The Famous Grouse Profile

Blended Scotch Whisky

Over the last century or so The Famous Grouse has developed into one of the world’s leading Scotch whiskies and in recent years has been flanked by complementary expressions to form a range of its own.

The Famous Grouse range also features Smoky Black, which incorporates peated whiskies from Islay and also Glenturret distillery into the blend, as well as a heavily-peated expression, Black Grouse Alpha Edition, which features a higher content of aged malts.

The Naked Grouse was introduced as a premium offering in the range, containing whiskies matured in first-fill Sherry casks for a richer, fruiter flavour. The Famous Grouse Mellow Gold, designed to impart a ‘smoother’ and sweeter palate, is the newest addition to the range.

  • Production type
    Blended grain
    Blended malt
    Blended Scotch

The Famous Grouse History

While many sources claim the Famous Grouse story began in 1800, the story of Matthew Gloag & Sons didn’t start with the Gloags at all. Rather, it began with the Browns.

John Brown established his Perth grocery business in 1800 before moving the premises to Atholl Street seven years later. It was his daughter, Margaret, who married Matthew Gloag. She took over the family business from her father in 1824 and ran it until Matthew took control a little over a decade later.

It was in fact Margaret who acquired a license to sell wine and spirits (and snuff) in 1831; Matthew didn’t join the business until 1835 when the name was changed to Matthew Gloag. Margaret died just five years later.

Business in Atholl Street was good; Gloag had a wide knowledge of wines and spirits after managing the cellar of the Sheriff Clerk of Perthshire for more than 30 years. By the time Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Scotland for the first time in 1842 as guests of the Earl of Mansfield, he was given the honour of supplying food and wine to the Earl’s home at Scone Palace near Perth. After the Queen and Prince’s visit, enthusiasm south of the border soon spread for all things Scottish; a market trend that he was keen to exploit.

By the time Matthew Gloag died in 1860, the family business portfolio focused mostly on wines and his son, William Gloag, largely continued this trend.

It wasn’t until Matthew Gloag III inherited the business from William in 1896 that the company registered its first blended Scotch, the Brig o’ Perth. A year later, The Famous Grouse was released at the same time as The Grouse Brand.

Originally, The Famous Grouse was priced lower than the Grouse Brand. In a little over 10 years, the reverse would be true thanks to the popularity of The Famous Grouse. As if to emphasise the family connection, it was Matthew III’s daughter, Phillippa, who drew the very first, and now famous, red grouse that we see on the bottle.

When US Prohibition came into force in January 1920, the Scotch world was dismayed. Economic depression, coupled with high taxation, had forced a high reliance on export markets. However, as was the case with a handful of other blenders, the company’s distribution to markets close to the United States such as Canada, Latin America and the West Indies suddenly shot up. If some shipments made their way into the States, then so be it.

By the 1960s, business had grown to such an extent that exports to America alone had risen to 12 million proof gallons. By 1968 it had risen to 33m. The future was looking rosy for Matthew Gloag & Sons, but just two years later tragedy struck. Both Matthew Frederick Gloag – Matthew Gloag III’s grandson and a major shareholder in the company – and his wife, Edith, passed away within two days of each other.

In the same year Estate Duty was running at 30% on all properties worth over £10,000. These costs, coupled with the death duties due on both his parents, forced Matthew Irving Gloag and his partners to seek a buyer for the company. Just months later Highland Distillers bought the company for £1.25m, although Matthew Irving Gloag remained as a director to continue the family’s involvement.

Highland Distillers’ ownership lasted until November 1999 when The Edrington Group purchased it for £601m. Edrington remains the owner of The Famous Grouse and the Glenturret distillery; which is now home to the visitor attraction, The Famous Grouse Experience.

Since Edrington’s takeover, the process of premiumisation has been on-going at The Famous Grouse. In 2006, the peated Black Grouse was released, followed two years later by Snow Grouse, a blended grain whisky. By 2010, The Naked Grouse was introduced as a premium offering.

In July 2015, while still retaining the traditional Famous Grouse bottling, the company rebranded The Black Grouse as The Famous Grouse Smoky Black, and introduced The Famous Grouse Mellow Gold to create the brand’s first core range.

At the same time a distinctly purple-hued redesign of The Famous Grouse’s packaging was implemented in a bid to premiumise the brand.

Timeline

  • 1800 Joseph Brown opens a grocery shop in Perth
  • 1807 Brown moves the shop to 22 Atholl Street; this becomes the headquarters for The Famous Grouse for 99 years
  • 1817 Margaret Brown, Joseph’s daughter, marries Matthew Gloag
  • 1824 Margaret takes over her father’s business
  • 1835 Matthew Gloag joins his wife full-time at the Atholl Street shop
  • 1842 Matthew Gloag wins the contract to supply food and wine for the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to Perth
  • 1896 William Gloag dies; his nephew, Matthew Gloag III, takes over the business. The Gloags register their first blended Scotch: the Brig o’ Perth
  • 1897 Both The Grouse Brand and The Famous Grouse are launched
  • 1905 The Famous Grouse brand is officially registered to Matthew Gloag and Sons Ltd.
  • 1970 Matthew Frederick Gloag and his wife, Edith, pass away; Highland Distillers buys The Famous Grouse for £1.25m
  • 1984 The Famous Grouse is awarded a Royal Warrant by Queen Elizabeth II
  • 1990 Highland Distillers is taken over by The Edrington Group for £601m
  • 2002 Matthew Irving Gloag retires from the company due to ill health. The last Gloag to be involved in the company, he remains a consultant for life
  • 2006 The Black Grouse is launched
  • 2015 The Famous Grouse’s core range is overhauled and redesigned; Mellow Gold is introduced

Owners

Parent company

Current owner

  • Matthew Gloag & Son

Previous owners

  • Highland Distillers 1970 - 1999
  • Matthew Gloag & Son 1896 - 1970

Contact

Address
The Famous Grouse
West Kinfauns
Perthshire
PH2 7XZ
United Kingdom
Website
Visit Website
Phone
+44 1764 656565
Visitor Opening Hours
Not open to the public

Map

See also

  • Lomond Lomond Lomond Distillery

    Lomond

    The first example of a Lomond still was situated at the Lomond distillery in the Dumbarton complex.

  • Starlaw Starlaw Starlaw Distillery

    Starlaw

    Scotland’s most modern grain distillery.

  • James Buchanan & Company James Buchanan & Company James Buchanan & Company Distiller & blender

    James Buchanan & Company

    One of the ‘Big Five’ producers that grew from a one-man business into a global empire.

  • Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Company Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Company Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Company Independent bottler

    Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky Co

    Perthshire-based independent bottler and owner of Edradour distillery.

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