Food & Drinks

Famous Grouse Whisky Gets a New Look

Derek Brown
Derek Brown Edrington’s regional director for Africa. PHOTO| WENDY WATTA | NMG 

The whisky business is growing and while the average drinker around the world tends to be older and male, it is interesting that in Kenya, Famous Grouse is drunk by mainly young and female consumers.

“It’s an easy-to-drink, well-rounded scotch whisky and that’s generally because of the cherry casks that we use to mature it,” Derek Brown, the Edrington’s regional director for Africa said during an interview at Villa Rosa Kempinski, Nairobi.

‘‘This rise in consumers under 30 years is also prevalent in market such as Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Tanzania,’’ added Mr Brown who is in Kenya to relaunch the blended Scotch whisky brand.

Edrington plans to update Famous Grouse's packaging with ‘‘refreshed and innovative labelling. The relaunch is happening globally.

‘‘It would be unfortunate if Kenyans travelled to other markets like the UK or Sweden and saw that the packaging was different from what they have back home,” Mr Brown said.


Famous Grouse aims to increase consumption among Kenyans who drink about 20,000 cases of the blended scotch whisky every year.

According to Mr Brown, South Africa remains their main African market with about 50,000 cases consumed every year.

“The brand is well known and established particularly in Nairobi. We're the number two leading whisky here,” said Mr Brown who has worked with Edrington for the past 22 years and has been at the helm of the sub-Saharan African market for the past three years.

In Kenya, Famous Grouse is distributed by Wines of the World.

‘‘The whisky is only produced and bottled in Scotland then sent to over 100 markets around the world. Having an exclusive distributor allows us to get local insight on consumer trends and how the market is developing. It also helps us deal with stock coming in from other parts of the world when they shouldn’t, or if there is any counterfeit,” said Mr Brown.

He added that other markets in growth are Nigeria and West Africa in general, but the company has a keen focus on opening up new markets.

Famous Grouse

The Famous Grouse whiskey. FILE PHOTO | NMG

When to drink

Consumers from different African nations drink their Famous Grouse on different occasions.

In Kenya, it is more on trade oriented, or as Mr Brown aptly put it, “for well deserved moments”.

He noted that Kenyans like to drink the whisky when they go to bars to watch football or before and after a meal at a restaurant.

In South Africa, he has observed that it is much more off trade, with people preferring to take it at home, for instance, drunk while having a braai (barbecue) with friends.

As for how to enjoy your scotch whisky, he is quick to reiterate that the brand cannot dictate any one method to consumers but he does have his personal preferences.

“Depends on the occasion. If I’m cooking at home on a Sunday, I’ll have a bottle open and drink it with soda, I might take it with a little water or ice after a meal. We have an on trade mixed drink called the ginger grouse which is Famous Grouse topped with ginger ale or ginger beer, a squeezed wedge of lime and lots of ice, and that’s a fantastic drink when I’m out with friends or going to watch sports,” he said.

“What I don’t like is when you get a cocktail and can’t taste the Famous Grouse in it.”

New drinks

For years, Edrington’s Famous Grouse has been one of the world’s top-selling blends. The whisky is named after the red grouse which is the national game bird of Scotland.

Famous Grouse also has a royal connection evidenced by the Royal Warrant on the label which Mr Brown describes as an emblem of The House of Windsor, an official stamp if you may. Only brands consumed within the royal household get to have it and this is reevaluated every couple of years.

On future plans, Mr Brown said that Edrington has two exciting new products in the works. One is a smooth cherry-influenced blended malt called The Naked Grouse while the other is limited edition cask series that should be rolled out once a year for the next three years.