Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will know that I'm not the biggest fan of flying.
Despite a large proportion of our time spent in Scotland on business, I would always rather take the four hour train ride to Edinburgh, than the 60 min flight. In my eyes rail is the greatest way to travel, but it does have its drawbacks.
Lengthier than flying (I wouldn't want to train it to Aberdeen or Inverness, unless on the sleeper) it can be hot, cramped and smelly. But at least, unlike flying, you get it sit in one place for an extended period of time; valuable writing time for me.
So well loved and so well priced, it is interesting to find this Famous bird releasing a very old, ultra-premium blended Scotch whisky. A far hoot (is that the noise a grouse makes?) from on tap ‘pints over ice’, they’ve gone and added a First Class carriage, in the form of a 40 year old blend, to their express train.Otherwise we could be left with a ‘what if’ situation on our hands, a generation later, as we were with the railways.
Somehow, and I'm never sure of the exact economics of this, flying can actually work out cheaper than taking the train and when we're organising our own trips up, which happens a lot, this is a vital consideration. It is also more exciting and more contemporary; the modern way to travel.
However, if one has a long lead time on a visit, the greatest travel of all can be achieved by booking early: first class rail travel.
Just that little step up from the norm, travelling first class to Scotland from London (or vice versa) gives you what basically amounts to a serviced office for 4/5 hours: internet, unlimited tea and coffee, beers or wine and two good meals. For £65 (very much in advance), it isn’t half bad.
The Famous Grouse is the most popular Scotch whisky in Scotland. Ubiquitous in both the local bar and supermarket, it tends to be consumed as a mixer (mostly) spawning off-shoots such as Ginger Grouse (mixed with ginger ale and available on tap in some outlets) which have seen the brand capitalise on its brand awareness, to take on the long drink market as well winning the race in the short drink field.
276 decanters of the stuff have been produced at 47.3% and fall under the banner of a ‘blended malt’, so no grain whisky in the mix. It carries an RRP of £2,000 a bottle.
The Famous Grouse – 40 Years Old – Blended Malt Scotch Whisky – 70cl – 47.3% abv – RRP £2,000
Nose: The first thing to say about this whisky is that the aromas are incredibly vibrant for a liquid carrying this age statement. And we don't mean 'young’ by this, just jam-packed with flavours which dance around in a really great way. Everything you'd want from an old blend here: black cherry, antique furniture, rose-hip, slight cassia bark and some liquorice (blue liquorice allsorts). Aniseed, too. A hint of very old, lightly peated whisky.
Palate: it's up there in terms of strength for a 40 year old, so you get some excellent, moist Christmas cake at the start, then the delicate aniseed balls followed by the dark cherry and hints of Dr. Pepper and some very well aged peat.
Finish: Real liquorice comes to the fore and some oak spices appear as the flavour starts to dissipate.
Overall: Famous Grouse is a whisky which doesn't usually play this game- the biggest selling Scotch in Scotland, it tends to be a high volume, supermarket blend. However, this whisky is (and we're going to say it) exceptional. Like the Tam O'Shanter from the same stable, the very old blends leaving the Edrington blending room at the moment seem to be unstoppable.
A quite remarkable dram, but the big question is: will anyone travel first class, when they can fly? Let’s hope the typical Famous Grouse drinker isn’t Dr Richard Beeching and embraces this for the quality drink that it is.