Posts Tagged With: Islay

Tasting Notes – Aldi’s Glen Marnoch Range

The Glen Marnochs

The Glen Marnoch Range

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.

Score: 6.5/10

 

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.

Score: 7/10

 

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 towards those lost lochs, misty Cairngorms and enchanted islands.

S

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Tasting Notes: Laphroaig – Select

Laphroaig Warehouse

Peat-Meisters Laphroaig released their “Select” expression within their core range in 2014 and it seems that year was the year of the multiple-maturation boom. Whilst most distilleries have been trying this for the past few years, it seems that the marketing fad has gone too far and has even exceeded the Gillette vs Wilkinson Sword race to have multiple blades on a razor. The Select release appears to be Laphroaig’s dabble with the foray, boasting maturation through 5 different barrels: Oloroso sherry, Pedro Ximenez, white American oak, quarter casks and bourbon casks.

ABV: 40%

 

Nose

M: Young alcohol attack with caramel sweetness and fairly faint Laphroaig smoke – quite a lot going on. Give it a minute to breathe and that vanilla:smoke balance remains.


Taste

M: Sweet, sweet flavours with caramel and vanilla at the front and then a (surprisingly) soft smoke at the back.


Finish

M: Fresh and tingly all the way down and the smoke dies off quickly.


Verdict                                                                                    

M: As a big fan of Laphroaig’s staple expressions (see previous notes here), I had big hopes for this when it first came out and I must say that I was disappointed. Stupidly, I’d got hyped up about it because it was Laphroaig. I’ve learned not to care about whether or not their is an age statement on a whisky bottle and I wasn’t especially wary that it’s cheaper price might have indicated a drop in quality, so my initial conclusion was that this must just be a Laphroaig for a different type of whisky drinker. Since then though, I have gone back to it from time to time and, to me, this just tastes like Laphroaig Light. It might be a neat way for the peat-ophobes to start to get acquainted with the big Laphroaig tastes – a gateway dram, if you like – but having grown up with Laphroaig as the phenolic beast I’ve come to know and love, this falls short of the mark for me. Maybe it’s the myriad of barrel influences, but all the flavours seem to cancel one another out with a resultant timid sweet-meets-peat whisky that promises more than it delivers. Scrambling for another positive though, I could drink a lot of this, which you can’t say about the 10yo, because that is all about savouring the experience. To that extent, have Laphroaig created a whisky equivalent of the Session IPA? Maybe. Just maybe.

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Tasting Notes: Lagavulin – Jazz Festival 2013

Lagavulin Warehouse Tasting

Since 2011 Lagavulin has been the proud sponsor of the annual Islay Jazz Festival. To mark these occasions Lagavulin has released a limited edition bottling that is only available from the distillery. The 2013 release is an 18 year old expression selected by local Lagavulin legend Iain MacArthur, which has been finished in sherry butts and limited to 1,500 bottles. The Jazz Festival releases’ value have sky-rocketed in the following years. Originally available at the distillery for £99, the 2011 expression is fetching close to £500 per bottle at auction after just 5 years, and this superb 2013 expression has similarly inflated up to 3x its original RRP. BUT it’s not all about price – it’s the whisky inside that counts and with that in mind…

ABV: 51.9%

Nose

M: Classic Lagavulin straight off with peat smoke and a hint of dark sugar sweetness. It’s a rounder, richer nose though.

Taste

M: All peat and smoke upfront but it subdues and smoothes out to a delicious warm vanilla fudge.

Finish

M: Dries up pretty quickly but leaves a sweet smoky hint. Like a rich hickory-smoked chunk of barbecued pork but in liquid form. Fruity spices are left behind but balanced with that fudge-like texture and finish.

Verdict

M: A rare gem. A perfect combination of powerful peatiness, caramel sweetness and fudge smoothness. The standard Lagavulin 16 dram has been seemingly bettered with the extra maturation and sherry finish. It has taken the usual underlying sweetness and fruitiness and enhanced it without the signature veil of peat smoke having been tarnished in any way. If you are lucky (and wealthy) enough to get your hands on one of these today then do so – there’s definitely one less than the original 1,500 bottles left! This is a peathead’s dream. Magnificent.

Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival 2013


 

Side note: This bottle was bought between 3 of us from WU after a superb warehouse tasting at Lagavulin. It was a case of being at the right place at the right time. We polished it off in our cottage overlooking Lagavulin Bay in 2-3 days. We savoured every drop. It was glorious. It was the bottle that was the cherry on the cake – the cake being a week in Islay. If we ever got to taste it again, it would take us right back – as does every drop of the “standard” 16 year old (and what a standard that is). We also learned the valuable lesson that if you ever want to invest in a bottle then always buy two, because once it’s gone, it is gone, and at £300 per bottle currently, we don’t think we may ever get to try it again.

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