Glen Marnoch 12 Year Old Limited Edition

It’s rare that we feature entry level malt whisky; it’s not surprising, really. By the time writers feel knowledgeable enough to publish an opinion, usually they have moved onto more limited options. I do know that readers appreciate some perspective on the full range of Scotch available, too. So, when I wandered through my local Aldi recently and spotted a limited-edition Speyside under the Glen Marnoch brand, I decided to give it a go.

There were a number of factors here that caught my eye. The age statement: 12 years for £22.99 seemed tempting, for just three quid more than the core range. The pale blue box was more contemporary that the dated looking presentations that the core range. And of course, there were four awards proudly displayed on the box: a platinum winner in the 2021 Scottish Retail Food and Drink Awards, a Gold in the International Spirits Challenge in 2021, a Great Taste Stare from 2021 and The Spirits Business, Scotch Whisky Masters, Master 2020.

Now, considering this product is a “limited edition,” either the whisky has languished on the shelves for three years (unlikely in a supermarket) or more likely the limitation is simply a marketing tool, in which case this may be a batch significantly removed from the original one that scored highlight in the previous awards. I will not delve too deep into the limitations of these type of awards, many of which reward those who pay the large entry fees, because I have previously written about them. The lack of integrity in awards is why once again we are delighted to participate in the alternative Online Scotch Whisky Awards.

The cardboard tube is contemporary in colour, but inspection reveals that it appears to have been designed entirely by AI based on other whisky tube designs: multiple fonts with various sizes of lettering giving the appearance of providing plenty information on the product. Closer examination confirms it’s 12 years old (three mentions) it’s been in American Oak casks (two mentions), its from Scotland (four mentions) and has been carefully matured and left undisturbed during its life.

A little about the purchasing of companies such as Aldi and Lidl when it comes to their wines: both use a centralised purchasing hub that secures products for all of their global markets. Buying in bulk allows them to manage costs – and therefore price – more successfully than having local markets. We can assume that even Limited Edition whiskies are bought by the thousands – if not tens of thousands – of litres. This may explain the continued supply of this limited edition.

They also are famous for the middle isle bargains often sold at discount. This approach taps into our psychology as our brain has a rewards system that is activating when we think we are getting a good price. This mini dopamine hit helps get the purchase over the line. I’ve previously covered some of the other techniques supermarkets use to entice customers into sales.

So here I am with my dopamine-assisted purchase. Given the suggestion that this is of superior quality due to its limited edition claims, multiple awards, and premium style packaging, have I been had? Let’s find out.

Glen Marnoch 12 Year Old Limited Edition – Review

40% ABV. £22.99.

Colour: Caramel.

On the nose: Rich caramel (they say it’s impossible to taste or smell E150A in a whisky, but I definitely think it can be noticeable, especially in softer whiskies), toasted sugar, perhaps some charred cask notes, stewed apple, cloudy apple juice and vanilla, brûlée tops, vanilla, malty notes, digestive biscuit, ripe orchard fruits develop in time. Improves with time and air giving less E150A and more fruit, the apple juice dominates.

In the mouth: Caramel, slightly bitter, wood spices, cheap Christmas chocolate, aniseed, Curly Wurly, poached pear, cinnamon apple turn over, a dry bitter finish.


I gave this a lot of opportunity to sing, you can see from the photo that I used a blender’s glass, which is excellent for turbo-charging the nose in lower ABV whisky, which is certainly why the nose gave most of the notes. At 40% there is just nothing much to get excited about. It’s washed out. A bit plain. I think this could have reached the price point with 50 cl and 46% and could have got a few whisky drinkers talking. It’s not bad. It’s £22.99. it’s a…

Score: 4/10

It got me thinking more about this dram, not least because there are some fantastic blends around the £30 mark. I realised given the bulk buying approach used by Aldi that this is classic blending Scotch. The sort of whisky that does not deserve becoming a small batch or single cask, but instead should be blended with grain and a top dressing of punchy single malt to create a pleasing blend. Independent bottlers reject about 90% to 95% of all casks which are circulating on the wholesale market, and the unsold casks and parcels usually end up in blends. Perhaps this parcel of whisky was destined for the same, but rescued as a bulk purchase using the same techniques Aldi use for wine, to ensure a low price product.

Could this be improved by blending? I tried two separate recipes, one unpeated where I tried to develop the fruiter notes, and another to test out a nagging feeling that peat sometimes can be used to cover flaws in base whiskies. I blended very small batches – 20cl and then left for 10 days to marry together. There is a saying in the industry, “10 days under water,” which is the reference to leaving whisky to relax after being diluted for 10 days before bottling. I also used some higher strength whisky in the blends which had the effect of bumping up the ABV slightly and carrying more flavour, so I’ve tried to compensate that in my analysis.

Blended Scotch Recipe 1 – Review

Glen Marnoch 60% (12 cl), a very well-aged 1982 grain 20% (4 cl), a great, highly flavoursome sherried dram 10% (2 cl) and a fruity malt 10% (2 cl), because there is a chance to elevate the fruity notes in the original single malt. 43.3% ABV and circa £60 for a full bottle.

Colour: Golden (that E150A holds its own).

On the nose: Caramel and brown sugar, rich fruit cake, dates, demerara sugar, golden raisins and dried figs, fruit shortcake biscuit and malty notes. Treacle toffee and some fruity apple.

In the mouth: Soft and smooth, fruity caramel notes then a whiff of burnt sugar, a lingering spice on the tongue, a little peppery, more soft caramel and gentle vanilla and a soft oaky richness.


Using older grain is a trick employed by the Thompson Bros no less. The various components certainly add complexity, if not completely hiding the flawed notes of the Glen Marnoch; there is an interesting fruity nose and the grain adds a class rather than a strong grain note, given the components, is this elevated enough? Probably not enough for a £60 bottle.

Score: 5/10

Blended Malt Recipe 2 – Review

Glen Marnoch 75% (15 cl), heavily peated malt 10% (2 cl), heavily sherried cask strength blended malt 15% (3 cl), because peat and sherry is surely fail-safe. It’s 44.8% ABV and circa £32 for a full bottle.

Colour: Golden, endless power of E150A.

On the nose: Prickly smoke, pine resin, crisp malt, stewed orchard fruit, apples, sharp gooseberry, toasted oak, dark caramel, rich sherry, and chalky grist. Zesty citrus and pungent peat smoke developing.

In the mouth: Sweet caramel, then smoke, a crisp minerality, then apple juice that seems a little out of place, sweetness, rich baking spices, chocolate, burnt sugar, fruit toast, a lingering peat spice and smoke. Cheap cigar with a good body.


This is a decent dram, but the cask strength sherry blend is fighting with the crisp minerality of the young heavily peated spirit, the Glen Marnoch is just a bystander in the melee. The peat and sweet is a classic combo and despite the tension it’s a crowd pleaser at the price. I think a good slug of heavily peated high strength spirit can work wonders on some drams, in particular these heavier sherried released of Campbeltown Loch come alive with the addition of some extra heavily peated Killkerran. Overall, this blend is a…

Score: 5/10

I think there can be some value in bumping up random disappointing bottles with some more interesting whisky, but overall 4/10 for a £22.99 whisky is probably quite a decent score. I cannot believe that this is deserving of any one of the four awards, though.

CategoriesSingle Malt

Graham is at the consumer end of the whisky world; constantly seeking out a bargains and generally very cautious with his limited budget. An occasional visitor to distilleries and a member of the odd whisky club. He does not collect whiskies but has a few nice ones put away for some future special occasion. He enjoys discussions with the wider whisky community and may resemble the ‘average’ Malt reader.

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