Cocktails with… The Spiced Grouse

Following my recent tasting of some of The Famous Grouse range, DBS discovered that the company have released three “infusions” (or “infused spirit drinks”), each highlighting a particular whisky tasting note: citrus, vanilla or spice. After a brief discussion and a little bit of research, with a gentleman at the Famous Grouse Experience, we decided to try the spice version.

Bottled at 35% ABV, this is classed as an “infused spirit drink” rather than a whisky, but it is essentially The Famous Grouse whisky that has been infused with orange, cinnamon and star anise in an attempt to bring out the rich, spicy notes. In my previous reviews, I have been impressed by the company’s willingness to try out different variations and so was rather excited to try this; here are my thoughts.

On its own
Nose: Intensely sweet, with lots of orange fondant and a hint of warm, sweet spice underneath.
Taste: Savoury to start, then a substantial sweetness sets in, accompanied by a comforting warmth. Hints of cinnamon and a touch of cloves, with lots of sweet orange fondant resounding throughout. The star anise appears lightly on the finish and aftertaste. The whisky itself takes a bit of a backseat to these other strong flavours.

Old Fashioned
I was quite excited to try this one, but, when we tried a standard recipe, the cocktail was exceptionally sweet, both to start and then on the finish; there weren’t enough whisky notes to give any real weight to the drink and too many sweet, fruity ones.

DBS then adjusted the recipe by adding some extra Famous Grouse whisky. This meant that the flavour was much more savoury and had more of the wood notes needed, but I still don’t think that this is the best way to enjoy this drink.

Rob Roy
[1 part red vermouth, 2 parts The Famous Spice]
The nose of this was sweet and spicy. Unlike the Old Fashioned, however, it had a good balance of sweetness, richness of flavour and spice. The vermouth works very well with the Spice, lessening the impact of the orange without covering it up completely and allowing the cinnamon and weightier, woody notes to come through.

This was absolutely delicious. Now, I’m not generally a fan of Alexanders, or any cocktail with containing cream, but the chocolate in this works exceptionally well alongside the orange and spice notes of The Famous Spice, whilst the cream softens a lot of its sweetness. A fabulous after-dinner drink (especially if, like me, you have a fondness for orange creams!).

Again, the nose had a strong note of orange fondant, which worked well with the warmth. I also caught a hint of gingerbread. To taste, it was smooth and silky to start, followed by quite an intense hit of flavour: orange, allspice and cinnamon bark. The aftertaste was pleasant, with a sweet spiciness, full of notes of liquorice, anise and cinnamon. There was also a lovely, comforting warmth beyond the obvious heat of the toddy.

Long Drink (Lemon Juice & Ginger Ale)
This worked very well, indeed. The ginger both balances the sweetness from the drink and highlight the spices. The light citrus in the ale also helps to highlight the spices, whilst adding a refreshing tartness. Lovely.

In Conclusion
I am a big fan of the experimentation being undertaken by The Famous Grouse and am pleased that I’ve had the chance to try this. Given its sweetness and the strong orange and spice notes, it reminds me a lot of a whisky liqueur and, as such, I think it works better in either long drinks (it worked very well with ginger ale), or in shorter drinks with ingredients that can balance out the sweet orange notes (e.g. the vermouth in the Rob Roy).

I struggle to choose my favourite way to drink this; I liked the Alexander, with flavour of orange creams, as well as the shorter, more intense Rob Roy. I think my absolute favourite, however, was simply with ginger ale.

– Mrs. B.

The Flavoured Grouses are available from The Famous Grouse Website for around £25 for 100cl.

An Evening with Crabbie’s

Whilst preparing for an upcoming Alcoholic Ginger Beer tasting, Mr Hartley (from the IAE) and I found ourselves invited to event that would give us as sneak preview of the most famous Alcoholic Ginger Beer of the moment, Crabbies.
The event was held at The London Cocktail Club on Great Newport Street, where I finally got to see the fabled bottle of “ancient” Miller’s (nothing to do with the more contemporary Martin Millers, this was flavoured with Bahua leaves.
The event was held to launch a Crabbie’s non-alcoholic ginger beer but we were lucky enough to try some other bits to, here are some notes:

John Crabbies Traditional Cloudy Ginger Beer
I quite like the new Crabbie’s it has a good amount of fieriness and is pleasantly effervescence, neither too fizzy nor to flat. The balance of sweetness is about right and it’s popular with a few folks I’ve shared a sample with.

Diet John Crabbies Ginger Beer
There are similarities with this and the above variety. I’m typically not a fan of diet drinks as the sugar substitutes seem to through the sweetness off and tend to cling to the mouth. This variety’s seem lighter and I definitely prefer the sweetness of the non-diet version. As diet versions go though it is quite good.

John Crabbie’s Fiery Ginger Beer
Pow! A good fiery kick at the beginning (interesting, because Hartley felt the kick at the end), full of flavour and one of the most fiery ginger beers out there. This comes in a 200ml mixer-size bottle for use in Moscow Mules or to mix with Gosling’s Rum for a Dark ‘n’ Stormy.

John Crabbie’s Ginger Beer with a Twist of Orange
My favourite of the ginger beers that we tried, this was a very unusual combination and one that I think may well catch on. The orange flavour was quite strong and could be described as “confectionery orange”, reminding me of orange boiled sweets or orange Starburst (Opal Fruits). As I drank more, the orange flavour reminded me a bit of orange flower water and, finally, faintly brought back memories of Still Fanta.
This was a tasty variety (Hartley agreed) and is one to look out for in the future.

John Crabbie’s Dry Ginger Ale
This was my favourite drink of all that I tried that evening. Why? Because here, finally, is a commercial Ginger Ale with some kick to it. Those that attended the Graphic Ginger Ale evening will be aware that some varieties taste a bit washed out, with few having much of a fiery kick. This delivers that along with a sweet spiciness reminiscent of cinnamon and nutmeg. The strong ginger flavours of Crabbie’s Dry Ginger Ale are a nod toward the old “Belfast style” of Ginger Ale and is a very welcome addition to the market. I’ve had it again since the launch and it was even better.

And, as if that was not all, we also got a sneak preview of Crabbie’s 12yr Old Blended Scotch, their new Speyside-based product. It was all rather hush-hush and I wasn’t even allowed to take a photo, but, having tried a dram (or two!), I can say that I rather liked it and that it is up there with the better blended scotches in its price range. To me, it seems a good way to expand the brand and go back to Crabbie’s whisky roots. I look forward to using it with their Ginger Wine to make a freshly mixed Crabbie’s Mac.

My thanks to Jennie and all the folks at Crabbie’s for inviting us and to team at the The London Cocktail Club and Wayne Collins for helping to have a fun & tasty evening.