Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Diageo. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Today the Grand Old Parr brand is part of Diageo’s portfolio, but its origins date back to when brothers James and Samuel Greenlees established themselves as London whisky dealers and blenders in 1871. And what better way to celebrate aged whiskey than to name it after the semi-legendarily aged Old Tom Parr? Parr was an Englishman reputed to have lived through the entirety of the 16th century and then some. There is reason to doubt the truth of the claim that Tom Parr lived over a century and a half, but no shortage of theories (ranging from the superior constitution granted by country living to a mix up with his grandfather’s birth certificate) to explain how or why he did. While Tom Parr’s age is disputed, his existence is well documented; including by his portrait, painted by Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens, which graces today’s bottle of Grand Old Parr.
The Greenlees’ began distributing their blend of aged whisky bearing the name Ancient Old Parr in 1909 ( “Ancient” was dropped in favor of “Grand” in 1941) with an eye to the global market. Those global exports paid off for the Parr brand–establishing shipments to Latin America in 1921, the brand continues to enjoy popularity there, with the majority of their global sales coming from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Distribution in Europe and the United States has been limited since the 80s, but that is about to change as Diageo has recently resumed stateside distribution. “As a brand with rich history in Latin America that goes back generations, we’re excited to officially bring Old Parr Aged 18 Years to the U.S., inviting fans to elevate their celebrations with friends and family and raise a glass with our newest liquid,” says Meghan Redler, Brand Manager, in a prepared statement.
The base of the blend comes from Cragganmore, and comes in a dappled-textured bottle reminiscent of the tavern bottles of distant times.
Tasting Notes: Grand Old Parr 18 Year Old
Vital Stats: 80 proof, 18 year age statement, average price of $68.
Appearance: Golden color. A little thinner than I’d expected, but still a solid medium body. The legs are smooth and look a touch oily in the best possible way.
Nose: Roasted cashews and a hint of distant smoke.
Palate: Bright, creamy vanilla, right at the outset that sweetens into a sort of dried-fruit medley. The roasted nut flavors from the nose return on the finish, but more as a honey-roast peanut than cashew. While sipping, my mind wandered as I tried to dream up the perfect trail mix.
The low proof of the bottling allows for the option to linger on Old Parr’s thinned but pleasantly oily consistency. The downside of this is that marketing claims about the “robust complexity” of Old Parr 18 overstate things considerably. Perhaps due to the low-proof bottling the flavors are more clear-cut than I’d expect from an 18 year age statement, but enjoyable nonetheless.
The average price of $68 is a bit of an overpay, but there’s plenty to like here and nothing at all to dislike. Single malt enthusiasts won’t be blown away, but the easy-drinking and accessible flavors here make for a great pour for a developing palate.