Aldi Glen Marnoch Islay Edition

Aldi Glen Marnoch ISlay

In the run-up to what is traditionally a busy time for whisky sales as Christmas and Hogmanay appear on the horizon, several supermarket chains bottle their own special releases. Glen Marnoch is one of these fake names that mean nothing apart from trying to implant a romantic sense of Scotland in the mind of the onlooker.

Glen Marnoch is owned by the German supermarket chain Aldi which is becoming increasingly popular in the UK as it encroaches upon the traditional giants of Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s. For the past couple of years, Aldi has been bottling such special releases under the name with mixed results. There was a 24 year old Glen Marnoch in 2011 (£29.99) that was attractively priced (even back then) although this cheapness was reflected on the palate. Since then there have been other releases such as the 12 and 18 year olds that have been more successful.

Best of the bunch was a Glenbridge 40 year old sold for the ridiculous price of £50 that had me queuing outside a store in Blackburn of all places whilst staying at Northcote for a Great British Menu banquet feast. That’s another tale. By using such a general name, Aldi is not limited by region or distillery and can bottle whatever stocks they can acquire that are fit for purpose.

For 2014 we have 2 special releases from Aldi; a 24 year old Glen Marnoch and this Limited Edition Islay Edition – no outturn numbers provided. I’ve managed to purchase both, so expect my thoughts as and when but for now we’re heading to Islay. It is easy to dismiss non-official bottling’s as inferior but quite often this isn’t the case as my experiences with the Asda’s Extra Special and Tesco Islay own labels have suggested otherwise. You’ll find the review of the Glen Marnoch Highland edition here.

At £18.99 an Islay blended malt whisky looks good value especially when currently anything peated is extremely popular. Distilleries involved in peated whisky can bump up their prices to take advantage of this demand and also put out No Age Statement whiskies at inflated prices. Releases from Islay in this price range are a rarity, but being cheap doesn’t necessarily guarantee it’s a bargain. However I do feel it’s important to keep the price in mind when discussing a release such as this or for example Lidl’s 2013 Abrachan whether they represent value for money or not?

The price of whisky is an issue that many seem content to duck and avoid wherever possible. This is especially true of those who rely on free samples and fail to put the asking price into context. My recent experiences with the Girvan Grain Patent Still range were a welcome opportunity, but I still did not hesitate from highlighting the 25 and 30 year olds are overpriced. Jim Murray in his latest Whisky Bible has a wee paragraph on the price of whisky claiming that ‘the book is a guide to quality and character rather than the price tag attached’. Wise words from someone who still receives most of his samples for free although it seems 2016 will see the team purchasing more bottles than ever before – perhaps then we’ll see more context about price?

Aldi Glen Marnoch Islay – review

Colour:  golden honey

On the nose: a really nicely seasoned level of peat here just right for my preference not overpowering. The comparison was made with the Caol Ila Moch by @_gregand during a Twitter chat and I can see why. A splash of saltiness as well, with a rugged coastal feel, moss, plenty of seaweed; it reminds me of walking along the Waternish peninsula on the Isle of Skye. A touch of a bonfire, coarse mint and sherbet. Not a hugely rich or layered nose but does what it says on the tin; this is Islay. A touch of water brings out more sweetness in the form of butterscotch.

In the mouth: the palate doesn’t match up to the promise of the nose; you can certainly feel an oily texture and the essence of a robust dram watered down to 40%. Just a wee bit more ABV would have been very welcome. I wouldn’t add water here as it upsets the fine balance and with H2O introduced; all you’re left with is the peat and hint of smoke. Even without water, the finish is short but satisfying.


So overall I’m quite pleased I actually bought 2 bottles, as this blind purchase has turned out rather well. I’m happy with the quality of the whisky and a very fair price for the experience. Those supermarket exclusives I mentioned earlier in this piece tend to retail around £25-£30 and this is their equal in terms of the whisky experience. If you were to push me for a distillery I’d go for a young Caol Ila, however, there’s no guarantee I’m right or wrong come to think of it. What’s important is that it’s a thumbs up here.

Score: 6/10

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Avatar
    Matthew says:

    I concur it is a most enjoyable dram and astonishing value at the price. Almost certainly Caol Ila, perhaps someday an Aldi whistleblower will put us all to shame and tell us it is an American oak matured Bowmore! Great review, I agree it is a tad watered down, would be much better at 43% I think.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Matthew thanks for dropping by. Yep, good value even at 40% and its always important – for me anyway – to consider the purchase price alongside the experience. So there’s little to complain about and yeah Caol Ila seems the likely source! Cheers Jason

  2. Avatar
    Christopher Griffin says:

    I agree with the watered down remark you made. I’m going to grab another bottle and leave the water out, see if the palate gives more volume. Keep up the good work Jason! Thoroughly enjoyed your review.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Thanks for dropping by and enjoying a dram. Might be time to check these out again and the special festive releases will just be around the corner now from Aldi as well. Cheers, Jason

  3. Avatar
    Leo says:

    I’ve bought this probably 20 times and loved it. However the last three bottles have been soooo peaty it is almost unpalatable. Not drinking this again.

  4. Avatar
    Gary Smith says:

    I have finally got round to opening a bottle I picked up a couple of years ago and I think it’s exceptional value for money. Very tasty stuff. I see they have a thirty year old Speyside this year for £49.99 which might be worth a punt too.

  5. Avatar
    P Gardner says:

    Bought this for a sheckle under eighteen great british pounds from Gorseinon Aldi and on an objective criteria it’s one of the best whiskeys I have tasted in this price band. You can name the features in a good single malt and this wee dram has them all. A deadset bargain and will be purchasing it again! This would make many a £30plus whiskey blush! Not as refined as the best, but hey, what do you expect for the price?! Its a steal! Go grab it before I do!

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    Andy says:

    I bought a bottle some years ago and thought it was outstanding for the price, then last year I must have bought a bottle from a not so good batch. But decided to try it again last week and the quality is back. I thought to myself when trying it that this ones from a good batch. So went back the next day and grabbed the last two bottles and hoping they are from the same batch.

  7. Avatar
    John Thompson says:

    I thought I’d give this a try and I’m by no means a connoisseur, but I was pleasantly surprised. For the money I’d say it’s good value. I agree that it’s a bit “watery”and the smokiness /peat elements have a little less sophistication , compared to, let’s say a Laphroaig, but at the price, I’d happily buy another.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi John

      Glad it delivered a nice surprise and for half the price. Reminds me to do more supermarket exclusives as they can be a worthwhile destination.

      Thanks, Jason.

  8. Avatar

    I bought my first bottle of Glen Marnoch Islay Single Malt today. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavour – a lovely smoked peat with salty vanilla. I’d give this 7.5/10. I can’t wait to try the 12 year old Malt.

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