First off, I am no scotch expert.
Sure, I love The Macallan, Lagavulin, and even a blend like Johnnie Walker (Black or better) in a pinch. And I’d like to think my palate is trained enough to discern a “good” scotch whisky from a poorly crafted one. I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like. Although, my general approach to scotch out in the wild is more like Jon Favreau in that classic scene from Swingers. Yeah, guy behind the guy.
I recently came into the possession of a beautifully crafted bottle of The Naked Grouse, a new offering from The Edrington Group, the folks that bring you The Famous Grouse, Scotland’s most popular scotch whisky (not an indication that it’s necessarily good, just saying). I won’t belabor you with all the details on The Naked Grouse, as Heavy Table recently ran a very good overview. However, I will tell you that The Naked Grouse is only sold in the Twin Cities right now, their first test market in the U.S. for the product. So if it works here, you should see it soon in your area.
I took it neat, which is how I always prefer my scotch*. They blend several spirits to make it, using The Famous Grouse as the base and adding single malts from The Macallan and Highland Park, so I would guess you could consider this a “higher end” blended scotch whisky. They age it in sherry casks for a short while, helping mature the blend.
I buried my nose in the glass for about 15 minutes before I even took my first sip. The aroma is sweeter than I’d expect for an 80 proof scotch, maybe from the grain whisky they use to smooth things out. Definite vanilla and caramel, and really not much of the harsh alcohol characteristic that seems to turn off many scotch novices. Pretty creamy and inviting.
I took a nice sip, and then spit it out. Call me a complete dork, but this is in fact a good thing when you’re tasting scotch whisky. The high alcohol content (of most spirits, actually) mask the true flavor profile of the liquor. So clearing the liquid actually gives you a much better impression of what’s truly going on. Nice roasted flavor, almost like chocolate. A little oakey, and you can pick up a bit of the sherry.
I don’t think mouthfeel is a consideration with a scotch like it is with a beer, primarily since it isn’t carbonated. But The Naked Grouse did pleasantly explode off the tongue in the finish, leading to a subtle, yet building, alcohol burn that enveloped my mouth.
I enjoyed this one, and think it’d be a nice pick for folks interested in dipping their toes into the world of scotch. Well done.
* As I’ve said before on this blog, adding a dab of lukewarm water to liven up the whisky is just fine. But seriously, putting ice in a finely crafted spirit is like dumping cubes into a highly regarded vintage of pouilly fuisse to chill it down. Total waste.