The Black Grouse Alpha Edition contains a higher proportion of aged malts from The Macallan and Highland Park to the aged grain whiskies than what's found in the standard Black Grouse. Male Tetrao tetrix, (Black Grouse) engage in a mating ritual known as a Lek to determine the alpha position or dominancy in the flock by presenting the best display for females. Festooned with a black feather, the bottle and packaging of the Alpha Edition serves as a nod to the company's interest in positioning this version of the Grouse as a premium offering in the product line and was originally launched exclusively for the travel retail market in 2011 before becoming more widely available in 2012. We love the original Black Grouse, in fact it won our Battle of the Blends series, so we had no hesitation in sampling a new spin on an old favourite even if we were a tad disappointed to see it bottled at 40% ABV despite the higher malt content.
Nose: Sweet, rich and inviting aromas of caramel and dark chocolate covered berries with soft thread of dried grass and straw laden peat smokiness.
Palate: Medium-bodied and a touch oily. The dram opens with sweet flavours of toasted vanilla and caramel that gracefully usher in a gentle, balanced, layer of char and peat smoke. Once on the scene, the smokey element dominates but doesn't overpower and a light bitterness akin to a high cocoa content dark chocolate emerges on the way to the finish.
Finish: Long and smokey with soft drying tannin reminiscent of musty old leather.
Overall: A great example of a rock-solid blended Scotch whisky. There's not a lot of complexity here but the flavours are focussed, well-balanced and there's no forced grainy sweetness or accompanying heat or spiciness that can appear in blends within a similar price point. Doubtless, fans of the Grouse lineup will enjoy this offering and I can confidently suppose that both newcomers to Scotch whisky and seasoned enthusiasts will find themselves charmed. There's still a sizeable stock of the Alpha Edition left in the LCBO and for $54.95 you can certainly afford to keep one around for your daily dram and to serve to guests while putting one or two bottles away for a rainy day.