Another day, another long-aged Aldi single malt. An Irish whiskey this time, and once again I’ve elbowed my way past the natural Malt correspondent (sorry Phil!) to chip in with my tuppenceworth first.
26 years, in Irish whiskey terms, is ages. A quick scroll through any of the obvious channels will yield hundreds of scotch whiskies of that age or older, but properly mature Irish is much thinner on the ground.
That mostly comes down to the paucity of distilleries when compared to their Caledonian cousins. In real terms, this is almost certain to be Bushmills distillate. It could be Cooley, but it probably isn’t. It’s probably Bushmills. The only other option would be Midleton, but it probably isn’t from there either. No one else has old enough stock. Barely anyone else in Ireland has stock they can legally call whiskey yet; let alone whiskey that’s almost as long in the tooth as I am.
It’s brilliant to see Aldi move beyond Scotland when putting together their rare whisk(e)y offering for this year. Makes one hope that their gaze might turn upon the USA – or even Canada – in 2018. In the meantime, let’s see where this venerable Hibernian sits in the supermarket pantheon.
Not much more preamble needed; it’s 40% ABV, costs £39.99, and if you don’t go and get it straight away, you’re likely to miss out (if you haven’t already). Until it pops up on an auction channel, that is.
Aldi Irish Reserve Single Malt 26 years old – Review
On the nose: Goodness me! Absolute fruit-grenade of a nose, with the accent strongly on tropical. Pineapple, mango, apricot, guava – they’re all here, in both their fresh and dried forms. There’s burnt orange peel too, with some vanilla and dairy cream on the side. Custard cream biscuits. Woodier aspects impose themselves as the whiskey sits; saw-mill character á la Glen Marnoch. Also pinewood, apple rind, and a deeper, herbal rosemary.
In the mouth: Still a lot of tropical fruit, but it makes way for the malt to impose itself a little more. Deeper than the Glen Marnoch 29; the initial delivery before the juicy fruit kicks in is of dark brown sugar and malty biscuits. Flapjacks and honey. More evidence of char, nutmeg and spicy oak towards the finish. Medium body; as with the Glen Marnoch, it feels a little dilute. Feels more mature than the Glen Marnoch, incidentally, and better balanced, whilst still being sweetish. Towards the finish, a little bitterness and excessive woodiness rears its head. Concludes a little abruptly.
Unquestionably a step up from the not-bad Glen Marnoch 29. The nose is so fruity I’m restraining myself from writing crude analogies, and the palate nearly lives up to it. If it were a little less dilute and had been plucked from cask perhaps a year or two earlier, this would be sensational.
There seems to be a batch of ’90 and ’91 vintage Irish single malt casks doing the rounds at the moment that are absolutely loaded with lusciously deep tropical fruit. Well done to Aldi for having bagged a few for themselves. What I really like is that this actually tastes its age. Which isn’t something I’ve been able to say much of the old Aldi and Lidl gear before.
Definitely matches last year’s Ben Bracken 22 Islay from Lidl as the best own-brand supermarket whisk(e)y I’ve tasted. Worth every penny of £40. What’s remarkable is that you can clearly see how this whiskey could have been even better. But it’s still very tasty indeed as it is. I foresee this pour convincing many an infrequent whisk(e)y drinker to broaden their horizons.
Needless to say, I recommend nipping straight to your nearest Aldi to see if they’ve a bottle left. If you don’t want to spend more than £40 on a whisk(e)y this year you won’t do much better than this.
Your move, rest of the industry.