Category Archives: Supermarket Whiskey

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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Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, 5.9%

There has been a profusion of barrel aged beers on the market lately.

I welcome this development.

It adds a new flavour profile to both the beer industry – as well as the returning beer barrels being used to flavour new whiskeys.

The Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale wouldn’t be the best example according to my tastes.

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Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale c/othewhiskeynut

The bourbon effect is somewhat muted – perhaps not long enough in the barrel? – and the fizz is more suitable for a lager rather than the heavy ale style I enjoy.

There is no mention of who collaborated to bring about this ale.

Alltech are the importers into Europe and although they posses both breweries and distilleries in Kentucky – they haven’t put their name on the product. Yet a trip to their website here does show it as one of their own.

I picked a bottle up in my local SuperValu.

Handy when doing the shopping.

The ale reminds me of an old song.

It just lacks the flavour punch I crave.

Sláinte.

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Irish Reserve, 4 Year Old, Blend, 40%

You have to hand it to Aldi and their whiskey.

Last Year’s Xmas Special Irish Reserve 26 Year Old set the internet alight with whiskey fans scouring both Ireland and the UK to find a bottle of the gorgeous liquid.

They’ve followed this up with another Irish Reserve bottling – albeit a much more down to earth 4 year old at only €19.

It may not have the kudos of the 26 – but I had to give it a go.

The bottle comes in an attractive green colour topped with a red screw cap. The label is very similar to the 26 year old.

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Irish Reserve 4yo in a Tuath glass. c/othewhiskeynut

There is very little information given. It’s an Irish whiskey and it’s 4 years old. That’s all it really needs to say. If you want more information – expect to pay more.

What it doesn’t say is probably more revealing.

It doesn’t say it’s a blend, nor non chill filtered nor if added caramel is used – so presume it’s all three of these. At only €19 – what else are you looking for?

The nose is suitably mellow. A hint of sweet corn initially – that grainy clarity  – before those familiar vanilla & caramel notes from ex-bourbon cask maturation kick in.

The taste is grand. Smooth, sweet, no real bite at only 40%, yet a pleasant mouthfeel & soft notes from the 4 years in wooden barrels.

The finish didn’t last too long – but left a lovely warmth on the palate.

There’s no complexity or depth here.

It is what it is.

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The bare minimum. c/othewhiskeynut

An easy drinking straight forward honest to goodness 4 year old bourbon cask matured Irish whiskey.

I’d happily drink this bottle as an everyday sipper – unlike some other single malts from similar shelves.

Good on Aldi and the team behind this whiskey.

It sets the benchmark for what a no frills Irish whiskey should be.

It provides a standard to compare other – usually higher priced – bottles against. To check whether if you know the distillery of origin or not, whether it’s chill filtered or not & whether added caramel is used or not you can taste the difference.

For the money I enjoyed it a lot.

It even made me smile.

Isn’t that what drinking whiskey is all about?

Sláinte.

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Slieve Foy 8 Year Old Single Malt, 40%

Supermarket Single Malts come in many varieties.

There can be the bargain basement headline grabbing Glen Marnochs & Ben Brackens.

There can be the annually anticipated Lidl/Aldi Xmas Specials which can be of high age statement, low cost and surprisingly great quality to boot.

And then there is Marks & Spencer’s Single Malt.

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M&S Supermarket Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

M&S always go the extra mile.

To begin with they name the distillery that produced the malt – Cooley – even although it’s not a legal requirement. They also inform the discerning drinker caramel colouring is added – also not a legal requirement. And they package the liquid in a very attractive bottle providing a piece of prose about the rich folk lore contained within the local area the whiskey is from – as well as a clever back label that evokes the mountainous landscape of the region.

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Slieve Foy & Tuath Glass c/othewhiskeynut

And what a stunning region it is too.

Slieve Foy Whiskey is named after the majestic mountain of the same name that dominates the landscape of the Carlingford Peninsular. Despite Cooley Distillery not having a visitors centre – that is the role of the pretty Kilbeggan Distillery of the Beam/Suntory group that owns both facilities – a trip to this fabulous part of the country is highly recommended.

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Looking down on Carlingford Lough & Northern Ireland from Slieve Foy’s slopes c/othewhiskeynut

A hearty arduous ascent of Slieve Foy itself is rewarded by jaw dropping views of the clear blue waters of Carlingford Lough below – as well as the rounded tops of the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland in the distance.

You can replenish your energy afterwards by dining out in one of Carlingford towns many bars – not forgetting a drop of the hard stuff!

So what is the whiskey like?

Well – unlike the rugged countryside – Slieve Foy exhibits a soft, sweet malty nose.

A gentle introduction to a very easy approachable – slips down smoothly – bourbon cask matured single malt.

It’s well balanced – the added caramel doesn’t dominate like other offerings – and there are no rough edges to this very pleasant malt.

The whiskey leaves a warm glow at the end – along with a soft spice – much like the open fire in a suitable Carlingford town bar after a strenuous day on the hills.

Cooley built it’s reputation and business producing 3rd party bottlings. Slieve Foy 8 Year Old is a fine representation of that business.

I look forward to many more representations emanating from the Great Northern Distillery – the successor to Cooley after the sale to Beam – as well as West Cork Distillers – who are both in the business of supplying the supermarkets with malt for the masses.

Long may it last.

Sláinte.

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Glen Marnoch Speyside Single Malt, 40%.

As part of their Father’s Day promotions Aldi have brought to the Irish market the award winning Glen Marnoch range of Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

I’ve tried the Islay expression before here. The peat just managed to break through the caramelly sludge to make it a worthwhile bargain purchase – and the Highland bottle interested me next – but all that was on the shelves of my local Athlone store happened to be the Speyside Single Malt.

Now Speyside whiskies are among the biggest selling single malts in the world. They have universal appeal. They are approachable easy drinking & relatively mild. That equates to a lack of any bold flavours in my book and I wouldn’t be a fan.

With that caveat in mind – what did I find?

Caramel. Lots of it. The dominant note I got reminded me of a corn based blend – yet this is a 100% barley malt. Added caramel – or e150 if you like – is often made with dehydrated corn – so maybe that’s what I’m picking up.

It certainly is soft & approachable – no rough edges here – with a smidgen of fruity notes appearing towards the end.  A pleasing warm burn gently caresses the palate on the finish.

For the price – added caramel & chill filtration are the norm – the name of the distillery is also not stated either – you get what you pay for.

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Supermarket whiskeys c/othewhiskeynut

Having said that – over in rivals Lidl – the Dundalgan Charred Cask Irish Whiskey sells for the same price.

It’s also soft & approachable. It has a far more warming – even inviting – bourbon vanilla & caramel nose  – and packs more flavour too. All this from a blend.

For a fiver more you get the Dundalgan 10 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey.

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All you need to know. c/othewhiskeynut

Compared to the Speyside this is in a different league.

It’s cleaner, crisper, packs more flavour, more fruit & has a far more balanced appeal about it altogether.

Even in the bargain basement range there are enjoyable drinking experiences.

Not something I can say about the Glen Marnoch Speyside.

Slàinte.

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Dundalgan 10 Year Old Single Malt, 40%

Mindful I’ve been bigging up the excellent Aldi 26yo Irish Reserve. In the interests of fairness & partiality I couldn’t leave out seeing what the other German retailer Lidl had to offer on the whiskey front.

The pre-christmas special on the shelves seemed to be their own label Dundalgan 10yo Single Malt – which I eventually got round to sampling.

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Lidl 10yo SM & Charred Cask blend c/othewhiskeynut

Being a supermarket release – I’m not expecting ‘non chill-filtered’ anywhere on the label. Nor am I expecting any sense of provenance – let alone the name of the field or even the variety of barley used for the terroir.

What I am expecting to find is exactly what it says on the rather plain & simple label.

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All you need to know. c/othewhiskeynut

At 30 euro – what else would you be looking for other than the basic legal requirements?

Oh! It does add ‘aged in bourbon casks’ – but there is no mention of added caramel – (which is probably in there) – nor the distillery that made it – (Cooley would be my guess) – because it doesn’t have to. If you want that kind of information – buy something else.

On the nose it’s very inviting. Soft, smooth, the usual vanilla & caramel notes, whilst Mrs Whiskey found pleasant floral aromas with hints of orange & spice.

It didn’t disappoint on tasting either. A very easy mellow vanilla to begin with, hints of maltiness, followed by a lovely growing heat with just a dash of peppery spice to give it a lift.

A rather gentle medium finish rounded off this extremely pleasant & easy drinking single malt.

It doesn’t have the depth of the Aldi 26yo – but then it’s under half it’s age and 60% the price – and I certainly found the Dundalgan 10yo surprisingly enjoyable.

If only all supermarket whiskeys were this good!

A cheeky little number from Lidl.

Sláinte.

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