Wednesday, May 04, 2005

C'mon Get Happy

Last night at Shelly's, a cigar bar in downtown DC, Galley friend Mike Woody and I stumbled upon a Scotch taste test, laid out in similar fashion to a Pepsi Challenge. The test was sponsored by the Famous Grouse, "Scotland's #1 Scotch." The other two unlabeled scotches were Dewar's and J&B. Our task was to simply rate them from top to bottom. "There is no wrong answer," the Grouse girl reassured us. Mr. Woody and I both agreed on a rating, which pitted the Famous Grouse in the middle of the pack (with J&B in first place and Dewar's last). Of course this was not a competition between the Laphraoig 14, a Macallan 20, and an Oban. But as far as blended Scotches go, the Famous Grouse did just fine.

Owned by Remy (which also owns Macallan), the Famous Grouse was much smoother and sweeter than its rivals--you could easily have more than your share before knowing what hit you. This did pose a few other concerns, as Mr. Woody noted: "Some people drink Scotch because they like a more aggressive old wood and charcoal flavor--that isn't what this is at all. The sweet taste is what draws you, but then why drink scotch?" Still, he admits, "it did taste pretty good." (The Famous Grouse does include single malts like Macallan and can run upwards of $40, depending on the age.)

In addition to a complimentary Famous Grouse drink, we also received free T-shirts with the Grouse prominently displayed on the back. This reminded us of the opening credits of the Partridge Family.

12 comments:

George H. Parker III said...

Famous Grouse was the preferred libation of the late and mostly unlamented Princess Margaret. A friend of mine who knew some members of her circle told me she would berate (in full voice) anyone she happened to spy drinking anything else with a "Christ, don't you have the balls for a real drink?"

Sorry I missed her.

Michael said...

My favorite blended scotch is Teachers. It is impressively smooth, and beautifully marries the islay smokiness with a decent amount of highland sweetness.

It's not quite the same league as the top-notch SMS's like Highland Park or Edradour, though it's surprisingly close. And the price is a pleasant surprise compared to a similar-quality SMS.

Michael said...

I should also mention that the best of the readily-available laphroaig's is the cask-strength version. Despite the higher alcohol level, it's much smoother than the standard version. My suspicion is that a lot of the water they use to cut the barrels is where a lot of the raw peatiness comes from. The cask strength version is much much more refined and elegant.

And only a few dollars more expensive (at least here in Houston).

Anonymous said...

There is nothing as good as The Macallan 30 years old. NOTHING!
If you have the money it is simply the best single malt readily available.

Anonymous said...

Scotch is to Bourbon as Pepsi is to Coke. Bourbon wins hands down. Which is not to say that the misguided souls that like Pepsi shouldn't enjoy their Scotch ;-)

Anonymous said...

In the interests of accuracy, given the sweet, almost cloying, taste of bourbon, ought'nt the analogy more properly be bourbon is to scotch what pepsi is to coke?

Michael said...

I have to agree that Bourbon beats Scotch hands down in quality. The very best scotches are nearly as good as the very best bourbons, but the bourbons tend to range from good to outstanding, while scotches range from godawful to outstanding.

However, there is much more flavor variety in scotch than bourbon -- bourbon has no equivalent to islays or talisker.

As for bourbon's sweetness, clearly the anonymous coward has never tasted Glenrothes or Edradour.

That Dude said...

Scotch is for aristocrats. Gimme some Beam, or Crown or JD any day of the week.

Lawjedi said...

My turn to chime in. My father in law got me onto scotch, whereas I was a bourbon (Tennessee Whiskey to be exact) drinker. I was turned on to scotch recently, and find going back to bourbons very difficult.

In any case, Johnny Walker is very nice, but yes, I have devolved into the cheap realm of Old Smuggler, which is not half bad.

I would have to agree with the prior comment on Talisker, which is a marvelously smoky drink.

Michael said...

odd. I find talisker to be more peppery than smoky, though there is some smoke there.

For true smokiness, try lagavulin or laphroaig, preferably the cask strength version, which doesn't have that wet bandaid characteristic for which the standard laphroiag is (in)famous.

Ralphie said...

I recently had the great pleasure of sampling Johnny Walker Blue, which I could never afford. Maybe this defeats the purpose of drinking scotch, but there was absolutely no burn. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

I've drunk scotch for so long I don,t recall when I started...certainly many decades ago. I'm 75. Old Smuggler is the best. At $10.99 today for 1.75/liter at Long's it's still the best. Mike