Category Archives: Supermarket Whiskey

Ben Bracken, Triple Pack, Single Malts, 40%

I’m a big fan of miniatures.

The opportunity to try out a range of styles – or in this case regions – before committing to a full bottle is always a treat.

Having said that. I’d already ruled out buying more supermarket own brand labels. They tend to be chill filtered with added caramel & whilst perfectly fine – they lack finesse.

But spotting these miniatures in my local Lidl.

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A tasty trio! c/othewhiskeynut

I couldn’t pass them by.

Nosing the Speyside first – I choose to do Speyside – Highland – Islay starting from mildest to strongest flavours as recommended by many tasting journals – revealed a pleasant easy honeyed malt.

On a blind tasting this would sit well with any big label brand.

The palate was a bit watery & insignificant to begin with – common to all three malts – before a typical Speyside softly sweet & gentle flavour profile presented itself.

There was even a slight dry spice on the short finish.

Not bad at all.

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Which region is your preference? c/othewhiskeynut

The Highland gave a bit more malt biscuity depth to the proceedings.

The Islay – which was my favourite – offered a straight forward satisfying smoky hit.

Each gave a perfectly decent snapshot of the regional styles – perhaps lacking in depth & complexity – but nonetheless an extremely enjoyable way of discerning your palates preferences.

Nice one Aldi!

Slàinte

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Irish Reserve 12 Year Old, Single Malt, 40%

Aldi continue their well received own label Irish Reserve series with a 12 year old single malt.

Tastefully packaged in a light green bottle with a thick neck & cork stopper – Irish Reserve 12 uses the same attractive label design as previous 26yo and similar 4yo offerings.

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Irish Reserve 12yo c/thewhiskeynut

At only €25 – I couldn’t resist.

A golden brown hue in the glass.

Sweet honeyed nose – delicate & restrained.

The palate was soft & warm. No real flavour explosion – just pleasant easy drinking with a gentle drying prickliness at the end.

After the richness & depth of the 26yo – or the fresh graininess of the 4yo – this 12yo left me a tad disappointed.

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Basic info, basic single malt. c/othewhiskeynut

Like a decent Speyside – it was smooth & easy.  Just lacking a certain sparkle or character to engage me.

Having said that – it’s obviously a popular style.  My bottle was the last on the shelf.

Get it while you can!

Slàinte

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Hunter’s Glen, 5 Year Old, Premium Scotch Whisky, Blend, 40%

Random town.

I was away for a few days taking advantage of the fine weather.

Random pub.

Entering a bar for the first time always engenders a sense of excitement.

Random whisky.

You never know what to expect.

Spotting the large green label of Hunter’s Glen on the shelf – it immediately stood out as something I’d not had before.

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Hunter’s Glen Scotch c/othewhiskeynut

Establishing it was Scotch Whisky and not rum – either would have been acceptable – a glass was ordered.

Mmmmmm.

Standard entry level blend material.

Caramelly nose, sweet, smooth & soft with a hint of smoke enlivening an otherwise easy drinking experience.

But who or what is Hunter’s Glen?

The front label states ‘Clydesdale Scotch Whisky Company’, who are part of the Whyte & Mackay group specialising in supermarket blends for Lidl.

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All the way from Greece? c/othewhiskeynut

The back label does mention Lidl, but of Greek origin.

Quite how it ended up in a bar in the West of Ireland is beyond me.

But as a whisky with no pretensions or provenance – I enjoyed it for what it is – a perfectly acceptable everyday sipper with a slightly smoky tingly dryness on the finish.

Sláinte

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Header image courtesy of Irish Times article here.

O’Neill’s Irish Whiskey, Blend, 40%

It seems every time I shop in my local Dunnes store there’s a new Irish Whiskey out!

Sporting what I’d describe as a classic green bottle topped with a red screw cap & traditional looking label – O’Neill’s appears to be a no nonsense style of whiskey.

Proclaiming to be of ‘Fine Spirit’ & ‘Smooth Blended’ the label has minimal information.

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Alfresco whiskey tasting. c/othewhiskeynut

Double Cask Matured is stated – with no mention of which casks – and produced by West Cork Distillers for what I assume is a Dunnes store brand – it made my basket.

And then my Túath glass.

Quite a rich golden hued colour for what I take is a young whiskey.

The nose is rather soft, sweet & honeyed.

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Minimal info c/othewhiskeynut

More engaging on the palate. The sweetness suggests a sherry cask influence – along with bourbon cask maturation – giving a bit of depth & body to the blend.

The grain element gradually kicks in with a little heat & soft prickliness.

A gentle spice rounds off the finish.

O’Neill’s delivers a decent straight down the line blended whiskey experience at an affordable price.

On a back to back with it’s Ardfallen sister, I found O’Neill’s a more sherried & rounded whiskey – making it worth the extra few euro.

Hats off to West Cork!Good Logo

A Blind Whiskey Tasting

I have a few sample jars that go back & forth among some fellow whiskey fans.

It’s a handy way for all to try out unknown bottles before committing to buying – or not as the case may be!

Going blind – in this instance with samples A and C – adds to the fun.

There are no preconceived ideas based on distillery, country, whether caramel has been added or not, or even if it’s a blend, a grain or a single malt offering.

It’s simply 2 measures of whiskey – and your palate.

How much more honest can that be?

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A & C tasting notes before the reveal. c/othewhiskeynut

Sample A 

I found this nice, clean & fresh. A little paler than sample C but an inviting nose with summer fruits tempted me in.

The palate was quite light, reminiscent of sherry cask influence, with a touch of spice & an enjoyably prickly finish which lasted a long time.

A straight down the line decent dram.

Sample C

Darker. Both in terms of colour as well as nose. More stone fruits than summer orchard with a slight funkiness I couldn’t pin down.

The taste was mellower. Charred cask influence perhaps, with a dark sweetness suggestive of rum or port cask maturation.

The finish faded rather quickly. Possibly a more youthful expression.

My choice

Of the 2, Sample C was more intriguing. It suited my palate better & I was keen to find out what it was.

The reveal

Chivas Regal 18
Chivas Regal 18 c/oshopsupervalu.ie

Sample A – Chivas Regal 18 Year Old Blend, 40%

Abrachan
Abrachan Triple Oak Blended Malt c/oLidl

Sample C – Abrachan Blended Malt, 42%

The Abrachan from Lidl at €25 had me better entertained as to what was going on than the more cultured Chivas 18yo at €80!

For further info – the Chivas 18 is a blend of up to 20 different malt & grain whiskies.

The Abrachan is a blended malt aged in charred American oak barrels, sherry casks & port casks. As a non aged statement (NAS) whisky it’s undoubtedly a lot younger than 18 – but for a blind taste comparison it had me hooked.

Congratulations to Lidl!

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The Joy Of Pubs, Teacher’s vs Highland Earl, Blends, 40%

There was an article in the Irish Times the other day about rural development & Gort happened to feature.

Picking up the paper in the town itself after an enjoyable evening topped off the experience.

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Gort in the news. c/othewhiskeynut

The revelry started with a meal at The Gallery Cafe in the Square. A popular spot offering great food & some tasty  beers to boot.

Kinnegar’s Rustbucket Rye Ale washed down my burger delightfully as we chatted outside on the terrace taking advantage of the warm evening sunshine.

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Kinnegar Rye Ale c/oOBriensWine

A bar was selected afterwards & Cummins on Main Street suited us.

Garishly coloured on the outside & embazoned with GAA murals we entered into a trad session being played in the corner by a group of local musicians with a small gathering of drinkers happily tapping along.

teachers-blended-scotch-whisky
Teacher’s c/oMasterOfMalt

The usual whiskey suspects lined the shelves, Powers, Paddys & Jameson being the standards – a Teacher’s was there too and I fancied a peat hit so went with it.

Teacher’s is a well established blend of Scotch Whisky. A bit on the rough & ready side, sweet peat & a little spirity, but you know what you’re getting.

Chatting away I scanned the shelves for something I’d not had before & spotted a couple of bottles half hidden behind others.

Highland Earl Special Reserve was duly ordered on the next round.

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Highland Earl c/othewhiskeynut

Now Highland Earl is an Aldi brand. An entry level one at that too – and I’d hesitated buying one after having a tad too many caramel laden blends in the past – but being in a bar is a fabulous way to sample it.

My first nosing raised a smile.

A decent waft of balanced peat greeted me.

Wasn’t expecting that!

The palate was more mellow & soothing than the Teacher’s. Yes there is added caramel & yes there is probably chill filtering – but then so has Teacher’s.

If anything Highland Earl lived up to it’s – admittedly low level – titled status by being a step up in enjoyment from the recognisable big brand.

Now the bar’s bottle seems to be an old offering. There is no age statement as with the current 3 Year Old release – and a tagline on the label proclaims it to be a 2010 IWSC Winner!

So I can’t vouch if what is on sale now matches the bottle I tried – but what I can say is the Earl entertained me for the rest of the evening!

Oh the joy of pubs & the simple pleasures of a decent peated blend!

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Ardfallen, Premium Blend Irish Whiskey, 40%

Aldi had a surprise in store for me with this recently released Irish Whiskey.

Sporting an attractively embossed label, Ardfallen Irish Whiskey proclaims to be a premium blend – but at only €19 this seems unlikely.

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Premium label for sure! c/othewhiskeynut

I bought it anyway – always keen to try out something new.

The label gives little information; triple distilled, non chill filtered, blend #8 (whatever happened to the other 7?) & ‘Distilled and matured in Cork, Ireland’.

That narrows it down to 2 distilleries – you can choose either East or West Cork – my money is on West.

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Ardfallen back label. c/othewhiskeynut

So what’s it like?

A lovely golden hue.

Has that added caramel nose of an entry level blend – but with a hint of maltiness in the background.

Soft & easy on the palate.

Slowly growing gentle heat builds with a bit of character leaving an engaging prickly tingle.

No real complexity or depth.

Just a pleasant easy going sipper of a whiskey.

Aldi continue to deliver attractively priced enjoyable whiskey.

Sláinte

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Ben Bracken Islay Single Malt, 40%

It’s been well over a year since I first went out to purchase this whisky.

The idea of a budget supermarket branded single malt appealed to me. I had to find out for myself what it tasted like.

Inadvertently I walked into the wrong German supermarket store and came out with Aldi’s Glen Marnoch instead.

Now in this segment of the market you have to accept chill filtering & added caramel. There is no provenance – nor terroir. There isn’t even a Glen Marnoch or Ben Bracken distillery – let alone an actual physical Ben or Glen of the same name to visit. You get what you pay for – entry level single malt.

The Glen Marnoch Islay was fine – a decent hit of peat over a rather hefty dose of  caramel.

I’d actually stopped looking for Ben Bracken.

It’s reach didn’t seem to make it across the Irish Sea – and there were far more entertaining bottles to bring back from the UK.

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Ben Bracken Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

But when it appeared in my local Lidl store in Athlone – I couldn’t really give it a miss. If only to show no favouritism towards either store.

To kick off with there’s that dark ruby mahogany shade of added caramel – but on nosing – a refreshingly clean & clear smack of peat smoke greeted me.

I found it very inviting.

The initial taste was rather soft, watery & almost insipid – but then a big waft of peat just blows in and makes it sort of alright!

My peat baby is coming back to me!

The experience left a softly drying ashiness. Like a warm & cosy seaside fire rolling around on my palate.

I’d rate this higher than Glen Marnoch.

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I get peat! c/othewhiskeynut

The caramel quota isn’t as pronounced – which allows a more powerful & peaty punch to shine through.

There isn’t much else.

It’s rather one dimensional.

But if like me you enjoy a smack of smoke in your glass.

At 25 euro.

I doubt you’d find a more enjoyable peatiness.

Sláinte

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Dolmen Irish Poitín, 40%

The attractively simple & clean design of this Aldi supermarket release matches the clear & fresh taste of the poitín inside.

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Dolmen Irish Poitín c/othewhiskeynut

Dolmens – or portal tombs – are found throughout Ireland. They date from 2,000 to 3,000 years BC and provide an insight into former civilisations that existed in Ireland.

Poitín is also a product of earlier times.

Times when there were no rules or regulations governing alcohol manufacture or consumption and poitín making was a locally based farm activity.

Today it is a growing category in the re-emerging Irish Whiskey scene.

It can be made from any grain – in either pot or column stills – and usually has not been aged in wood for added colour or flavour.

Dolmen Irish Poitín is quite a distinctive style of poitín.

Rather than displaying the somewhat oily & slightly sour taste experience I expect within this genre of spirit – Dolmen portrays a clean & refreshingly sweet bouquet to the nose.

This follows through into the taste which starts off rather soft & mild – easily approachable even – before a slowly warming reassuring heat makes it’s presence felt.

A pleasantly appealing &  palatable poitín.

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Poitín poetry c/othewhiskeynut

There’s a suitable storyline on the back label which combines history, myth, folklore and fancy and – unusually for a supermarket release – the distillery of origin.

Blackwater Distillery.

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Waterford Poitín c/othewhiskeynut

I look forward to future releases from this distillery.

The 21st whiskey distillery in Ireland to recently open for business.

Sláinte

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‘Let’s Go Aldi Way’ Tipperary Watershed, Single Malt 47%

With prices for whiskey going ever upwards – and punters bidding for bottles at eye-watering figures – I can’t but draw similarities to the Dublin housing market.

A market that is excluding the ordinary buyer who is effectively being priced out by speculators with larger pockets who appear to neither live in – nor drink their purchases.

Thank goodness for Aldi entering the market like a breath of fresh air!

Let’s go Aldi Way – to rehash a song.

Aldi have released a quality Irish Single Malt at an affordable price – throughout their Irish stores at least.

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Tipperary Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

It’s not just any old malt either.

It’s from one of the new breed of Irish whiskey companies that are throwing up new faces, new flavours & new styles into the market.

I eagerly queued up to purchase my bottle of Tipperary Watershed Single Malt.

It’s a sourced malt – whilst Tipperary Boutique Distillery plough on with plans to build a distillery on their own farm that provides the water to cut this whiskey down to a pleasing 47% ABV – and will provide the barley for future releases.

The colour is a pale gold with decent legs on show.

A fresh, lively, slightly metallic nose with hints of vanilla greets you.

A lovely warming mouthfeel pulls you in with more vanilla & caramel from the bourbon cask maturation.

There’s some enjoyable warming heat towards the finish which goes a pleasingly long way with the higher ABV presentation delivering a satisfying prickly sensation on the palate.

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A glass of Watershed c/othewhiskeynut

A great introductory malt from the Tipperary Boutique Distillery.

And a great single malt to pick up whilst doing your weekly shopping.

I commend both Tipperary Boutique Distillery and Aldi for pushing the Irish Whiskey category forward.

Long may it last.

Sláinte.

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