Black grouse Tetrao tetrix, adult male on lek. Corrimony RSPB reserve. Scotland.

The Famous Grouse

The RSPB and the Famous Grouse first started to work together in 2005, when they collaborated over the production of a 'Famous' grouse pin badge, sold at The Famous Grouse Experience in Crieff to raise funds for RSPB conservation work.

Working together

Collaboration grew to include the production of a unique red grouse soft toy, which was also sold at the centre and which donated £1 per sale to the RSPB.

From these small beginnings, the relationship has grown steadily. The partnership was firmly cemented in 2006 when The Famous Grouse became a Corporate Patron of the RSPB. At this time, the company was developing a new brand of whisky – The Black Grouse, which is now known as The Famous Grouse Smoky Black, a blend of The Famous Grouse with Islay single malts to create a smoky, peaty 'premium blend' whisky.

Red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus) walking, Cairngorm National Park, Highlands, Scotland

The aim

Developed initially for the Scandinavian market, and launched there successfully in 2007, The Famous Grouse was looking for a marketing angle to introduce the whisky into the UK market, and took the unusual decision for PR to be the primary method of communication used to launch and drive this product.

Like The Famous Grouse, which displays an image of the red grouse on its bottle, The Famous Grouse Smoky Black depicts the black grouse. However, unlike the red grouse, the black grouse is seriously under threat in the UK. Once a common sight throughout the UK, this magnificent bird has declined dramatically and is now only found in isolated pockets.

The problem is so serious that in Scotland, the Scottish Government has officially recognised it as one of the highest priority species for conservation action.

Raise a glass

In an effort to save its namesake from further decline, The Famous Grouse formed a unique partnership with the RSPB to raise funds for essential black grouse conservation work, creating the first ever partnership of its kind in the industry to save one of the UK's rarest birds from national extinction. 

The whisky first went on sale in Sainsbury's in June 2008, and can now be found in most supermarkets, off-licences, pubs, clubs and bars around the UK. The Famous Grouse are currently generously donating £50,000 per year to the RSPB to fund habitat restoration work on seven RSPB reserves in Scotland, Northern England and Wales.

A partnership between The RSPB and The Famous Grouse 

The two organisations have worked closely together at a number of mass audience events around the country promoting the whisky through tasting and sampling sessions, which have not only proved popular with the public, but have also proved to have the biggest conversion rate of all the PR methods! This collaboration has evolved to a new level with the creation of 10 fully trained RSPB Black Grouse Ambassadors. Our in-house whisky experts bring a taste of conservation to events around the UK, offering sampling at RSPB stands.

The PR and media teams for both organisations have worked well together and have managed to obtain a significant amount of media coverage in various newspapers and publications based on the conservation story behind the whisky.

The brand and its conservation benefit has also been promoted to the RSPB's staff and million-strong membership to great effect via intranet articles and through the RSPB's membership magazine, Nature's Home, helping to boost sales amongst a willing audience!

Such has been the success of the brand since its launch in the UK that since 2008, it has raised more than £650,000 for black grouse conservation. This is an amazing achievement and both organisations are looking forward to continuing the relationship into the future.