This is a fault in the timeline but a good session is worth sharing at any time. It’s likely there won’t be a Malt n Copper meet for a while [given the ‘C’ word situation], so let’s look back to a [now ironically titled] So – we’re back tasting that had been in the making since 2015. One night in September 2019 we compared current market-priced official bottlings to significantly cheaper & older [undisclosed] Aldi/Lidl releases.
Our host starts with the question ‘Who’s bought whisky from Aldi or Lidl?”. A third of hands go up. Significant numbers indeed!
This was a no-brainer purchase at its original price, a 28yo Tamnavulin for £50. How much is Balblair’s current official 25yo again, or 28yo Laphroaig?
- N: A quiet nose centred around [sherried] raisins, a touch fudgy and with hints of – smoke or char – I can’t decide.
- T: There’s an oaky body and certainly a touch more char.
- F: Big~short finish that clearly reflects the influence of an oloroso cask finish. Imagine the re-racking task?! Concludes with congealed sherry [Glenalba style-y].
- C: Dismissed by many, with a little bit of everything there’s more to this than first meets the eye.
Scores 84 points
Tamnavulin Sherry Cask Edition  Ob. 40% WB83.35
By comparison, next up is currently Tamnavulin’s only official release – a NAS malt typically priced at around £32 in the UK, yet only €23 in Germany. Du glückspilz!
- N: Tropical/detergent-y fruitiness becoming huskier with oily barley juice later on.
- T: Light yet sharp/edgy and slightly anaemic to begin with. But wait! Soon we’ve creamy marzipan, white chocolate and [more] husky now sweet barley syrup.
- F: That sweetness on the turn becomes more crystallised and confectionery towards the tail. Concludes with a funny sweet metallic/industrial creaminess.
- C: Not too shabby. It’s easy to imagine the combination of price & curiosity will shift stocks. Hard to draw useful comparisons with the all-together-different Ben Bracken, aside from the 28yo shines brighter.
Scores 81 points
We move onto a Glenfiddich pair starting with the significantly older expression at the minimum abv.
Ralfy [13:17] tells us he thinks this is Glenfiddich. £40 for a 29yo expression sounds more than alright! How much would an official 29yo Glenfiddich go for I wonder?
- N: Sweetish sour to bitter lemon and dry clay.
- T: With more bitting lemon, it starts off a bit rough but sweetens before quirkily settling sweet n sour. I think that’s a typo. Read: ‘but sweetens before quickly settling sweet n sour’.
- F: Short with vague icecream-accompanied hints of the above.
- C: Last time I had it at 78 [WLP]. Today, I’ll stretch to two more. I’m not sure comparisons with the contemporary expressions are going to be easy tonight, especially when this one reads more like a Dalwhinnie. Then there’s the age difference.
Scores 80 points
Matured in an array of casks [virgin, refill US, Euro,…] before being married in a solera vat, this offering is currently £60 or less [at time of writing], for a litre.
- C: Appropriately for Glenfiddich, an easy drinker. In the main, we’ve an affordable contemporary/STR-vibe well-engineered whisky that shares a stylistic similarity to the Tamnavulin, though examples of this [becoming rapidly tedious] style from distilleries globally are numerous. At 15yo, it comes across far younger.
Scores 80 points
Our last pairing is Dalwhinnie. Again, the oldie first. A cunning order that is sympathetic to abv, a potential ‘banana skin’ when wanting to keep the tasting a mildly semi-blind affair, and finally, to give the oldies a chance against the potentially more vibrant contemporary malts.
This Glen Marnoch is a 1988 vintage 29yo Dalwhinnie originally priced at £50. Think what 29yo whisky from your favourite distilleries would retail at?
- N: The nose talks of a light [chicken] meatiness, old man [not ye from Huy], toasted Shreddies, creamy lemon meringue, rubbery-waxy PU-leather, candy cake sweets. That’ll do ya.
- T: Another edgy/low abv-stricken arrival which turns out just fine. After a slow start, it comes through barley citrus-sweet with a light meatiness.
- F: Is that smoke, not sure? Otherwise, we’ve an icing sugar/barley sugar creamy emulsion finish.
- C: With hindsight, I can see the family resemblance. In my mind, no better or worse than the official Dalwhinnie 15. Much like Glenmorangie, I find Dalwhinnie doesn’t necessarily get better or worse with age, in general.
Scores 84 points
- N: We’ve lot’s on the nose. Light-fresh, light green fruits with a complex mix of subtle yet tight oily/garage/farmy tones. I also pick out a light yeasty meatiness, various fusty honey and sweaty men’s clothes.
- T: Thin, and at first oily [and sulphury?], before becoming nutty then stretching out with manuka honey.
- F: A light humming on barley sugar.
- C: I’ve reviewed and enjoyed this classic malt again [and again] since this tasting [WLP84]. It’s finally time to admit I like Dalwhinnie 15yo.
[Consistently] scores 84 points
If house style similarities were hard to gauge [and not the purpose of this exercise], what was striking is just how much you get for your money at Lidl and Aldi compared to the official expressions [and many independents], with regards to age & price. OK, so I found the oldies somewhat vague given the old/tired stock which has been a touch rejuvenated at best. Every expression did however offer us a fleeting spark of yesteryear and certainly fared well against their contemporary counterparts on the night. Given 18yo whisky is now commonly around the £100 mark, staggeringly, these 28-29yo single malts came in at around half of that. For the age/price/BFYB ratio, it’s hard to argue with these undisclosed festive supermarket releases over the often exaggerated and often out-of-reach prices being asked for official bottlings. Worth having a few bottles on the shelf for occasional comparison.
There’s more? There’s always more.
On the back of Ralfy’s review #795 a few days earlier, this appeared as a bonus dram after the tasting [courtesy of The Foz]. The Foz reminds me that Ralfy encourages us not to be scared to buy young whisky and mix with quality gear.
- N: Uncomplicated, thickish savoury-sweet creamy emulsion. The malt content appears very quiet but the young grain is competent.
- T: This simple one-trick blended Scotch delivers a clear sweet-to-savoury barley cream arrival with an emulsion & hollandaise-y mouthfeel.
- F: Very short, but the whisky remains true & clean.
- C: It’s rather magnolia, but there’s nowt wrong with a splash of magnolia from time to time. In a similar ballpark to Famous Grouse [WLP], but with no unpleasantness/issues whatsoever [batch-dependant]. Oh, and it’s significantly cheaper to at only £11.
Scores 78 points
With thanks to the Malt n Copper team. When things in the world settle down a little, I look forward to ‘So – we’re back 2’.