The persistence, patience, and time that it takes to develop a Scotch makes it rare that a new Scotch is put on the shelf. After two years of development, The Edrington Group, the largest independent Scotch company in Scotland, has released Naked Grouse — a blended Scotch — that made its US premiere last month in Minneapolis.
The Edrington Group is adding the Naked Grouse to a line of scotches that includes Famous Grouse, Macallan, Cutty Sark, and Highland Park. Andrew Barnett, the brand manager for Naked Grouse, says: “Naked Grouse is like Famous Grouse with the volume turned up to 11.” Using Highland Park and Macallan, The Edrington Group has aimed for the creation of a blended scotch that can compete with Johnny Walker Black, the second tier of the Johnny Walker line of blended Scotches.
Current Master Blender John Ramsay worked with apprentice Master Blender Gordon Motion to develop Naked Grouse. This is the final project for Ramsay as he plans to retire towards the end of this year. Using the Famous Grouse blend (Scotland’s number one-selling Scotch blend by volume) as a base, Ramsay and Motion worked to create a Scotch that could be ordered neat, on the rocks, and also in a drink.
Ramsay and Motion used single malts by Macallan and Highland Park as main elements of the blend and used grain whiskey to help round and balance the taste. The various parts of the Scotch are aged individually and then brought together and matured for an unspecified period. Naked Grouse deviates most significantly from Famous Grouse because of the type of barrels used. Barnett says: “60 or 70 percent of the flavor in Scotch is from the wood.” Famous Grouse uses American oak bourbon casks, while Naked Grouse uses European oak sherry casks from Spain. The European oak was chosen due to its more open grain, allowing for the more winey characteristics from the barrel to be carried over into the Scotch.
Ordered neat, the Naked Grouse has notes of chocolate, caramel, and wine with a hint of peat that comes from the Highland Park. It is balanced with minimal heat and a round smooth body. On the rocks the Scotch mellows, making it more refreshing and revealing a sweeter wine taste. The balance and relative lack of peat helps the Scotch carry well in mixed drinks. For the unseasoned Scotch drinker, a smear of orange on the edge of the glass makes it a more approachable spirit.
Minneapolis is currently the only city in the US with establishments selling Naked Grouse — more than 20 bars in the downtown area carry it. The price varies in liquor stores, with most pricing the Scotch around $33 a bottle. For The Edrington Group, Minneapolis is the test for Naked Grouse. If it does well, the rest of the US will get a chance to taste what Minneapolis has been drinking.