The liberating swap

Bramble Bar in Edinburgh has taken part in a bar swap, sponsored by Naked Grouse, with two well-known watering holes in Taiwan
By Christopher Coates
Bottles bearing the name Naked Grouse first hit the shelves in 2011, in a famously unlabelled (hence ‘naked’) clear bottle with the brand’s iconic grouse mascot debossed in the glass. The liquid inside was apparently Famous Grouse’s standard blend that had then been filled into first fill sherry casks for further maturation. It’s unclear whether this was originally intended to be a short finishing period to simply impart some punchy sherry wine notes or a secondary maturation period that would impart the full benefits of Edrington’s much-lauded made-to-order sherry seasoned casks.

However, while touring Grouse’s former brand home distillery, Glenturret, a few years ago, it was noted that there were a great many casks on site containing liquid destined for Naked Grouse that had been enjoying secondary maturation for more than seven years, which suggests that the project was planned a while.

Though an interesting proposition, and one that was generally well received by seasoned whisky drinkers (in his blind tasting review for issue #99, our editor described it as ‘a tour de force of blending’), the expression never really took off and sat somewhat awkwardly within the range. In truth, it would be another few years until the Naked Grouse would fully fledge.

In 2017, the brand was pulled from the Famous Grouse family, set up as an independent brand and reformulated as a blended malt that shared its predecessor’s sherry oak cask maturation, this time for the full extent of its ageing.

Originally relaunched for Taiwan and other selected on-trade markets, Naked Grouse seems to be the Edrington Group’s response to the phenomenal growth of the blended malt sector (read: the phenomenal success of Monkey Shoulder). Importantly, this a product with a distinct flavour profile that does not compete directly with the category leader.

The new brand’s focus on the on-trade has seen the launch of the LiBARating Swap, a bar swap initiative that has seen bartenders from Dandelyan in London, Indulge in Taipei, The Checkered Record Club (TCRC) in Tainan, Imperial in Tel Aviv, Bramble in Edinburgh, Ruby in Copenhagen, and Red Frog in Lisbon trade places and learn about popular whisky serves in their respective nations through guest shifts and interactive seminars.

With a focus on ‘The Future of Whisky Cocktails’, the Edinburgh seminar was characterised by discussion of low-ABV serves, unconventional flavour pairings, and regionally appropriate ingredients. The cocktails overleaf were created with the latter themes in mind by the visiting bartenders from two of Taiwan’s preeminent cocktail establishments, Indulge and TCRC.

Naked Tea
Created by Ellen Su at Indulge

  • 20ml Naked Grouse
  • 30ml Tung-Ting Oolong Tea liqueur
  • 10ml Suze
  • 3 drops Jerry Thomas Bitters

    Stir down ingredients with ice, strain and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.

    Orange peel and tea jelly.

    Pie Pine Apple
    Created by Yi-Che Liao at TCRC

  • 30ml Naked Grouse

  • 10ml Frangelico

  • 30ml clarified pineapple milk
  • 15ml winter melon syrup

    Stir down ingredients with ice, strain and serve in a chilled rocks glass over block ice.

    A piece of honeycomb.

    Naked's Forest
    Created by Yi-Che Liao at TCRC

  • 30ml Naked Grouse

  • 5ml Hinoki spirit

  • 40ml clarified apple juice
  • 10ml ginger lily syrup

    Stir down ingredients with ice, strain and serve in a chilled stemless wine glass.

    Three dashes of truffle oil.