The year 1897 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.
Long before the Grouse became famous as Scotland’s favourite whisky, a grocer and wine merchant called Matthew Gloag joins his wife Margaret in partnership of Peter McRorie’s grocer shop in Atholl Street Perth. Peter’s business was first established in Perth elsewhere in 1800, this date was later adopted by Matthew’s son and successor of the business as the date of the firm’s foundation. The name of the grocer’s shop is changed to Matthew Gloag and they begin to specialise in wines & spirits. Neither Matthew, nor his son William, would ever know that one day their descendants would create a hugely popular blended whisky.
The first real taste of fame for the Gloag family happened when Perth wine merchant Matthew Gloag was invited to supply the food and wines for a Royal Banquet in Perth’s City Hall for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s first visit to Scotland.
This was a considerable honour given the number of wine merchants in Perth at the time.
After taking over the business in 1896 Matthew Gloag (nephew of William) enters 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 launched his blended whisky in 1897 and called it The Grouse Brand and his daughter Phillippa drew the iconic Red Grouse game bird for the label for the very first time.
More and more patrons are referring to The Grouse Brand as ‘that Famous Grouse’. Clearly one with an eye for marketing, Matthew Gloag takes the decision to ‘rebrand’ – and to do so on ‘The Glorious Twelfth’. At the stroke of midnight on the 12th of August 1905, the name was re-registered as ‘The Famous Grouse Brand’, making ‘The Glorious Twelfth’ the brand’s official birthday.
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, 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 Gloag II 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 brand.
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 3.6 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.