Grand Old Parr 12-Year Blended Scotch Whisky is a surprisingly complex lower-priced blended scotch whisky with notes of honey and dried fruit and a heavy oak influence.
Classification blended scotch whisky
Distillery A blend of several distilleries (predominantly Cragganmore), blended and bottled in Leven, Fife
Cask Undisclosed, but a variety are represented and there are almost certainly some sherry cask components, based on the flavor profile.
Still Type a combination of still types, predominantly flat-top copper pot stills
Proof 80 (40% ABV)
Aged 12 years
More complex than expected
Pleasant notes of honey, stewed fruit and baking spices
Fans of single malts will appreciate the apparent dominant contribution to the blend.
Unlikely to work in cocktails
Not overly complex from start to finish
The finish leaves something to be desired, with an acrid oak bite being the dominant note.
Color: Rich gold
Nose: Warm honey is fairly dominant, with a bit of a medicinal funk. Light floral and spice notes appear as it opens up, and there is a slightly overpowering oak note.
Palate: It opens a bit sweet, hot with a hint of spice and oak. On the mid-palate it is medium-to-full-bodied and chewy with notes of orange, nutmeg, dried fruit, and spice. There are likely some significant sherry cask components. And in fact Cragganmore (a primary single malt component) involves sherry-cask aging for its 12-year. Under the oak are more cooked fruit and baking spice notes.
Finish: A bit brash, with a heavier-than-expected oak component for a 12-year. Many of the more complex flavor notes vanish pretty quickly, but the oak bite lingers. The result is a strange combination of a clean, short finish at the top of the throat, but a lingering, slightly acrid finish towards the base of the throat.
There are a large number of whiskies (and whiskeys) that fly under the radar, even in today’s heightened drinking culture. Brands that have been around for a century or more often sit toward the bottoms or backs of the shelves and don’t seem to receive much attention from publicists or writers but have dedicated long-time followings. Old Overholt and Old Granddad ryes were like this until they were “discovered” by cocktail bartenders.
Grand Old Parr has been around in some form or another since 1909 (the name changing from Ancient Old Parr to Grand Old Parr in 1941). Though it’s blended and bottled in Scotland, it’s no longer sold in the U.K., but you can almost certainly find an old drinker in a dive bar in the U.S. or Latin America who has been sipping the brand since the 1960s or ’70s. You’ll also find young drinkers new to the world of scotch whisky enjoying it as an affordable alternative to more popular brands like Johnnie Walker.
These days, it’s owned by Diageo and features a blend of single malts and grain whiskies, particularly from the Cragganmore and Glendullan distilleries. It’s blended and bottled at one of Diageo’s high-production plants in Leven, a seaside town in Scotland, not far from Edinburgh.
So it’s understandable if your expectations of the bottle aren’t high. But Old Parr manages to surprise, pleasantly. It’s more complex than the similarly priced Johnnie Walker Red Label (also owned by Diageo), in which alcohol notes seem to dominate and the peated component (pleasant in the Black and Blue Labels) seems to distract from a fairly simple blend.
Old Parr starts off with a nice hit of sweet spice and oak and delivers a great mouthfeel with a medium-bodied, chewy whiskey. The single malt seems to dominate the blend and sherry-influenced notes of dried fruit and cinnamon-nutmeg balance the honey-and-grain notes of the other components. If there were a negative, it’s that the oak is overpowering for a 12-year. It’s noticeable from start to finish, but more in that tannic bite and cheap cigar way that can happen with over-aged products, rather than in a caramel or vanilla influence.
Because of these potent flavors, it seems unlikely Old Parr 12-year would blend well into cocktails. It’s best sipped, shot, or poured over ice. One notable exception is a highball with plenty of ice and soda water. Not only is it refreshing, but it helps cut some of the oakiness.
The name is in honor of Old Tom Parr, a character in British history who lived during the 16th and 17th centuries. He is known for being the oldest man in English history, having reportedly died at age 152.
The Bottom Line
For the price, you’re getting a fairly complex, satisfying blended scotch whisky, with few of the overly sweet or plain-alcohol characters that come with some lower-priced blended scotches.