First, let me get the disclaimer out of the way. This is Aldi’s own single malt range, Glen Marnoch. Yes, Aldi. As in the German discount supermarket. Let’s not go looking for lost lochs, misty Cairngorms or enchanted islands where there (may) be none. So, this review isn’t about finding your new desert island dram, or adding to your whisky pantheon, it’s about seeing what bang you can get get for your hard earned buck–and whether Aldi deserves any of it. The Glen Marnoch expressions retail at £17.49 a pop. Here at WU, we’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to and assembled all three Glen Marnoch entry-level malts: Speyside, Highland and Islay.
First up, a trip to Speyside.
Nose: Quite delicate for cheap–sorry inexpensive– whisky. Mainly barley. Hint o’ spice. A subtle butterscotch undertone sneaks up on you. Upon reflection, there’s marmalade too.
Taste: The Speyside soul doesn’t mess about here, with a dominant sherry coming on strong. And with it, raisins, vanilla and marzipan.
Finish: Very shallow as might be expected but not unpleasant. It warms nicely enough, leaving a spicy trail along with that marmalade that is fairly consistent throughout the whole experience.
For the sake of comparison, I’d give it a score of 6.5/10
Next, come with me to the Highland, laddie.
Nose: Quite captivating, actually. Earthy with a gentle smokiness. Wood and winter spices in there, nutmeg and the like.
Taste: Very woody. Perhaps a tad disappointing after that promising nose. There’s a sweetness–dare I say caramel–in here that is not unpleasant but does feel rather injected. A drop of water does reveal some fruitiness.
Finish: A little deeper than its Speyside cousin. Said sweetness mingles with a light smokiness–maybe a few sprigs of peat chucked in. That drop of water has helped it along to balance the wood, fruit and embers.
Finally, journey to Islay with me.
Nose: Jumps and punches you in the nose, this one does! Briny, peaty, a whiff of petrol and iodine. Yes ma’am, we have essence of Laphroaig!
Taste: A campfire in your mouth–think scouts’ rather than Bear Grylls, but it’ll do. That’s balanced by vanilla and sweetness in here too, like a proper Islay, don’t you know.
Finish: Was willing this to success and a plume of smoke does develop to warm your cockles, still satisfying, but it’s nothing more than that.
So there you have it, three very serviceable whiskies. The Islay is the pick of the bunch for me, cruising way above its sub £20 weight. Never mind if it’s watered down Laphroaig (just a guess), I’d drink this any day.
The Speyside and Highland scored the same but for different reasons. The Speyside is the more consistent of the two. The Highland promised so much after that nose but remains a bit flat after that.
Considering you can snag all three for the price of a Lagavulin 16, the Glen Marnoch range presents excellent value. Whether or not you trade all three for a Lagavulin 16 is another matter. Still, kudos to Aldi for offering some good quality whisky at fair prices. Regular whisky drinkers will appreciate them any day of the week. I’d like to think the novice out there might take a punt on these and they’re good enough to kickstart a voyage of whisky discovery of those lost lochs, misty Cairngorms and enchanted islands.
You’re a braver taster than me.
The peat in the Islay was the only attractive element.
I found nothing attractive in the Speyside.
I’m not even going to bother subjecting myself to the Highland.
Even at this price point there are more enjoyable alternatives.
We’ll take “brave” 😉 Are there any similar supermarket-type releases that you would recommend?
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To open myself to bias, the Irish representatives of Dundalgan & Irish Reserve are to my tastes at least more enjoyable.
The caramel content is less forward giving a more balanced tasting experience allowing some of the flavours to flourish.
They may not be available in all countries however.
try blind tasting without the inevitable unconscious bias
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Fair point. Many benefits from blind tasting. It also really makes you question the value on some whiskies too when tasted side by side!