So if I'm not mistaken, Grouse makes up a fair portion of Walker. With that in mind, I've tried Famous Grouse and found it meh, not particularly bad, but nothing overly interesting either. Then there's Black Grouse, which I guess is their darker richer older version. I recently picked up a limited edition bottle called Black Grouse Alpha, on sale locally for $35 at which price I figured it was worth a shot. I found is surprisingly and easy drinker. Now I can't compare it to $70-80 single malts, that wouldn't be fair, but I had assumed I'd be getting something similar to say JW Black for $35 and I don't have a huge amount of experience so take this with a grain of peat, but basically yes, I had some again last night and came to the same conclusion as the first time I had this. It's got a bit of smoke with a quick clean finish, slightly sharp, and while not creating that wonderful experience of single malts, it's certainly a good basic drinker that I'd be fine with my newbie friends overpouring. In a blind test, I don't think it'd be that far off from Walker Black and at the price its really not too shabby. No need to rush out for it, and I wouldn't pay any more than the $30-35 mark, but there you are, a very basic review.
later into the night I tried a few others... now I don't think Irish whiskys get much air time here, and again this could just be my unrefined palate, but I've had Bushmills several times and it's really not that bad, especially for the price, and to me anyway, more importantly it's a different kind of flavor from most of the Scottish stuff I've been trying. If you're a Scotch person and are adventurous enough to want to try Rye, Bourbon, Canadian Whiskey, etc, then don't be shy to test out a few Irish Whiskys. Look they're no single malts, but they have their place. I think I'll get some Bushmills next time I see it, just for some variety's sake.
Memorable drink of the night (at a friends house no less) was a smoked Manhattan. Glass lined with bitters, then turned and placed over smoking woodchips for a few minutes, then poured in the Manhattan and ice and cherry. Opening is sweetness, then alcohol kick, and long into the finish that smoked wood taste. Not a complicated variation but certainly a nice one.
Then I mixed myself a hodge-podge nightcap, a random idea from random bottles that needed to be finished. I mixed chocolate bitters and creme de cassis, grand marnier, goldschlager, and a dash of vanilla extract. Shook with ice and milk. The theory was a chocolate orange drink with cinnamon and vanilla hints. proportions were off but the general idea was there. Came out too bitter and the milk wasn't thick enough to smoothen it out so in future I would have skipped the chocolate bitters since there was already creme cassis, added more goldschlager, and used a bit of cream or even frothed it some like in a brandy Alex.