The year 1896 was an immensely important one in the history of whisky, because that was the year in which Perthshire grocer and wine merchant Matthew Gloag first created his very special blend. Unconventional from the start, he named his unique whisky after the iconic Scottish game bird, rather than himself. And so the Grouse Brand was born.
Over 200 years ago, long before the Grouse became famous as Scotland’s favourite whisky, a grocer and wine merchant called Matthew Gloag & Son was founded in Perth. Neither Matthew, nor his son William, would ever know that one day their descendants would create a hugely popular blended whisky, so instead they contented themselves with becoming very successful at selling wines and spirits.
The first real taste of fame for the Gloag family happened when Perth wine merchant Matthew Gloag was invited to supply the wine for a banquet for Queen Victoria on her first visit to the royal Scone Palace in Perth.
Being chosen to serve the royal presence was a huge honour, so Matthew Gloag would certainly have made the most of it.
In this year, another Matthew Gloag (nephew of William) took over the business and entered the flourishing market for blended whiskies. To meet the demands of the growing number of wealthy Victorian tourists, Matthew decided to create a very special whisky for discerning customers. He called it The Grouse Brand and his daughter Phillippa drew the iconic Red Grouse game bird for the label for the very first time.
Because Matthew Gloag really knew what he was doing when it came to blending whiskies, the Grouse Brand featured an unsurpassed combination of carefully chosen fine grain whiskies with some equally exceptional malts. Consequently, its taste, flavour and bouquet made it one of the most celebrated blended whiskies of its time. In fact the whisky was so popular that Matthew quite rightly decided to add the word ‘famous’ to the name. And so it became The Famous Grouse Brand.
The Famous Grouse became so successful that the company had to spread its wings and re-locate to bigger, purpose built facilities in Perth, called Bordeaux House. Things can start to move very quickly when you become famous and that’s exactly what was happening to Matthew Gloag & Son, as they began to expand to cope with the extra demand for their whisky. These are the kind of ‘problems’ that every business wants to be faced with.
The name ‘Matthew’ was obviously very popular with the Gloag family, because as Matthew the younger retired, his son, Matthew William Gloag then took over the business.
This latter Matthew was universally known as ‘Willie’, which helped to make life a little easier for people writing biographies of the Gloag family.
Highland Distillers Ltd, an independent Scottish company who knew a good thing when they saw one, acquired Matthew Gloag & Son.
In 1970, Highland Distillers Ltd was recognised as being one of the leading companies in the Scotch whisky market, so their skills and experience were the perfect match for the already well-proven popularity of The Famous Grouse.
With the substantial resources of Highland Distillers Ltd behind it, The Famous Grouse grew to become Scotland’s favourite, best-selling whisky.
From the 1980’s onwards the brand was also exported overseas, where it now sells in excess of 2 million cases every year and in 1984 it was awarded the Royal Warrant.
The Famous Grouse Experience opened to the public at The Glenturret distillery in Crieff. It provides a unique and involving story of the history of whisky and how whisky is made, and won a BAFTA interactive entertainment award shortly after opening.
The Glenturret, Scotland’s oldest distillery, was made an even more fascinating place to visit with the addition of The Famous Grouse Experience.
The Famous Grouse team developed a revolutionary promotion that remains a benchmark of ingenuity, reinforcing the brand’s premium status and capturing the imagination of consumers, retailers, international markets and the media alike. Making a claim to fame a reality, the team created the ‘Personal Touch’ concept, enabling consumers to personalise the bottle with their (or someone else’s) name, like ‘The Famous Dad’ or ‘The Famous Hugh’.
The Bothy restaurant in Perth opened The Famous Grouse Bar. The Bothy was formerly known as Bordeaux House, the previous headquarters of Matthew Gloag & Son, who founded The Famous Grouse. To mark the historic link, the restaurant renamed its Wee Bar as ‘The Famous Grouse Bar’ and its private dining room as ‘The Matthew Gloag Room’.
The Grouse bird has always been at the heart of The Famous Grouse brand, never moreso than in 2010 when it took pride of place on the bottle in the launch of a new pack.
The Grouse statue was gifted to the people of Perth to mark the end of a huge celebration of ‘City’ status for over 800 years.
Situated at The Broxden roundabout, it’s fitting that the statue faces Perth, home to The Famous Grouse.