Famous for a Reason - The Foundation - The Famous Grouse Experience
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Famous for a Reason – The Foundation

To understand the story of The Famous Grouse is to understand the principles that the world-famous whisky is built on. Set in place by Matthew Gloag II, the man who coined the name The Famous Grouse, those same principles are still rigorously followed today. Here at The Famous Grouse Experience we call them The Four Fundamentals, and over the course of the next several months we’ll be sharing them with you.

The first is Foundation, which sets out the guiding principles from a heritage of quality behind our famous brand – because you don’t go from being a wine and spirits merchant in Perth to selling 43 million bottles in more than 100 markets worldwide without strictly adhering to some guidelines!

Soon after he registered The Famous Grouse as a trademark in 1905, Matthew Gloag published ‘Notes on Whisky’, a catalogue in which he promised quality, value and service. For us more than a century later, it’s an invaluable insight into the beginnings of the famous whisky brand, and how that brand and its principles have endured.

“Profits there must be, but the interests of customers and not profits are the first consideration, and my desire is to meet modern competition and extend business by specially good value and willing service,” wrote Matthew in his Notes.

He added: “It has been my constant aim and endeavour to produce and supply Whiskies which will be at once pure, light, delicate in flavour, easily digestible, and especially possessed of the valuable ethers which are known to sustain the action of the heart.”

The medicinal properties of whisky were a strong theme back in the day, and that’s something that hasn’t gone away; in recent years the high levels of antioxidants in whisky have been claimed to prevent cancer and heart disease.

The Famous Grouse even received backing from The Lancet when it was launched, with the medical journal declaring it “a wholesome and well-blended spirit, possessing age, [and] desirably smooth and mellow to the taste.”

Something Matthew Gloag II insisted on was that The Famous Grouse be aged in sherry casks. It’s not surprising when you look at our brand’s founders. Matthew Gloag I, his son William and William’s nephew Matthew Gloag II were wine and spirit merchants in Perth with ample knowledge of, and access to, drinks from overseas. In tailoring their blended whisky to southern and overseas palates, they turned to maturing whisky in ex-sherry casks to give it a smoother taste.

Getting a hold of those casks wasn’t always straightforward, however. As whisky blending boomed, the market for sherry shrank. In his book Famous For A Reason, The Story of The Famous Grouse, internationally acclaimed whisky writer Charles Maclean shares letters between Willie and Alistair Gloag, the sons of Matthew Gloag II, and their frustrating searches for good sherry casks. Sometimes their contacts took as long as 12 months to collect six of them.

As well as maturation, using quality ingredients was, and still is, key. When “the very best materials” are used and the whisky sufficiently matured in sherry casks, “there can be no more wholesome spirit”, wrote William Gloag.

As if to drive home those early principles of quality control, every bottle of Scotland’s favourite whisky still bears the signature of Matthew Gloag. And if this journey into the past has whetted your appetite for a rich and flavoursome dram, then visit our Online Shop and find our Dram of the Month, The Naked Grouse, a whisky that enriches The Famous Grouse brand even more by being matured in sun dried, high quality, first-fill sherry casks. [divider]

Do you know somebody who’s Famous for a Reason? It could be anything, big or small, but they have to be deserving of their Famous title, just as Matthew Gloag was. Nominate them here and they could win their very own personalised bottle of The Famous Grouse.

Tricia Fox
[email protected]
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