The Naked Grouse is a new whisky that joins the ever expanding Grouse family. The Grouse brand is owned by the Edrington Group and the range are blended whiskies which include, amongst others, the popular Famous Grouse (the UK’s number one selling whisky), the Black Grouse (a smoky, peaty version) and the Snow Grouse (a mixer whisky designed to be chilled). This new Naked Grouse has been created as a premium blend and contains a particularly high proportion of single malt from two of Edrington’s most awarded distilleries - Highland Park and Macallan. These have been matured in most expensive sherry casks in the world, which are made from sun dried Spanish oak and have housed sweet sherry. In order to focus on the quality of the whisky in the bottle, the packaging has been deliberately pared back and is refreshingly minimal.
The Grouse brand was first created by a company called Matthew Gloag & Son. The company was set up in 1800 by Matthew Gloag in the town of Perth and was originally a wine merchant and importer. They supplied wine to Queen Victoria, as well as other wealthy clients. In 1860, Matthew's son William took over and started buying whiskies from various distilleries around Scotland and blending them, as was the trend at the time. The popularity of his blends grew and in 1896, his son (also called Matthew) launched The Grouse, which later became The Famous Grouse in 1905. The iconic grouse logo was a pencil drawing by Matthew's daughter and a version of this original drawing is still used on the label of the regular bottling today.
Our tasting notes
The colour is a deep amber and the nose is rich, sweet and rich, showing evidence of those expensive ex-sherry casks. There is a lovely initial mix of dark dried fruit (think of dates, prunes and raisins) and robust, malty cereal aromas (the cereal influence gains strength with further time in the glass). Underneath are aromas of toffee, dark chocolate, burnt cookies, some wood spice (imagine cedarwood and cinnamon) and a fleeting whiff of match stick sulphur (this is normally seen as a negative characteristic, but here the low level adds intrigue and depth). On the palate, this is rich and intense. It begins with a hit on tangy orange zest, before softening to become more syrupy in feel. There is an interesting combination of notes that give good balance - caramel, dried raisins and prunes, some green apple, robust cereals, cocoa, gentle wood spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), plus hints of menthol and distant peat smoke. The finish is on the short side and begins pleasantly with tangy orange and gentle spices working well together. It then becomes more difficult as the rich, sweet notes join in and clash with some drier, more tannic ones.
What's the verdict?
The Naked Grouse is an enjoyable and approachable whisky that should prove popular. It clearly has some good whiskies in the blend and should be tried, especially if you like your whiskies with a decent level of sherry cask influence. It combines lovely sweetness and richness with further subtle elements, which add depth and complexity. The only slight disappointment is the finish which is out of character with the rest of the experience, being seemingly less well balanced, too dry and challenging. However, don't let that put you off what is a pleasant, characterful and easy drinking dram. You will find a bottle in larger supermarkets and specialist liquor retailers for around the £27.50 price point.