Another pour of The Famous Grouse 12 year old vatted malt whisky, and my reactions to it are much the same as they were back in June. The knock on vatted malts is that the malt distilleries are only willing to turn loose of the sub-par barrels while keeping the good stuff to bottle under their own labels. Aside from the fact that this doesn't sound plausible given that some of the most sought-after malt bottlings are done by non-distillery bottlers like Gordon & McPhail, which wouldn't be possible if the good stuff weren't available, that argument doesn't even add up because the vast majority of whisky produced by every malt distillery, even the huge names like Glenlivet, goes into blends. Malt distilleries could not survive without selling large amounts of whisky off for blending and vatting. In the case of The Famous Grouse vatted malts, another reason to reject this argument is the fact that The Famous Grouse shares the same parent company as the premier flavoring malts that go into the Grouse vatted bottlings: Highland Park and the Macallan. The Edrington Group, the last remaining major Scottish-owned spirits company, owns them all. If they want Grouse vatted malts to have good whisky in them, they will have good whisky in them. And, if the 12 year old bottling is any indication, they do want good whisky in them. This bottle is almost gone; and when it is, I will be buying a bottle of the 18 year old. It is supposedly even better and a heck of a bargain at under $50 for a fifth.
(Incidentally, the Edrington Group also backs JMR Easy Drinking Whisky Company, makers of such bottlings as The Big Spicy One, The Smoky Peaty One, and The Smooth Sweeter One. JMR's stated goal was to demystify and desnobify Scotch and to build up a following for it among younger consumers, most of whom opt for vodka and white rum. I like the idea: despite the renaissance that Scotch has experienced over the past 10 or 15 years, it desperately needs to bring new consumers into the fold if it hopes to avoid the bad times of the '70s and '80s. By all accounts, their whiskies are tasty and well-priced, but they haven't had the success one could hope for. Recently, the brand was withdrawn from the UK market and from certain US cities; and I fear that it will fold up shop completely before too long. That would be a pity. I will have to give a bottle a try before that happens.)