Vote: 5-0 Winner: The Black Grouse
This round pitted two premium offerings from the Grant's and Famous Grouse brands against each other. The Black Grouse - a smokier, and decidedly more peated cousin of the original -and the intriguing ale cask finished Grant's. The more robust flavour of the Black Grouse easily carried it through to victory, although the ale-finished Grant's blend was found pleasantly smooth, mellow, and teasing, but ultimately too flat and gentle to keep our interest.
The Black Grouse's simple but strong characteristics of smoke and peat, achieved through the blending of Famous Grouse with certain Islay malts, gives it a depth of character which approaches many of the qualities sought after in single malts. Though inoffensive, the hints of oatmeal and melon sweetness which the Grant's seems to draw from resting in ex-Beer oak barrels lacked the fire that makes the Black Grouse so enjoyable.
Vote: 4-3: Winner Grant's Family Reserve
Grant's Family Reserve's nose was virtually indistinguishable from Dewar's - the only clue being a touch more richness in its profile. The judges in favour of Grant's noted that while the palate also contained a similar burnt caramel, thanks to a reduction in the grainy sweetness notes compared to Dewar's, richer toasted malt qualities developed in a balanced and more pleasant way. The burnt caramel played off this nicely, and is what gave Grant's Family Reserve a surprising "oomph" in comparison to Dewar's. In the end, it was this quality that won the day.
It has been suggested by one of the judges that the prior consumption of Au Gratin* chips by some who voted for Dewar's may have skewed their tastes. It is also worth noting that as Round 2 draws to a close, all of the drams advancing to Round 3 are worthy of everyday enjoyment, as up until now it was a competition among the best of the worst.
*For a review of Au Gratin chips, click this link.