Friday, 19 May 2017

It's a Family Tradition: a review of Grant's Family Reserve Blended Scotch

The whisky blogosphere is a funny place. Not ha-ha funny. More like "a turtle on top of a fencepost" funny. Writers often review pricy, unfindable malts, special bottlings or limited edition "travel retail" whiskies. They rail about atrocities (a.k.a. their personal pet peeves) done to whisky: the evils of caramel colouring, the greed which drives distillers to bottle single malt at a "paltry" 40% ABV and a host of other seemingly minor details. For the record, my pet peeve is NAS scotch, or more specifically, the price distillers charge for it and all the secrecy and double-talk surrounding age.

There is very specific vocabulary to learn in order to communicate with other whisky enthusiasts. But all of it is well worth the effort. Most bloggers respond fairly quickly to comments, eager to share ideas about a common love (whisky). There are a few things I think we can all agree on. Scotch needs to shake off the image of being a rich old man's drink. This is happening as whisky begins to appeal to younger malt-heads all over the world. There is still, in some circles, an undertone of sexism in the way people talk about single malt scotch. But that's a post for another day.

What is missing, practically speaking, is a more thorough examination of inexpensive blends. I realize it's not as sexy to talk about Grant's Family Reserve ($27.95 for 750ml), as it is to talk about a limited release of Angus MacKilty's 65 Year Old Single Malt Bagpipe Reserve, sold at $50 000 per bottle, but which scotch are more people likely to drink? The thing with inexpensive blended whisky is it allows those new to scotch to taste different things and develop their palates without spending a fortune. I understand the more experienced, professional scotch bloggers (journalists?) may find the task of describing a budget blend laborious, so I will endeavour to do my best in their stead. As always, you should note that I'm not a professional and my opinions are just that; personal opinions.
The newcomer whilst reading whisky blogs

What is Grant's?

Grant's is named for founder William Grant, who opened his first distillery, in Dufftown, with the help of his wife and nine children. Sound familiar? It should; William Grant is the founder of Glenfiddich. So there's a good chance that some of the malt whisky (about 40% of the blend is single malt) in this blend is Glenfiddich. About 60% of the blend is grain whisky, much of it from Grant's own Girvan distillery. More on grain whisky at a different time. Grant's makes a whole range of blended whiskies, from the Family reserve, to Ale Cask, Sherry Cask and even some guaranteed age statement expressions. It's a fairly recognizable brand all over the world. Grant's is truly an equal opportunity spirit.

Tasting notes

Let's keep in mind that at under thirty bucks, this isn't the most complex whisky around.

Grant's Family Reserve Blended Whisky
Nose (undiluted): strong nail-polish remover (acetone) smell at first. Grant's, like many scotch whiskies, needs to breathe in the glass for a few minutes. After 10 minutes or so, it was pleasant, albeit straightforward: dried fruits (mostly raisin and prune), toffee, cereal

Palate (undiluted): medium to light-bodied, toffee, dried fruits (sherry influence?), slight pear note, barley

Finish: medium length, vanilla, cereal grain, oak

Adding water didn't change the character too much. It toned down a bit of the sherry-like quality that was on the palate and allowed the neutral, sweeter flavours to come through. I don't personally recomment adding water to Grant's.


I've read Grant's described as a "universal solvent" (over at and it's a pretty accurate description. This blend is fine on its own, but it won't move you to tears. It is neutral enough to work in most whisky-based cocktails from a Godfather, to a Rusty Nail or a Rob Roy, but for some reason, it really did NOT work in my favourite whisky cocktail; the Old Fashioned. Bourbons and rye whiskies are better-suited to that task. Hey, Grant's can't do everything. It's not as bold a blend as Islay Mist 8, but it certainly won't offend the palate. If you want an inexpensive introduction to scotch with a hint of Speyside character, this might be it. And Grant's won't break the bank. Now pass the MacKilty's.

Rating: 2/5 moustaches

Slainte mhaith !

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