There’s a common misconception, if you have to be invited around to my gaff, that there will be bottles scattered everywhere and the very thinnest of walkways to venture between the rooms. Unfortunately the reality is more of a pleasant suburban setting without a whisky bottle in open view.
Another fallacy is that the finest of bottles are open and quaffed on a daily basis. If only, I say. Yes there’s some good stuff to be had, but the main bulk of my every-other-day assortment when I’m not reviewing for Malt are supermarket purchases. The quality of supermarket own label releases whether its Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Asda etc. has improved greatly in recent years along with the range available.
Traditionally these are split into the whisky regions of Highland, Islay and Speyside. The component distilleries are not named and the price point tends to be under £20. The exception being the Tesco Finest 12 year old editions that come with an age statement, but seem based on tired casks although they have the approval of Richard Paterson. The fact that now you can purchase a single malt – whisky from a single distillery – of a decent quality with change left shouldn’t be overlooked. The benchmark in my opinion remains the Aldi Glen Marnoch Speyside whisky that ticks all the boxes.
My esteemed co-editor here at Malt commented how much he loathes whiskies at 40% strength, but when you’re purchasing in this price realm then it’s a rudimentary feature along with chill filtration and colouring. Even without opening this Asda Islay Single Malt I would presume its comprised of a youthful peated whisky and this normally means very little colour. The fact that we have a dark, rich caramel essence suggests a large degree of artificial colouring has been added to the whisky. Again, at this price, I’m not bothered but part of me wishes we moved on from the colour of whisky needing to be within such a limited spectrum. Do what they used to do in previous decades and stick it in a green or brown coloured bottle. If tastes great then punters will pick up another bottle gladly.
We’ve been naming some of the distilleries behind brands such as this wherever possible on Malt. It’s pure speculation but there are only a couple of distilleries on Islay that produce in sufficient quantities to support a large contract such as Asda. The obvious candidate would be Caol Ila just from nosing, unless Bunnahabhain has been doing more heavily peated malt – although it’s not as forceful as say Laphroaig, but then I drift back to this distillery upon tasting. This offering from Asda has been around for several years now and used to be – like Tesco – a 12 year old offering. The age statement may have faded into the history books given the high demand for anything from Islay. Peated is very fashionable nowadays and ring-fencing a large chunk of your output to supply a cheap as chips supermarket offering isn’t economically sensible. Sometimes it surprises me that the supermarkets can still offer these regional whiskies for the price that they do.
Harking back to 2013, during my Whisky Rover days was the last time I sat down with this Asda Islay Single Malt, the packaging may have changed – its more a flimsy cardboard box now – and the price has dropped. Imagine that, the price of a whisky dropping! Sadly, this is more likely a reflection of the contents and their age. Back then it was a particularly elusive bottle to find at retail thanks to a glowing review in someone’s whisky bible. However we’re in 2018 now, so let’s see what is extra special about it all…
ASDA Islay Single Malt Whisky – review
Colour: a lovely amber.
On the nose: a really damp and salty piece of driftwood, followed by honey and black pepper. Returning, there’s some toffee, a hint of peach and that vegetative peat quality that soon dissipates once poured. The packaging suggests a splash of water – we’re skipping the over ice suggestion – so this reveals a buttery oily aspect and caramel.
In the mouth: it’s a rather watery peat that hits the palate and fades before resurrecting towards the finish. There’s some embers, more of that honey, vanilla and an element of ginger. Water shows some charcoal and cardamom with more caramel, but it’s fairly fragile.
The quality has certainly dipped since 2013 that’s for sure. Yes, the asking price has dropped accordingly but this provides a simple blast of peat and little else meaning its an Islay-lite experience. It all feels a little muted and even at £18.50 feels somewhat disappointing. On this form, the Aldi Glen Marnoch Islay single malt has the edge.