Everyone’s Talking About It. Aldi Everyday…

tiger4So as I’m sure most of you are aware, Aldi have released a 24 year old Glen Marnoch and a 40 year old Glenbridge for the astonishingly low prices of £29.99 and £49.99 respectively. Unfortunately none of us could make the official launch in London. Despite our slovenly appearances and ultra laid back manner, we are genuinely busy lads. Honest. Ben, one of the chaps at Master of Malt, grovelled and begged us to give him our ticket (I may have embellished that somewhat) so he could attend what would surely be one of the most memorable whisky launches in recent memory.

Here are his thoughts from the day:

So, a couple of Tuesdays ago, I had possibly one of the most random evenings of my life. And I’m not talking about the end of the evening, where Myself, Joel Harrison (one half of caskstrength.net), Dr. Whisky, and Pierre from off of that there Connosr ended up in a basement Sherry bar late in the evening arguing the finer points of the various Port Ellen releases over Manzanilla and nibbles. No. I’m talking about the launch of Aldi’s 40 year old whisky. If I’m honest, the main draw of the evening for me wasn’t the fact that Aldi were launching a 40yo whisky, it was that the evening was being hosted by everyone’s favourite / least favourite (delete as applicable) whisky critic Jim Murray. Having spoken to Jim on a number of occasions, and read his bible every year with a mixture of anticipation, and foreboding, I couldn’t pass up the chance to meet the chap in the flesh.

We began the evening with a talk from Jim about the way in which he approaches each tasting session, which is basically to cleanse his palate with Coffee. Cue some absolutely fantastic questions from Fiona Beckett about exactly what type of coffee, the countries he favours, the brewing apparatus and temperature used – to which Jim’s answer was (reading between the lines) “doesn’t really matter. Just coffee.”. We even went as far as to retire to another room so that the smell of the coffee wouldn’t affect the tasting. I’ll give him this, Jim is definitely thorough.

I posed the question that I’d been waiting for literally years for: “So, Jim – do you really not like any whisky that contains even the merest hint of Sulphur? Surely there must be one or two that you’ve come across over the years that had other redeeming qualities?”. The answer? “Let me put it this way – do you know why they make pot stills out of copper?”. Fair enough. We were talked through the two whiskies that were on offer, the Glen Marnoch 24 Year Old, and the Glen Bridge 40 Year Old. Jim’s technique of warming the whisky prior to nosing and tasting caught me a bit off-guard if I’m honest (there was a good 2 or 3 minutes of hand-warming and breast-cupping prior to tasting) and I’m not really sure if I ‘got’ it. Jim even went as far as to say that when he’s doing his ‘big tasting sessions’ he has a bowl of warm water in front of him, in which he floats tasting glasses to pre-warm the whisky. All the heat served to do (for me personally) was release a load of volatility into the glass, but each to their own I suppose.

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My tasting notes on the Glen Marnoch 24 Year Old read as follows:

Nose: Red apples, bourbon, gristy, vanilla. Heat brings out more bourbon and rye spice.

Palate: Lean, slightly bitter, not a huge deal of depth. An enormous hit of almost saccharine sweetness before the rye spice develops into a slightly acrid note?

Finish: Acrid saccharine turns slightly alkali, and slightly mouth-watering (not in a good way). Becomes really very off-putting at the death.

Overall: Not impressive, at any price.

And my notes for the Glenbridge 40 Year Old:

Nose: Sherry, Rancio, big fruit, Brazil nut shells, very pleasant indeed.

Palate: Sherry fruit, date, walnut, rye spice, bubblegum, dries slightly.

Finish: Touch of peppermint, the cask definitely makes itself known – maybe slightly over the hill, but all in all a pretty good finish.

Overall: A ‘good’ whisky. There’s one true test of whether a whisky is ‘good enough’, and that’s whether or not you’d reach for another glass. This is, and I did.

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After the tasting, and in true game-show style, we were asked to guess the price of the two whiskies. I think my guesses, from memory were £55 for the 24yo, and £150 for the 40yo (and these prices would have been fiercely competitive). There were some genuinely astonished faces when it was revealed that the whiskies were to retail at £29.99 and £49.99 respectively.

So – how does this make me feel personally? The fact that the somewhat exclusive world of older whisky is going to be opened up to those who otherwise may not get the chance to sample such venerable drams can only be a good thing, regardless of who it is that’s doing it, or what their motive is providing the whiskies are good. The 24yo is, in my opinion, a deeply bad whisky, and anyone who manages to pick up a bottle of this will be gravely disappointed, and what’s more, potentially put off good whisky for years to come. This is sad. The 40yo, on the other hand is really pretty bloomin’ good, and at £50 is an absolute steal. My sincere hope is that people will buy this and try it, as opposed to buy it, pop it on the shelf, and point to it for the next 20 years and say “That’s 40 years old, that whisky is”. In reality, I’m not sure how much of it will get drunk, but we can live in hope. I’ve seen various reactions to the prices so far, ranging from “we’ll all be pretty lucky if we get hold of one” (caskstrength.net) to “it’s disrespectful to the folk who made it 40 years ago” (Stephen Marshall, Global Brand Ambassador for Dewars).

Ben

Read Ben’s full account of his trip to the Aldi launch here where he also discusses palate cleansing with Jim Murray, the (un)sustainability of selling these whiskies for such a low price and how his doppelganger is Dom Joly.

The Tiger

Comments

  1. Dom Joly isn’t my Doppelganger, he’s my Aunteron.

  2. I typed into Google “Aunteron” to find the definition, and your Master of Malt definition appeared! Quite a terrifying concept. Very Being John Malkovich.

    What do I think of this….in general, I am against supermarkets selling alcohol ridiculously cheaply. I think day to day, it distorts peoples idea of the value of a good bottle of wine, and needs to be kept in check (especially the cheap cider and extra strong lager. When strong lager is cheaper than soft drinks and water, you have to worry), but this is a bit different. I’m pretty sure it’s a one off, so I don’t see it doing that much harm to percieved value of whisky. This is just the other end of the scale from the Dalmore’s of the World punting whisky at £100,000 a bottle. At least people will be able to taste and enjoy this. Hopefully some folks will get the chance to try a 40 year old whisky at a reasonable price.

    It will hopefully make a nice Christmas Present for someone.

    If it became a standard bottling for Aldi, available all year round, I think it would start to be a bit of a problem. If all the supermarkets followed suit, then it would change the whisky market in the UK quite dramatically, and not in a good way. But I don’t think this will happen.

    As someone who can’t afford crazy expensive stuff, and shops now and again in Aldi/Lidl, I am going to celebrate this. Why not celebrate a bargain? In the same way independent bottlers should be celebrated, for keeping whisky affordable.

  3. I think that’s the point – it couldn’t possibly become a standard all-year-round bottling, as it’s so obviously below cost price.

    if they can do it at that price all year round (and I’m sure they can’t), they should absolutely be allowed to, as therein lies the basis of ‘that there capitalism’.

  4. If this bottling is a one-off for Christmas then that’s absolutely fine with me, fair play to Aldi for being able to cause a stir and generate a lot of publicity. However, if this was to be a standard bottling and available all year round then it wouldn’t sit quite so well with me.

    Assuming this is a one-off, it has already done some good for the whisky industry in my eyes. People at my work who are not necessarily into whisky have been reading about it online and in newspapers. They’ve been chatting about it to each other and some have come up to me asking about how aging a whisky changes it, about the wide variety of flavours found in whiskies etc. If it gets people interested in buying a bottle of whisky as a Christmas tipple (regardless whether it’s this 40yo or not) when they’d have originally gone out an bought a bottle of vodka/gin/rum or whatever then I’m not complaining!

  5. As most of the malt whisky produced goes to blending then supermarkets picking off casks of older stuff seems less abhorent. I agree that selling well aged malt like this so cheaply should not be a regular occurence, but it does give people a way in to older single malts normally way beyond the price range of most. I hope it is as good as the review as I have it on good authority that Santa has secured a bottle for me…

  6. I read somewhere on the day of release that the packing slips and invoice were from W Grant & Sons. Not sure of the truth behind this though as you know what the internet is like.

    However, I tweeted Balvenie with the question and they have said a firm “No not one of ours” but I have yet to have a reply to the email I sent to W Grants asking the same question.

  7. @Whoshotmcgyver – Good point, this could be a ‘treat’ for those who can’t usually afford to buy old single malts (myself being one of them). Also, given the amount of press coverage this has received, it may also generate a lot of interest in wealthy people who don’t normally drink whisky and draw them into our wonderful industry. No harm there surely? Only if it stays as one-off type of thing. Fingers crossed the big guy has a bottle for you – come back and let us know what you make of it! :)

    @Brickie – Very interesting, if you receive a reply from W Grants drop us a line and let us know what they say :)

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