Friday, March 7, 2014

Teacher's Highland Cream & The Black Grouse - Where Did Our Love Go?

What follows is an email I received from a reader in January of this year:

Dear Jason


I have just read your review of Teachers Whisky circa August 17, 2009.  I have been drinking it as my in house blend for 30 years.  I have always been ridiculed by my Grouse loving friends.  However I have been steadfast until about 18 months ago.  Teacher's has become groused, it is now much sweeter and has lost a lot of its signature flavours.

I have tried over 2 dozen differenet bottles from different sources and I now feel the time has come to part.

I would value your opinion on this 'new' blend to see how it has changed from your comprehensive review of old.

With best wishes

John


. . .

When I first read John's email, I had a good laugh with his use of the term "Grouse."  Teacher's has become groused, meaning of course, it has become Dinah Shore sweet, grainy, easy drinking to the point that it blurs the line between blended Scotch and cream soda.  Ah, Famous Grouse, the go-to drink of the Iron Lady.  Mind you, she was not a politician with soft, sweet and easily swallowed public policies akin to her drink of choice.

While John did amuse me, I was also tempted to be dismissive, thinking this guy doesn't know what he is talking about.  However, he did say he had been drinking Teacher's for 30 years.  Anybody who drinks the same Scotch whisky for that long is going to be intimately acquainted with its flavor profile.  Moreover, anybody who has been a loyal fan of Teacher's is someone I think has good taste.  Such a man, regardless of his faults, has got my grudging respect.  So, John's email was disconcerting, to say the least.

Like most unpleasant things in my life, I tend to ignore them, and John's email was no exception.  But, months passed, and there was this nagging suspicion that he, a 30 year student of Teacher's, might be on to something.  And then one day, I, ever the remedial primary grade student, realized his email had become the sound of a teacher's nails on the chalkboard.  No more staring blankly out the window in anticipation of recess for me.  There was a commotion at the front of the blended Scotch classroom that beckoned me.

I had drank Teacher's for years and also knew that blend's lexicon of flavors.  Damn!  The guy was messing with my beliefs, my solar system of immutable values, namely that Teacher's was one of the best, if not the best of the economy blended Scotch whiskies on the market, bar none.  I wrestled with his thesis, and of course there was only one solution:  Homework!  So, I picked up a bottle and started to study this blend anew.

Teacher's Highland Cream

Color
Light copper.  I mention the color because it is noticeably lighter than it used to be.

Nose (undiluted)
A gentle breeze of salt laden sea air, sweet peat, and black licorice/pickled beets.

Palate (undiluted)
Thin, light, sweet sherry that quickly turns grainy.  The sherry notes are intertwined with malt and echoes of the tangy licorice and bacon, but they are only echoes.  There is some peat and maybe iodine, but it is all very fleeting.

Finish (undiluted)
Ashy like a Matinee cigarette, and then it turns unmistakably bitter, glycerin-like, accompanied by the very slight heat of alcohol.

General Impressions
Many years ago, when I was a Scotch first grader, I encountered Teacher's Highland Cream, and didn't know what to make of it.  It somehow smelled of diesel oil, tarred ship ropes, dulse, big smoke and something industrial that repelled me, but at the same time drew me in to its embrace.  Was it heavy machinery or a very in your face, unadulterated Maritime style?  I was unsure.

On the palate, Teacher's was uncompromisingly difficult at first to wholeheartedly like.  On the one hand, there was a great peat, bacon, malt backbone with iodine, that came up against sherry and sulphur.  But, on the other, those flavors were resting on the shoulders of diesel fuel, asphalt, ash, and eye-watering wood smoke that initially put me off.  However, over time, I grew to love the diesel aspect of this blend.  Even on the nose, a whiff would set me back thinking this is a tough old drink, am I up to the task?

Teacher's was old school.  You either liked it or you didn't.  There was no room in its syllabus for ambivalence.  At one time, Scotch whisky did not appeal to everyone's tastes, and made no apologies.  You had to, in a sense, learn to like it, but the more you studied, the greater the wisdom and eventual delight, and before you knew it, you loved that tough old blend, kinda like studying a Shakespearean play.  Romeo and Juliet wasn't all bad.  There was that fascinating rascal: Mercutio!

Where Did Our Love Go?



Having studied the bottle of Teacher's in front of me, I needed to borrow the title of a classic Supremes R&B song, in order to pose a troubling question: Where Did Our Love Go?

John is correct.  Something has changed.  Teacher's is now sweeter, thinner and grainier.  It is noticeably less sherried and lacks the bold and gritty dulse, Maritime tar and smoky diesel aspects that made it a challenge and immensely satisfying.  What happened?

Here is my theory.

For the longest time, Teacher's was a blend that was made up of many grain whiskies and a couple of malts.  The two key single malts that delivered a lot of the signature flavors were: Ardmore and GlenDronach.

Ardmore was established by Teacher's in 1899, in order to ensure a guaranteed supply of a peated single malt that delivered Teacher's peated and maritime character.  But, as some of you know, the peated quality of this blend is only half the story.  There is a sherried flavor dimension and that was contributed to, at least since 1960 by GlenDronach.  In 1957, the owners of Teacher's acquired the GlenDronach distillery to ensure a steady supply of a sherried single malt that would be blended into the end product: Teacher's Highland Cream.

In 1996, GlenDronach was mothballed, and sold in 2001 to the Benriach Distillery Company.  But, the owners of Teacher's still bought their share of GlenDronach from Benriach, well up until a couple of years ago.  And, now for my theory.

Beam Global bought Teacher's. Something changed after that.   The relationship and association with GlenDronach came to an end.  The distillery eventually removed a giant mirror image of Teacher's Highland Cream in the distillery public area.  Maybe Beam Global thought they could substitute GlenDronach with a sherried malt from their existing portfolio of malts.  Or, maybe they thought they could source cheaper sherried malt from another distillery.  Who knows?  But, what I do know is that if you visit the Teacher's website, GlenDronach is no longer referenced as a key malt in the blend, and I would therefore attribute that absence of such an important footnote as a clue as to why Teacher's more recently tastes quite different.

Another possible reason for the toning down of the maritime/industrial flavors may be a concerted effort to court the mainstream palate.  In general, blended Scotch whisky drinkers like sweet, smooth, inoffensive whiskies, and the reformulated Teacher's is a big step in that direction.

News flash!  Suntory Holdings to acquire Beam Global in $16 billion transaction.  As the ownership of the Teacher's brand continues to change, the link and recognition of the importance of GlenDronach to the flavor profile of Teacher's will become a more distant memory.  Changes in ownership may also result in an inclination by the new owner to try to use malts within their existing portfolio of brands, as it is cheaper than buying outside the company.  Call it synergy or whatever, but the end result is a change in the taste.  The corporate merger reinforces my opinion that blended Scotch whisky, especially a market leader like Teacher's is enormously big business.  Accordingly, the desire to appeal to as broad a market as possible is a corporate aim that may be at play here.

So, John is on to something.  I tip my hat to you sir!  Teacher's has indeed changed.

The Black Grouse
Now, you probably have been wondering throughout the above discussion of Teacher's why a bottle of Black Grouse has appeared at its side?  Black Grouse and Teacher's share something in common that is germane to this discussion.

The commonality goes beyond both being blended Scotch whiskies.  That observation is even too trite for me to make.  What they share is a significant change in flavor profile in the recent past.  While Teacher's has become lighter, thinner, and less smoked,  so too has The Black Grouse  downed a couple of Dexatrim to shake its hefty phenolic girth.  Black Grouse was once a total smoke and peat bomb, that was about as balanced as Rodney Dangerfield in snow boots.  It is now a sherried blend with a dash of peat and smoke.  Or in other words, the standard bottling seasoned with a little smoke, peat and bonfire.  What happened to The Black Grouse?

This time I do not have a theory that involves a corporate merger and the decision to source a malt elsewhere.  The Black Grouse was launched in 2007 and I got a bottle at that time.  I recall it clearly as a very intense homage to Islay.  Very peated, smoked and likely a young Ardbeg or Laphroaig was making up the core malt that was complimented by sweet grain whiskies.  My point is that this was an Islay influenced blend.  No doubt.  It gave the likes of Black Bottle and White Horse a serious run for their money.

What happened?

Here is my guess:  Maybe The Black Grouse was not flying off of shelves due to the Islay emphasis, so the Edrington people decided that sales could be strengthened by becoming sherried and accented with a little peat and smoke.  I think they were correct in that estimation (in terms of figuring out what people want).  The average person who explores blended Scotch whiskies is going to latch on to anything that is sweet, maybe consisting of red fruits with a wee little smoke and peat.  The average person buying in the blended whisky category probably will be repelled by an overly peated whisky harkening Islay.  So, a decision was made to change the blend from the bonfire it once was to essentially a sherried blend with a few glowing embers tossed in.

Another guess for the flavor change is that the core Islay single malt (possibly a young Ardbeg or Laphroaig) that was an integral part of the Black Grouse is no longer available at the price point it once was.  So, the owners of Black Grouse looked to source another Islay, and maybe too expensive to be feasible for the Grouse.  Islay whiskies are very popular for blending and in the single malt format as of late.

My great love for Teacher's is gone, but how about my affair of the heart with the Black Grouse?

Nose (undiluted)
Roses, plums, wet wood, malt notes.

Palate (undiluted)
The unmistakable taste of the standard bottling of Famous Grouse is present, but it has been accented with peat and smoke.  The sherry notes are nice, bringing to mind red licorice, strawberries and raspberries.  Black plums and malt notes appear mid to late palate.

Finish (undiluted)
Slightly drying, velvety red fruits, orange chocolate with some more smoke.

General Impressions
Black Grouse was originally launched in 2007 in the Scandinavian market, a market segment with an affinity for smoked and peated whiskies.  At that time, I tried a bottle (got it via duty free retail) and as I said above, it was a tad bit unbalanced.  A bonfire in a glass.  I did not detect much, if any, sherry or red fruit notes.  I was not a huge fan of it.

Fast forward to the present and I think The Black Grouse has changed for the better.  The plum, currants and strawberries give a fruity compliment and much needed balance to the Islay influence.  I and my whisky club really liked it for what it is: a reasonably priced blended Scotch that delivers sherry, red fruit flavors intertwined with a little embrace from Islay.  It works.  No great complexity but that is ok.  I wasn't expecting any.

So, with respect to The Black Grouse, my heart is growing fonder, and with regard to Teacher's, I'd tell the corporate owners they need to heed another Supremes tune:



Cheers!


Jason Debly

P.S. This new flavor style of Teacher's is not horrible.  It's ok and still represents fair value for the price, but no longer is it the beguiling blend.  While I grew up on a tougher taste, I can well imagine that Scotch newbies will enjoy this new style.  It delivers what they want: smoothness, sweetness, and while there is some graininess and a slightly bitter finish, Scotch newbies probably will not mind it.  It is guys like me who can recall the old flavors who are put out by what it has become.

58 comments:

  1. Uh oh. I have been searching (but not far afield) for Teacher's at my local liquor retailers here in Ohio with no success. One of these, Mr. Patel tells me he has had it on order for over a year and the State distribution bureaucrats (ALA JobsOhio) have prevented him from securing it. Now I could drive down to Kentucky and maybe find it, but give your review, the mood has passed. Mr. Patel has plenty of BlackGrouse so I will give that a shot (or two). Thanks for your update. (It is exciting to be the first to comment!).

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    1. Yeah, The Black Grouse is the better of the two. Sad to say, but Teacher's today is not what it was a couple of years ago. I have to get out of the habit of claiming it is among the best economy blends.

      Teacher's is now a decent blend, but no sparking diamond in the rough. That is now reserved for White Horse and Black Bottle.

      Thanks for commenting!

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    2. Jason, new Black Bottle (starting from 2013) has lost its Islay flavor and character. Now it is more like just another Speyside blend: significant vanilla, fruits, hints of smoke, chocolate and wood. It has moved away from its previous Islay peatiness, smoke with sea notes…

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    3. Neri, I had heard conflicting reports about Black Bottle. I had read that they did change the flavor profile, and then they decided to change it back. But, I guess you are right as you have tasted the more recent release.

      Black Bottle has now become "groused" too. Let's hope White Horse does not meet the same fate.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  2. Loved the review, Jason. One of your most informative and analytical I can remember (and your reviews are usually both).

    I have only been drinking Teacher's for about a year. But I have noticed that it's a bit sweeter and less interesting over that time. Perhaps my first bottle or two was from before the change. In any event, I may be switching my go-to house blend from Teacher's to Islay Mist (with a tiny splash of Laphroaig 10, like you suggested, if I have some around).

    I have not tried Black Grouse, but I'll pick up a bottle sometime. Like most people, I'm always on the lookout for a new cheap-but-interesting blend.

    - Josh

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    1. Josh, if you like Islay Mist and live in the US, seek out White Horse and/or Black Bottle. These two have a lot in common with Islay Mist.

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    2. So what would you recommend as an alternate to Islay Mist for a fellow Canadian? My father, brother-in-law and I were planning our summer by stocking the cottage with an array of scotches by getting one single malt (Lagavulin 16) and a few cheaper blends like Islay Mist. But our other 2 were going to be Teacher's and Black Grouse!

      After reading this we may need other options, are Black Bottle or White Horse available in Canada?

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    3. Dave, neither Black Bottle nor White Horse are available in Canada. In Canada, there is not a lot of affordable blends with a heavy Islay influence.

      Cutty Sark Storm was launched this year. It is Cutty Sark with more smoke and peat, and retails for about $29. It's ok and will do in a pinch.

      Would you consider some no age statement Islay single malts:

      Smokehead? It retails for about $50 in Canada, but damn it is good. Here is my review of it:

      http://jason-scotchreviews.blogspot.ca/2012/11/review-smokehead-islay-single-malt.html

      Isle of Jura?

      http://jason-scotchreviews.blogspot.ca/2011/11/review-isle-of-jura-superstition.html

      But if those are too pricey, there is always Te Bheag which is, to my mind a nice replacement for Teacher's:

      http://jason-scotchreviews.blogspot.ca/2011/05/review-te-bheag-connoisseurs-blend.html

      Hope this helps!

      Delete
  3. Like always interesting article.
    I completely agree with John.
    I follow Your blog and went over Teacher's and Black Bottle about 3 years ago. Considering price they were top notch. I drunk them pretty often, but when I bought them last time(about 4 months ago) they did not taste like always. There was very little smoke and peat and they quickly disappeared . I thought theft my taste change. Well I bought White Horse and it was the same like before.
    Now I have another proof, that these whisky were changed.
    About Your theory, that taste was changed to accommodate more customers...
    One one hand maybe they get some people but on another hand they will loose long therm customers like John and me and many others.
    In my opinion answer is much simpler.
    They change blends because it is now cheaper and they think their customers are idiots anyway who mix these whiskey with ice and coke and do not recognize any change.
    Sad, really sad.
    No more TC and BB. My favorite whisky blend is anything I can afford from Compass Box.
    Greetings form Marek
    Keep it up

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    1. Hello Wojtek!

      I am really disappointed to read from you and others that Black Bottle has changed. It was such a great blend and bargain. It always was a little "too good to be true" sort of a blend.

      I think the high cost and increasingly difficulty in sourcing Islay malts for the purposes of blending is causing these owners of Black Bottle and Teacher's to resort to using less costly and less scarce malt whiskies outside of Islay. The proportion of Islay whiskies in these blends has fallen and I think you are right by making the point that many consumers add soda and ice to their economy blends, and so they are less likely to notice much change in flavor.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  4. Jason, I'm off cheap blends myself anymore but out of curiosity I forced myself to try the current Teachers HC at the pub over the weekend, after seeing your article. It seemed to be essentially what it has always been for me: decent value for service on the rocks and in cocktails but not enough on its own to make me want it straight up. As such, it represents very decent value for cocktail service and big parties, being priced right where Cutty Sark and White Horse and J&B are around here (~ $20 per, US, discounted). Try A.D. Rattray's Bank Note 5y, a smooth blend you may like a click better if you're still hunting for a replacement cheapie sipper. Cheers. JK

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    1. Thanks, JK, for the tip re: Bank Note 5yr. My local shop (in DC) carries it for around the same price as Teacher's (and much cheaper than Black Bottle). So I'm going to pick up a bottle and give it a try.

      Jason, do you have any experience with Bank Note?

      - Josh

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    2. I have never heard of Bank Note. So, can't help you there.

      It seems that the great blends at good prices are disappearing from the market place. If Bank Note is any good, do let I and the readers know.

      Thanks!

      Delete
    3. Jason,

      A quick update. I bought a bottle of Bank Note a couple weeks ago, and I've tasted it several times since. I think it's a very solid blend for the money. I get oily orange on the nose and palate, which I enjoy a lot (it's one of my favorite flavor elements of Clynelish and Oban). I've read some reviews that say it's better than Johnnie Walker Black. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it's certainly in the same ballpark -- and at around half the price here in DC (for a 1.75). Put simply, it tastes well-made and more expensive than it is. It's already become my new non-peated house blend. You should give it a try if you ever come across a bottle.

      - Josh

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    4. Josh, I guarantee you that if I can locate a bottle of Bank Note, I am gonna buy it. I love the name. Reminds me of Passport Scotch and others that hit their peak in terms of sales in the seventies.

      Delete
  5. Beam only owned one other single malt distillery other than Ardmore: Laphroaig. Not a while lot of room if they wanted non-peaty malt to synergise with.

    Suntory owns Morison Bowmore, which means Teachers will potentially have access to Bowmore, Auchentoshan, and Glen Garioch. Fingers crossed they use their portfolio to make Teachers a bit more distinctive.

    I mean, everyone else makes non-distinctive blends. Seems like there's a market out there for being the more challenging oddball.

    Or maybe not. Recent trends have shown people upgrading their drinks more than upgrading their TVs and electronics lately, so perhaps folks who wanted a bit more challenging of a blend decided to just by single malt instead.

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    1. Suntory needs to add a good sherried malt to the Teacher's blend too. With the apparent disappearance of GlenDronach, I am hoping they will reach into their existing portfolio of a sherried malts and use one like Macallan (although it is in such high demand, it is doubtful that will happen).

      Nice to hear from you!

      Delete
  6. Hey Jason,

    It's been a while since I've had Teacher's last. I was born in the late 1980's, so I was too young to know the whisky 'dark ages' I hear about- but it seems as though we are returning to them!
    -Yochanan

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    1. The Teacher's of today is not the same Teacher's of 5 or 6 yrs ago. It is now thinner, grainier and much less exception. Nevertheless, it is still a decent and at times pleasant entry level blend that I would opt for over a lot of its peers.

      Hope all is well with you!

      Delete
  7. Jason, I am one of those scotch noobs you mentioned. in fact, Teacher's was the first bottle i bought (on your recommendation) some six months ago. I really enjoyed it. My condolences on your lost love, but that is the price of a refined palate, i suppose.

    Since the Teachers, I have tried Dewar's White Label, Johnnie Walker Black, and Black Bottle. The Dewar's didn't do much for me but it made a fine Manhattan. The JWB is solid, nothing wrong with it at all. The Black Bottle (also from you, thanks) really knocks my socks off. At 2/3 the cost of JWB it is just as pleasing to me and a bit more interesting.

    Keep dong what you are doing, Jason. you are a real resource.

    David

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    1. David, thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Delete
  8. Interested to see you do a review of Grand Old Parr 12 year old. It's a great blend and only about $26 US. To me it seems like somewhere between JW-Black and Glenfiddich 12 (Mostly Speyside, but a little bit of everything). I really liked it.

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  9. I am always interested in value plays in the blended segment, and so will try to locate a bottle.

    I recently picked up a bottle of "bonded" Old-Grandad 100 proof for $14.95 in NH and it has a plastic cap, but surprisingly good taste. Will be the subject of my next review.

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  10. Hope you aren't getting tired of things,with the old stalwarts dropping the standard!

    New style Old Grandad in TWE...down to 40%. Damn. Will have to winkle a bottle of something decently American for the 21st. Eagle Rare perhaps? The dependable Knob Creek? Or perhaps Four Roses Single Barrel?

    Having just reviewed the Glenrothes, where on earth does one go for some excitement on Speyside? Need something to finish off the series.

    Thanks,
    Plundergraduate

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  11. In addition to the standard bottling, Old Grandad do a Bonded 100 proof version that is pretty great. Will be reviewing next.

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  12. Jason: I enjoy your reviews . I was drinking White Horse as my low cost blended, but the last 1.75 I got was not the same as I used to drink. Laugavulin is no longer listed on the label and the peat taste has disappeared. I can smell peat in the empty glass but that is all. The bottle was purchased in MA on Jan 2014. I also drink Old Grandad 100 from NH Liquor store but this months list says they are not going to stock it after it is all sold. Sorry days for whisky lovers. Tom in MA

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  13. Wonder anyone trtied vatting GlenDronach with Peat Monster? I did not find Glaser's blends the most interesting formular besides the outstading quality. And the guy actually worked for blending companies.

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    1. Making one's own vattings is very intriguing. It is an area that I have not done much experimenting. Intuitively, GlenDronach and Peat Monster would probably work. Maybe you or a reader will do so and report back their impressions.

      Delete
  14. When do you think the transition in Teacher's took place? I have a 1.75 ltr bottle with a date stamp of April 2011 and it still seems as smoky and peaty as I remember, though I haven't been drinking it nearly as often as I used to.

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    1. 2009 or 2010 I think. However, your bottle may contain the old blend recipe as supply contracts with GlenDronach may have not expired at the time of the sale.

      Delete
    2. I only noticed the change here in NYC over the past few months. Been drinking Teachers for years and always thought the taste + price to be almost too good to be true. But recently I bought two 1.75 liter bottles from two different locations, and both were thin on flavor, high on alcohol "burn" and just very disappointing. I'm glad I found this article, I thought my taste buds had changed! So sad "the bottom line" is all that matters these days...

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    3. I think if companies that own blends continue to tinker with their products to save money at the expense of flavor, in the long run, they will degrade their brands and consumers will notice and sales will drop. When sales drop enough, the same companies will improve the quality again.

      You wouldn't believe the countless private emails from readers I have received concerning the changes to Teacher's.

      Delete
  15. Why is 43% alcohol content important to me in the scotch I drink? Eg. Banknote, Teachers.

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    Replies
    1. Probably because it contributes to more flavor impact. The level of ABV depends on the market. Some blenders think certain markets prefer 40% while others value 43%.

      Delete
  16. Interesting review! I first tried Teacher's in 2001 and fell in love with it. I drank it fairly consistently for several years. I tried it recently after a 2+ year hiatus and my thought was... awesome! If anything, the blend seemed rather beefed up to me.

    I really don't perceive it as grainier, less substantial, or anything like that. You may well be right there is less sherry on it because the Glendronach is gone. But there is a heck of a lot of good stuff in there.

    I am a malt fan and feel I know my stuff, but I don't perceive this blend as worse. It's interesting how perceptions can vary!

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    1. Excellent blog post.

      I just got into Scotch a little over a year ago, drinking Laphroaig 10 Year Old at a friend's wedding. After some online research, The Black Grouse was on sale as a "Last Chance" clearance item at the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation, at a price of $33 down from $37.

      I liked it enough to drink one one bottle and then buy another, but by the end of the second bottle, I wasn't all that enthusiastic about it.

      This past November, almost exactly a year after it was on clearance, the NLC brought it back with the annual Whiskies of the World show, and bottles of it have ended up back on store shelves. I didn't understand why they sold it off and then brought it back a year later, but your blog illuminates the issue.

      They fully removed the older version before reintroducing the newer.

      A similar situation occurred with the Arran 14, which they had on clearance a year ago for $50, instead of the regular $68. The Arran is now back on NLC shelves after it returned via the whisky show. The packaging and label are very different from the old bottling. I think the old bottle looks better, and it's one of my favourite drams. In any case, two whiskys that were discounted to sell, seemingly due to forthcoming changes, and then restocked with the new versions.

      In the research I did that lead me to buy the Black Grouse, I also read about Teacher's, but was frustrated to find that the NLC did not carry it. With the aformentioned 2014 whisky show that brought the Grouse and the Arran back, also came Teacher's introduction to the Newfoundland and Labrador market. I considered trying it, but with this blog post I've decided I'd rather spend the money on another whisky.

      Delete
  17. By the way, I also tried Black Grouse for the first time this past week (by coincidence, not based on your recommendation), and I really liked it. I had tried a version of Grouse in Japan called "Islay Cask Finish." IIRC, that seemed rather similar to Black Grouse, but of course I haven't compared them side to side.

    Further thoughts on Teacher's. Blends can change over time--"must change" is more correct. Malts and grain supplies change over time is one simple reason for that.

    The first time I tried Johnny Walker Blue, I was amazed. A few years later I tried it again, and it fell totally flat for me (and I think the difference was in the taste and not just my perception, but again I would have needed to compare them side by side...).

    Maybe if I'd been drinking Teacher's consistently, I would have detected the shift and been disappointed. But coming back to it after two years, it tasted great with its high malt content and overall nice structure. I don't feel that the brand has dropped in quality or flavor, but the flavor may well be different.

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  18. If available in your area code Loch Lomond Highland Blend or 'Single Blend' since they distill the grain as well, is an excellent dram especially for the price about $30 CAD or more. Sweet buttery barley, biscuits and honey with a slight peaty hint on the nose and palate.

    Their Loch Lomond Peated (No Age Statement) for around $58 CAD's is good value too for the quality.

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  19. If available in your area code Loch Lomond Highland Blend or 'Single Blend' since they distill the grain as well, is an excellent dram especially for the price about $30 CAD or more. Sweet buttery barley, biscuits and honey with a slight peaty hint on the nose and palate.

    Their Loch Lomond Peated (No Age Statement) for around $58 CAD's is good value too for the quality.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation and welcome to the blog!

      Delete
  20. With regards to the the Black Grouse being, "groused" its elementary my dear Jason, The company penny pinchers have got to it, just look at the Famous Grouse website.

    They have the new, "Famous Grouse Alpha" which is suppose to have even more peat, smoke and so
    on than the Black Grouse and naturally be more expensive as well.

    The marketing boys and girls thought well, "the Black Grouse is already too much bang for buck, lets lower the peat smoke and overall flavor profile so people would be forced to pay more money for the new concoction".

    This is simply a marketing strategy that has ft-up this brand for me. It was Nice while it lasted, So I might as well go back to sweet whiskey.

    Guess ole Fred Noe gets my money, love Jim Beam White label & Makers Mark. Prefer my Grouse deep fried now.

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  21. I received a bottle of Teachers for Easter as it was an old time favourite.It had been some years since i last had one,anyway i introduced my son and his friend to Teachers and them young bucks were quite impressed.I quietly sat there sipping thinking somethings not right..unfortunately you've confirmed my suspicions.Couldn't believe they'd even mess with Scotch.

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    1. It really is disappointing for the change in the flavor profile of Teacher's. It was always my go-to everyday blend, and to do this was just a huge disappointment.

      So, my friend, you have to find a new one!

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  22. Jason, I been a single malt drinker for a while now and recently got into blends (love them). My current daily dram is the johnnie walker black, how does the black grouse compare to it?

    Also is the famous grouse worth getting? It can be found for $23 CAD

    I'm only asking this because im trying to save money, its been tight lately.

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    1. Forget Famous Grouse the standard bottling. As I mentioned in a reply to another post of yours, the economy blend range of the Scotch market is getting harder and harder to find gems. I dont like Ballantines, Dewar's White, and Grant's or Bells. So that doesnt leave many options. I do like Cutty Sark and it is cheap and simple, but pleasant.

      A blended Scotch i do like is Te Bheag but it is not cheap. Around $35.

      Hope this helps!

      Jason

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  23. I knew things were looking bad for this brand when I saw the design of the label changed from a lovely one to a much cheaper look. What a pity. Teacher's was once a terrific drink, even for single-malt lovers like me. The new label is so ugly it kept me from wasting money on the new inferior product. But where to go now for great, affordable blends? Has anyone tried Glendrostan?

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    1. That's the problem. Where do we go from here? Blended Scotch whiskies on the market are not as good as they once were and that is not nostalgia speaking.

      I have not had Glendrostan so can't comment.

      Cheers!

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  24. I secured a bottle of Glendrostan finally in New York. It is ridiculously cheap at $15, with a beautiful label that seems not to have changed for 100 years. Taste? Unusual. Not at all like Teacher's or JW Black, but light and extra-smooth, with a faint vanilla finish. A keeper for when you want a lighter dram. Must be a good mixing Scotch too. I also tried Black Bottle, but it tasted like liquid sardines, it was so smoky and salty, the opposite extreme of Glendrostan.

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  25. I tried both whiskys after reading this review, and Black Grouse was the first peated whisky that I had ever tried! It was an acquired taste for me which I learnt to enjoy. The "new" Teachers on the other hand was easy drinking - sweet and creamy and akin to Famous Grouse. I then tried Ardmore Single Malt which I enjoyed. I have bought a bottle of Teacher HC today and find the taste has changed again! It tastes far more like the Ardmore single malt. Then again it did have a label to say "now made with more peated malt" so perhaps this is a return to the original blend?

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  26. Okay, I'm a bit confused now. New to Teacher's and reading descriptions written at various times has me thinking they may have reformulated again.

    Forgive my lack of precise descriptors and my probably uncultivated palette. I'll try to do the best I can and try to avoid trying to sound more experienced than I am...

    Three bottles of Teacher's purchased 2015 and now 2016. Unmistakable and in your face smell and taste of band-aids. "Iodine"? "Peaty"? "Maritime"? Well, Johnson & Johnson in any case. And it's something I definitely noted in Laphraoig 10 too. Awesome combined with Earl Grey tea (which I wouldn't do with Laphraoig).

    But no taste of raisins, Fig Newtons, or overripe raspberries. Flavors I associated with drinks I find described as "sherried".

    If I'm not completely misunderstanding, it seems to me that the NEW new Teacher's has restored the Islay aspect but not the sherried aspect.

    Any similar experiences? Any hints where my ideas about flavors and what they mean may be off?

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    1. Hmmmm . . . I must pull another bottle out of the local liquor store and try some more.

      Delete
    2. So have you tried it yet, whats your verdict? i have a bottle of the new teachers here right now and im debating even drinking it itand even taking it back after reading this post, lucky i have a bottle of highland park 12, lagavulin 16 and laphroaig 10 here.

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    3. This new flavor style of Teacher's is not horrible. It's ok and still represents fair value for the price, but no longer is it the beguiling blend. While I grew up on a tougher taste, I can well imagine that Scotch newbies will enjoy this new style. It delivers what they want: smoothness, sweetness, and while there is some graininess and a slightly bitter finish, Scotch newbies probably will not mind it. It is guys like me who can recall the old flavors who are put out by what it has become.

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    4. Hi Jason.

      Could you recommend a good economy blended scotch to pick up at an airport duty-free? Thanks.

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    5. If you mean no age statement whisky, your options are very limited in Duty free. Maybe get a standard bottle of Cutty Sark. It is decent and works. Sometimes Islay Mist is there and it is highly recommended. My favorite economy blend never seems to make it to Duty Free but I will mention it anyway: White Horse.

      Dont forget Irish Whisky. It is always priced cheaper than Scotch, like Bushmills. That always delivers a decent flavor.

      Cheers and Happy Holidays!

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  27. I read your review and found that it was not my sense of taste that went wrong lastly. I tasted my beloved Teachers whisky after log time. Different bottle,something missed in taste. Thank you.

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  28. How funny. I came to this site after searching for Teachers brand. My father passed almost ten years ago. Whenever my husband & I discuss drinking with my mother, she describes how my father adored Teachers for the longest time. My dad, his sister & their mother always drank scotch whisky in a crystal glass over ice. I will always remember how much I loved the smell of the glass. It brings back memories of childhood instantly. Knowing that he loved the Teachers brand, its made me want to try it as well. Sad to hear it wouldn't be the same signature brand he once appreciated. Could you recommend a brand that taste similar to the original taste of Teachers?

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    1. Your father had very good taste! He was from a time where a guy had tremendous brand loyalty. Something to be admired because that was a quality that undoubtedly spilled over into other parts of his life.

      In terms of something comparable, I think Johnnie Walker Black has a lot of the smoky notes as well as caramel of old Teachers.

      Take care,

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