Review: Grants Family Reserve

We’re continuing with blended whisky month here on dramstats and I’ve got some crackers lined up, including a blend trapped under the ice for more than a century!

Today though, I’m reviewing a comforting classic: Grants family cask.

In the blogosphere this has actually become quite a controversial dram owing to the store set to it by Whisky Bible writer and general whisky expert Jim Murray. He gives it 94/100 in his bible, quite a lot better than most of the whisky available, including some of the rarest, oldest and more expensive whisky ever bottled. “The perfect nose to any blend” is high praise indeed from one who has tasted so many.

Grants family reserve is one of what I call the “standard supermarket blends”. Along with Bells, Teachers and Famous Grouse, you can pretty much pick this up anywhere, including in a lot of pubs, and for a good price. As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for, and that is probably what makes Mr Murray’s rating of this blend so controversial.

Still, geekery and controversy aside, this is a blended whisky and it’s one I have bought. Therefore, here is my 2 cents in the form of the dramstats:



  • ABV 40%
  • Price £10 (on deals that ran for a month over christmas in supermarkets)

Nose: Sickly sweet smoke and honey. Pears simmered in golden syrup, liquorice, some woody notes, then orange cordial.

Palate: It’s sweet at first with honey and pipe tobacco, then treacle toffee and cigar stained fingers!

Finish: The honey turns bitter with smoke, oak and some brazil nut shell.

Verdict: It’s whisky. When people say “smells like whisky” this is the dram I think they are talking about. It’s smooth enough and if you can wait for supermarket deals you can get either 70cl or 1l of this very cheap most of the time. A few months ago it was £10 for 70cl. I will be buying it again. It’s great for hot toddies, as a secret adult addition to hot chocolate and is a real bargain when taken on those terms. When you review it for what it is: affordable, easy drinking whisky, it is one of the best examples of its kind.

As for all of the controversy? Put it this way: Taking another blend that Mr Murray rated 94, the Black Bull 40 year old, I know which I’d rather try, and I wouldn’t pay over £100 (as you would for the Black Bull) for a bottle of Grants either. But, thanks to the good folks at William Grants and Sons, I don’t have to and that’s really the point of whisky at this price. Accessible, enjoyable and does what it says on the tin.


Review: Grants Ale Cask (again) 12 Blends day 3

We continue our blended whisky month with day 3 of our 12 blends competition. Remember this is where 12 bloggers swap whisky samples and taste them blind everyday, guessing what they are (and getting them completely wrong).

Today was the turn of Rod Graham, writer of and he served up one I’d reviewed 3 days ago: Grants Ale cask.

I guessed that it was The Tweedale blend (kind of embarrassing given the previous review), but since I wasn’t confident on that, I went for 40% ABV (because the stats are on my side there). Huzzah!

Here are the dramstats: (also see my first review)


Nose: Honey, sherried raisins, sweet sickly peat smoke, baked pear, malted milk biscuits. After a minute the peat smoke has gone (in a puff) and is replaced by creamy caramel.

Palate: No puff of smoke here but a puff of malty ovaltine! malted milk biscuits again, diluted apple juice and caramac bars.

Finish: Ovaltine, some pear juice, almost chewy toffee aftertaste (no smokey puff again). Some mild tingly spices mingle with the juicy malt during the fade.

Verdict: Almost spooked by the here at the start then gone smoke, but absolutely loved this. Lots of rich malty notes with sweet fruit juicy and toffee caramel. Very smooth too. What’s weird is how different my notes are from my original review of this. Blind reviews are such eye openers! Either way it’s a total bargain.

Blended Whisky Month and Review: Grants Ale Cask

Today is the first of April and, instead of the customary gag post, I’m launching a “Blended whisky month” here on dramstats. I’ve saved some reviews of blended whiskies to post, I have some sample blends to taste, and, most interestingly, I’m taking part in an online 12 day blind tasting event called #12blends (look out for us on twitter every evening from today until the 12th of April.

#12blends is the sequel to  previous competition and series on here, the 12 drams of christmas. The idea is simple. 12 bloggers swap mystery blends and taste the other 11 blind. We then try to guess producer, expression and ABV and the one with the most points wins a bottle of Compass Box whisky 🙂

‘Blended whisky is the lifeblood of the scotch whisky industry’

Blended scotch whisky contains a mixture of single malt whiskies (from various distilleries) and grain whisky, matured in Scotland for at least 3 years. Blends can often have 40 or more different malts and grains inside them and, therefore, creating a good one is a genuine art.

A master blender for a particular distillery, when putting together a single malt has any number of cask types, ages and finishes to choose from when constructing his expression. If you think that’s hard, how about multiplying that by every distillery in Scotland and adding different types of whisky!

The master blenders for the main blends are under a lot of pressure too. Blended scotch whisky accounts for around 92% of the global sales of scotch whisky. That is astonishing! Though single malt fans often treat them as the poor cousin of single malts and perhaps don’t give them as much attention as then might, single malt would not exist without blended whisky. Blended whisky is the lifeblood of the scotch whisky industry! Without it, many, if not most, single malt distilleries would close as the demand for their spirit would not be enough.

So, dramstats is devoting a month to blended whisky! Hurrah!

Let’s kick off with Grants Ale Cask. This is a simple idea. The standard grants is matured as normal, then finished in an oak barrel that had contained a strong beer. Woohoo!

Here are the dramstats:



  • ABV 40%
  • Price £14-£17

Nose: Sweet, there seems to be a lot more Balvenie to this than the standard grants, but perhaps this is a trick of the maturation. It also seems slightly smokier than standard grants. The head of a John Smiths-style smooth bitter comes through. Nice!

Palate: Slightly fruity with pear then sweet with honey and bitter hops.

Finish: Quite a nice zing with the bitter hops and a really creamy texture like a smooth bitter and a sweet peat to end.

Verdict: Cheap as chips and definitely interesting enough to be value for money. It’s a dram I like to have around as the first dram in from work type of drink.