Friday, October 16, 2009
If you take a look at most of the tasting notes I have posted in this blog, you will observe that I praise most of the different scotches. Reviewers of scotch, amateur (myself) and professional (ie. Jim Murray) tend to heap praise on every spirit evaluated. Trouble is, we may give the impression that it is all good. Not so! There are some dogs out there and the question for this post to consider is whether or not Grant's Family Reserve Scotch Whisky is one of them.
Whisky expert, Jim Murray, in his book, Classic Blended Scotch, described Grant's Family Reserve as "A stunner of a whisky, one of the most complex blends the industry will ever produce."
Ok, that is saying a lot. Too much in my opinion. It's one thing to like a blended scotch, but when you make statements like ". . . one of the most complex blends the industry will ever produce" you catch my attention. For me, Murray had thrown down the gauntlet and challenged me through his words. Me, being a big fan of blends, decided to try this blended scotch and see if it lived up to his high pitched praise. I had tried this blend in the past and did not like it one little bit, but in light of Murray's eloquent admiration of the highest order, which is trumpeted on William Grant's & Sons website (http://www.grantusa.com) I decided to second guess my earlier judgment and revisit this very popular brand (4th best selling blended scotch in the world).
Faint malty notes. Not picking up much else. Not overly inviting.
Water added to this blend seems to accentuate the malty notes.
You need to take a big slug of this to get any flavor. Don't be shy. This is not a 25 year old single malt that rewards the tiniest of sips with an explosion of splendid flavors. Not so here.
Once you take the medium to big sip, you will be greeted by light/thin flavors of cinnamon stick, cloves, and nutmeg enveloped in an unmistakably grainy, unadulterated alcohol bear hug.
Drank neat, there is no complexity of flavors. I am dumbfounded as to how Jim Murray can say ". . . one of the most complex blends the industry the industry will ever produce." There's truly nothing here.
I added a splash of water (ie. one teaspoon per shot) and was able to detect some creaminess in addition to the malty/cinnamon flavors present when drunk neat. The water lessened the grainy, alcohol soaked backbone of the flavor profile. Bottom line: Water improves this blend.
Almost non-existent. The finish is gone in a flash and while it lasts, it's mostly a grainy alcohol imbued couple of seconds.
Strangely, the addition of water adds some body to this scotch that translates into a finish with more depth and even a richness to the aforementioned flavors than when drunk neat.
Served neat, this blended scotch tastes cheap mainly due to the alcohol hanging in the background like a groupie at a rock concert. How Jim Murray can praise this blend at all is beyond my comprehension. This is not a stunner of a whisky. It has virtually no complexity of flavor.
Served with a splash of water, this blend improves. Alcohol is toned down, the grainy character is still there but more tolerable, and there is a creamy richness that emerges. Does the addition of water transform this blend into a "stunner?" I think not. It still tastes cheap, but simply more tolerable. Maybe on a very hot summer's day with ice, it would be pleasing or as a base ingredient in a mixed drink.
Whether consumed neat or with water, there is no peat flavors. The constitutent single malts used are Speyside classics: Balvenie and Glenfiddich. You can taste the Balvenie, unfortunately, not enough of it. There is a great deal of grain whisky in this blended scotch, and that is not a good thing.
My lasting impression from tasting this on several occasions is that it Grant's Family Reserve is cheap, bottom shelf, blended scotch, that is not worth the low price charged. For the same price, there are significantly better blends out there like: Black Bottle, White Horse, Teacher's Highland Cream, Johnnie Walker Red, and Cutty Sark.
So how come this blend is one of the top world leaders in sales? I think the combination of the low price, a weak flavor profile that lends itself easily to mixed drinks results in it being a staple of bars around the world.
Anyway, you deserve better! Avoid this.
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