Is it beginning to look a lot like Aldi?

One of the most commonly asked questions we get is: “Dear Ambassador, where are those supermarket whiskies from and are they any good and should we risk losing our friends and our parking space at the the golf club over them?”. Well…as we got invited along to a press launch of the Christmas drinks for Aldi supermarkets recently, we can now begin to tell you!

The first real hurdle you face is that none of the PR people, nobody in the stores, none of the whisky companies and certainly none of the writers seem to know or want to discuss where supermarket brands originate from.  There is stll a fair amount of snobbery about it and when it comes down to discussing the supermarkets at the lower end of the market, it is worst still.

Aldi is a really interesting case in point, as we feel they have done a bit of a ‘Skoda’ recently and maybe deserve further investigation. Their great new tongue-in-cheek ads, along with the fact that some of their products are winning awards, well this means their position as ‘low rent’ supermarket is all but gone. I shop there (and Lidl too) so a chance to see a sneak preview of the their offering was too good to miss!

The venue for the tasting was good, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh. Set the stall out and showed they are serious about being taken seriously.

So, down to what we tasted, whisky in particular. Is any of it any good? Let’s start with Glen Marnoch. Don’t look for the Distillery on a map, because there isn’t one. In fact, on my extensive travels around Scotland, I don’t remember ever seeing Glen Marnoch. I thought he was one of the Sex Pistols? Anyway,  ignore the name, it’s the dram inside that is the important bit. They have three Malts, all bottled at 40%ABV and all with nice  looking bits of packaging, which would stand up against most other drams.

The 12 year old  Single Malt old is nice but I sort of discounted this, due to the fact that over Christmas, it would be competing against some cut-price drams on the inevitable supermarket price wars deals, you see all over the media at this time of year. So, would I drink a 12 year old single malt from a made-up place over, say a bottle of Aberlour or Singleton, which might also be coming in at a good bit South of twenty quid? Er, no. There will be other distillery products at silly prices this Christmas, there always is. At eighteen pounds, this  probably might keep label snobs away from Glen Marnoch. Nothing wrong with the drink inside though.

Talking of twenty quid, this brings us round to their 18 year old. A fruity pineapple of a dram and at about half the price of similar age brands from actual distilleries, this was beginning to make more sense. Twenty quid, for an 18 year old, single malt, from Scotland? The Man from The Ambassador, he say…Yes!!!  Total bargain. Mix it with 15 year old Drambuie you can get now for an amazing Rusty Nail on Christmas Eve.

Next, their Glen Marnoch 24 year old Single Malt,  which I found a bit odd. It didn’t taste very old and as the label referred to ‘continuous distillation’ , I got  very confused. General feeling is that Malt whisky is distilled in pot stills, so I will leave this one for the geeks to argue over. Again for less than thirty pounds, an amazing price point, it’s just I had a few concerns over the taste. Not the unctuous mouth I’d expect for a quarter century old dram. I would rather drink the tasty 18 year old.

Finally, on their  dram front, they have a new blended Malt called Glen Orrin (he was in Beverley Hills 90210) and a 30 year-old traditional blend also named after this actor who I think might have been in ‘Dynasty’ as well.  The Blend is okay although we didn’t taste the blended malt, which I have heard is rather good. Again, great prices. Fifty quid for an ancient blend and TWELVE of our Earth pounds for a blended malt. Daft not to really.

So, to summarise, of course, there is better out there but some of these drams and their bonkers pricing are well worth buying, to drink, at Christmas. The Whisky Ambassador would say, ignore the snobs, buy with your eyes, taste stuff and buy the stuff you like the taste of. You are a free person, not a number and all that jazz.

There were other drinky poos highlights and the nice wine man from Scotland on Sunday ‘marked my card’ to tell me the goodies they have. So go in and erm…give it Aldi, but in no particular order, the 15 year old Guyana rum, the Grand Cru champers (my favourite of the entire day), the 30 year old Tawny Port and the Amarone are all very, very good. As well as this, there was a lot of ‘brand’  stuff at great prices. McEwans champion ale, Glen Moray malt, lots of other beers, stuff we knew, from other shelves.

So there you have it. The Whisky Ambassador saves your Christmas. No need to thank us. All you Waitrose and M&S drinks snobs out there, go at night, it will be dark…We are not saying shop exclusively anywhere but it is definitely good to see another retailer mixing things up!

We’ve just launched Ambassador Events and we’ll be certainly throwing a few of these drams into the mix at the consumer tasting events we do!


  • Clint Backhouse

    I reckon the Glen Marnoch is old Glendronach stock that Aldi did a deal for. If you want my reasoning, let me know.

    • Sue Beatt

      Hi Clint. By all means let us know why you think this. This year’s offering is Glen Orrin. Have you tried that?

    • Phil Riddell

      Would be interested to know why you think the Glen Marnoch 24 year is Glendronach. I bought some in January this year after seeing Jim Murray’s comments on it. I thought it superb despite The Masters of Whisky comments.

  • Robert

    I’d heard the hype about Aldi’s festive gestures. So there I was on Sunday morning as I rolled up to Aldi Kingsbury at 9.55am. To my horror there were already 30+ people waiting in a disorderly queue at the door. Surlely all those people couldn’t be after the 6 bottles of Glen Orrin that Aldi were stocking? I had phoned up Aldi a few days earlier to find out about the supply (which was surely going to outweigh the demand). At 10.00am on the dot, the doors opened and there was a semi-scramble. The search was on for the whisky. I finally found the whisky section, but was then directed to another area of the shop where the offers were. Another gentleman was also in search of the 30-year old whisky. This didn’t look promising. I now had a competitor, and we made polite conversation as the search continued. I found out that he only wanted two bottles. At last the ONE box of six bottles was brought to us at the checkout, and in fact there were only 5 bottles. My new whisky friend took two and I took the remaining three. On closer inspection, this Glen Orrin was a Blended Scotch Whisky, no mention of single malt, but a big ‘three zero’. So I had gone to all this trouble, and was not going to leave the store without making the purchase. I also could not resist 2 bottles of Glen Marnoch @ £18.00 each (actually the last two bottles this Aldi branch had in stock), just to fill up my box. Just to note, the other shoppers seemed more interested in cheap medication! As I left the shop (kind of regeretting I had not picked up a couple of bottles of Glen Orrin 5 yr old @ £13), I overheard someone asking about the whisky and he was told that it had sold out. All that’s left to do is to taste the stuff, or keep in order to hopefully appreciate in value. Forget bullion, silver, platinum, art pieces by Banksy, shares in Royal Mail, … whisky is now a serious investment (well, that’s what I told my wife anyway!).

  • Lynne Harvey

    Thank you and very interesting reading. Will be trying the Grand Cru champers.

  • Liam

    Glen Marnoch 12 year old (Highland “apparently”)
    When you can usually get Aberlour on offer for £18 yet pay £17 for this in Aldi it’s shocking. Cheap nasty taste leaving a chemical after taste (like hair spray) Very light in colour like Glen Moray (which I would rather drink I also don’t rate this Whisky)
    Not like the usual dark peated Highland whisky’s. Wouldn’t even drink this if it was bought for me very disappointed and definitely one to avoid.

  • David Clarke

    Bought a bottle in Spain and expected it to be much less peaty. My question is, where is this stuff produced and is it legal to use the word Islay on the bottle?

    • Sue Beatt

      Thanks for the question David. If it says Scotch Whisky on the bottle, it has to satisfy the regulations laid down by the Scotch Whisky Association. Scotch Whisky is a protected product. If the Scotch Whisky was made in Islay, then of course they can state that on the bottle.

  • Tim Warner

    After seeing Jim Murray’s praise for Aldi’s Highland Black 8 yr, I thought I’d try some myself. I was pleasantly surprised for its price point. Has anyone figured out which distillery produces it?

    • Jo Graham

      Hi Tim,
      I will certainly seek a bottle out, and if I can get anyone to say which distillery it came from, will let you know.
      In the meantime, I will enjoy trying it out 🙂

  • SoullessBoar

    Bought a bottle of the 18yo Glen Marnoch on a whim today in aldi and I’ve got to say its not bad for £30. The smell of the dram in the glass is better than the taste but its still rather nice.

    I have no idea where this dram is from but the taste is very familiar as if I’ve tried it before. It tastes a bit like glenfarclas 105 with a good bit of water in it but as glenfarclas is speyside it cant be.

    It also has a very similar taste to Ian Macleod “as we get it” highland single malt which many people say is Dalmore so that’s a possibility.

  • Jason Hughes

    The is a village just north of the Glendronach distillery in Forgue by the name of ‘Marnoch’. However, the Glen Marnoch 18yo tastes more like Dalmore than The Glendronach ‘Allardice’ 18yo. Upon visiting both these 2 distilleries recently, when asked do the sell barrels to supermarket chains for bottling, the reply, ‘with a wink’ was, ” We couldn’t possibly say”.

  • John Mccue

    Sorry, Just dont like 18yr old Glen Marnoch – tastes like cheap cardboard.

    • Sue Beatt

      We always say John, that the best whisky in the world is the one you like the best. It’s all about personal preferences.

  • Have tasted all the Glen Marnoch malts from the 12 yr old and on as well as a nice brandy from Aldi over the last few years . Before anyone says I am a brain dead English man , oh by the way I am , being introduced to malt whisky by my dear father in law i can go on and on about my favourite tipple without exaggerating . Stop being snobby and give it a go … can’t like em all . Those snobs who are branded minded probably never even tasted yamazaki or Paul John malt ……drink responsibly my friends .

  • michael smyth

    Agree with the metalic aftertaste comment , not the best ,at £18 a bottle ,its ok with irn bru ,why not state where it is from , its on its money ,want a good dram pay a good price ,simple

  • Steve Boyce

    I’m tasting the 18yo for the first time. It’s change from AU$70, and going down quite well on the rocks. Certainly fruity but subtle with it, and the same with a bit of sawdust and sourness that another reviewer mentioned. I’m liking it as a wind down from the day.

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