Do you remember your first time with the Haig Club? It was a remarkable attempt at a grain whisky for all the wrong reasons becoming the chlamydia of the whisky realm. I used to delight in dishing it up to friends or complete strangers and watching their reaction. Just like an STD they wouldn’t come back for more.
Of course all the self-proclaimed experts or those in the pocket of Diageo will claim it was a great way to usher people into whisky. Except it wasn’t. It was an almost flavourless, benign, tepid and lacklustre grain experience wrapped up in sleek marketing with an over the hill – and overrated – ex-footballer. Then there was that bottle and the ultimate burning legacy of the price itself. In some ways this Solo Clubhouse release echoes the Haig Club with its weighty bottle shape and oversized cork. Yes, it lacks the tactile experience and emphasis on exterior quality, but at £19.99 who can argue?
We’ll delve into the liquid itself shortly. It has crossed my mind whether this is from a grain distillery such as Cameronbridge or Invergordon. It lacks the pungent nature of Girvan and the textured delights of North British. However, I’m getting ahead of myself so let’s talk about Solo itself.
There was some online speculation that this review should take a Star Wars form although I’m far from one of these grown men who seem to be holding onto the last dregs of their childhood or going through some form of midlife crisis. Yes, I’m familiar with the realm given I’m a child of the late 70’s and early 80’s. The original films remain the best examples although I’ve yet to endure the local cinema for the latest offering – preferring to visit towards the end of its theatrical run when the costumed should know better geeks have had their fill. I once had a girlfriend who was a Star Trek geek; unbeknown to me till she picked it as the film she’d like to see. Odd choice I thought at the time. Then when she starting telling me about the various types of proton torpedoes – or whatever they were called – after a scene in the film, I knew the relationship wasn’t going to last. Needless to say, it didn’t.
A more preferable Solo option would be the sensational solo goal from Diego Maradona who remains a national hero in Scotland. Such beauty but also the spectre of the beast not too far behind. We’re done with the solo aspect?
The passion of geeks is to be admired. Whether its Star Wars, Star Trek, trains, cars, stamps and any manner of item passionately hoarded and debated. The same applies to whisky – yes that’s the tedious link – and for this Solo grain specifically the single malt geeks who turn their noses up at practically every grain release. We’ve all seen their expression when offered or confronted by a grain. It’s an unfortunate reaction and an emotion that limits their departures to new experiences.
Instead let’s talk about grain. We’re big fans of this type of whisky when its delivered correctly. This means at a decent age and reasonable price. Grain bottled too young can be a rather inoffensive and bland experience i.e. Haig Club. There’s always the smugness of the single malt enthusiast who dismisses grain. In some ways I can respect this when faced with produce from several of the existing grain distilleries such as Girvan and Invergordon, which now deliver a more neutral style. A different beast is the recently closed grain distilleries of Cambus and alike that produced a more flavoursome and interesting style of grain whisky. These offer more flavours and character than what we’re seeing produced in Scotland nowadays. Grain distilleries are churning out – a huge understatement – oil tankers full of neutral spirit to fill the shelves with all sorts of spirit on the supermarket aisles today.
Aldi’s Solo Clubhouse Single Grain – Review
Colour: a dull copper.
On the nose: a traditional grain arrival with a dirty vanilla and buttery aspect. There’s a spent gunpowder quality followed by creamed corn and a touch of paraffin. A slight metallic twist towards the end when more of the cask char and black pepper comes forth. Returning, a burnt toast quality with chargrilled lemon. Water reveals more of a pineapple characteristic.
In the mouth: lots of vanilla with a syrup-like texture and sweetness. Dried banana chips with more of the cask char and a slight warmth with added cream. Water here isn’t very beneficial, loosening up the oils and texture without any other positive development.
A subtle grain whisky, likely I feel to be the lower end of the teenage year spectrum with very active casks. It’s solid at the retail price of £19.99 or even the £17.99 I picked it up for, which is even better. This is the price range of Aldi’s excellent Glen Marnoch Speyside whisky or something diabolical such as the Famous Grouse Smoky Black. My own stance if this was nearer the £30 mark or above, it’d score a 4. The price lifts it up a notch. It’s not something I’d turn to, but having shared a dram with those who are new to whisky or lesser in experience, it did receive generally positive comments. It also lacks the harsh cheap alcohol burn that many younger grains can display. A worthwhile option as well if you’re into the mixology side of things with other grains such as the Haig Club or Chita grain costing considerably more.