many valuable connections that proved to be useful later on in his life. For years though, making Scotch wasn’t even on the minds of him and Margaret.
The birth of a brand
In 1817, Matthew and Margaret got married. The course of this couple’s life would drastically change only a few years later.
At this point, Margaret’s father, Joseph John Brown, was the owner of a grocery store in Perth City Towncentre at 22 Atholl Street. In 1824, he died, forcing Margaret to take over the store. Soon after, she renamed the brand Matthew Gloag & Sons.
At first, she was purely focused on maintaining the business her father left behind. In 1831, though, she decided to expand the brand. Margaret added a snuff line to the inventory, as well as a winery to the store.
For generations, the business was passed down to various family members. Along the way, the name was changed again to “The Grouse.” It was Matthew III that took the brand to the next level. In 1896, they released their first blended Scotch.
Matthew would often refer to this Scotch as “famous” and eventually decided to change the brand’s name to “The Famous Grouse.”
Refining the Famous Grouse recipe
The Famous Grouse is a brand known for being proudly Scottish. However, they are not bashful in admitting that they’ve borrowed from the age-old recipes of Kentucky whiskey. In fact, they age one of their Scotch varieties in American oak and bourbon casks.
Scotch typically comes in two styles: single-malt or blended. Blended Scotch is produced from barrel-aged malt whiskey and grain whiskey, while single-malt Scotch is produced from a single distillery.
The Famous Grouse is known for its blended Scotch. Blended Scotch is the most commonly seen type of Scotch on the market. It’s what you will likely see the most of on the shelves of your local liquor store.
Changes in the whiskey industry
The growth of The Famous Grouse was slowed down significantly by the drawback in the whiskey industry from 1896 to 1908. In this period, whiskey prices were crashing, and brands were being shut down left and right due to economic turmoil and societal changes.
Matthew wasn’t deterred, though. During this rough period, he continued stocking his shelves with alcohol. Surprisingly, he was actually able to increase his sales of imported wines, brandy, and champagne.
By 1909, the industry was back and bigger than ever. Matthew used this momentum to his advantage, putting out fancy advertisements, branding The Famous Grouse as a high-end store for alcohol. Their logo was a large, capital letter “G,” which quickly became a widely recognized symbol.
The impact of World War I
During these years, Matthew was also refining his Scotch recipe. After some trial and error, he built up the age of his Scotch to eight years.
The malts available to him included Aberfeldy, Glenrothes-Glenlivet, The Glenlivet, Glengoyne, Tamdhu-Glenlivet, Macallan-Glenlivet, and Talisker, and the North British Grain whiskey distillery. His access to distilleries would expand considerably within just the next decade.
By then, the Scotch industry was growing rapidly. Many whiskey brands were beginning to target the United States as a primary market, and Matthew was inclined to get in on the action.
However, the expansion of The Famous Grouse was halted due to World War I. During the war, most distilleries were idle. Exports to the United States were virtually nonexistent.
In response, Matthew decided to put aside his ambitions momentarily and prepare the brand for when the war was over. He began to build up an inventory of grain and malt whiskey, aging them in casks. He also worked to perfect his marketing strategy for The Famous Grouse.
As soon as the war ended, Matthew was there to fill the void in the market that had existed for years. Needless to say, he never looked back. The Famous Grouse exploded after the war, becoming one of the main faces of Scotch.
The Famous Grout’s flavor profile
Today, you can find a plethora of different whiskies from the Famous Grouse. Their bottles are produced in several different locations, including the Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, and Island regions of Scotland. At this time, all products from the brand are produced entirely in Scotland.
The taste and aroma of The Famous Grouse Scotch depend on the area it was made in, but some generalizations can be made about the Scotch as a whole.
For one, the brand’s Scotch is extremely smooth. Compared to most other products on the market, this one goes down absolutely effortlessly.
Their Scotch is also stunningly complex. The layer of flavors that are apparent in their products is just spectacular. With this Scotch, you’ll taste several different notes, including cinnamon, nutmeg, toffee, and lemon. The aged grain products from the brand are light and sweet. The malt products tend to be more robust.
In terms of finish, this Scotch is fairly long with a sweet malty aftertaste. In the background, you can notice subtle touches of fruit and baking spices.
Scotch Whiskeys to try
For those who have never sipped with this brand before, The Famous Grouse – Blended Scotch is a safe option to try. It is the standard Scotch from the brand, using the classic recipe that Matthew III crafted.
The aroma of this whiskey is marvelous; a well-balanced oak and sherry, with a dash of citrus. Despite its apparent Speyside fruitiness, the flavor of this Scotch is very mature. Its finish is clean and dry.
For those who enjoy a little more kick in their drink, you can’t go wrong with The Famous Grouse Black Scotch 750 – Blended Scotch. Compared to the regular blended Scotch from this brand, the Black Scotch 750 is much smokier and aromatic.
It is a mix of the original Famous Grouse with Islay malt whiskies. With this dark Scotch, you’ll taste strong, peated malts infused with bits of cocoa and spice. Its finish is long and pungent.
Once you take your first sip from a bottle of blended Scotch from The Famous Grouse, you’ll realize why this brand is so beloved. Once you sip with them, it’ll be hard to go back to other whiskies.
In terms of quality, few other brands can compete. For many Scotch lovers, especially those from the motherland of Scotland, The Famous Grouse is the only Scotch there is.
This brand has overcome several obstacles to reach the position they’re in today. It’s no surprise, out of all the other producers that have thrown their hat in the ring, that The Famous Grouse has risen to the top.
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