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Monday, 17 December 2012

18 Under 30 Part 13: Drinks By The Dram (Not Optimum Spirits Blended Whisky)



In this series of our top picks for items under £30, we have looked at some excellent offerings which give you fantastic 'bang for your buck'. However, it can be a total minefield out there, and you have to be very careful when treading the boards at the lower end of the marketplace.

Okay, this is also true at the top end of the whisky world, too. But it seems to be a truism that at the higher end, you're much more likely to get a bottle of excellent booze than you are the bottom end of the scale. It's just that at the very high end, the big question tends to be around 'value for money', because if something has an extreme price tag attached, the key element is 'just how good is the hooch'?

Hopefully this selection of short posts will acts as some sort of a guide when it comes to the cheaper bottles around; your pillars of fire in the night and cloud in the day, to guide you to the best purchases in town. But on this one occasion, we're not just going to give you some advice on what to spend your 'hard earned' on, but also something to studiously avoid...

So our first DON'T EVEN GO THERE EVEN FOR UNDER £30 comes in the form of this hideous monstrosity:

"Optimum Spirits Blended Whisky"

Sitting comfortably on the shelf of my local Tesco store, in the Scotch Malt Whisky section, (you naughty, nautghy people, Tesco, you) the label doesn't mention the word 'Scotch' at all. In fact, one quick glance at the rear of this 'eco refill pack' shows it's actually from a Dutch distillery, the Toorank Distillery (I guess with a name like this, at least there's a modicum of honesty...) to be precise... which most certainly makes this NOT a Scotch whisky.

It's not often that we sing the praises of the Scotch Whisky Association (who can be seen to tie the creative hands of the whisky-making community in Scotland a little). However, it is situations such as this where you'd hope they'd flex some of the muscle of which they so often talk and at least have a word with Tesco to make sure this item is not simply stuck in the middle of the 'Scotch' bottles on the shelf. 

How about some sort of stickering to make the average consumer aware of the authenticity of the 'whisky' inside this pouch? And I've not even begun to describe the giant '14' on the front label. 14 Years Old? Nope, '14 servings of whisky inside'... I think Michael Caine put it perfectly, here, when it comes to this product.

In the interests of good journalism, I decided to purchase a packet for the princely sum of £8. Yes, that's £8 Shall we see what we get for our money:



Optimum Spirits Blended Whisky – 14 Servings – 30% abv - 35cl - £8

Nose: There are the typical notes of heavy grain whisky, with a huge amount of spirit and acetone. This whisky is YOUNG! As a result, some tinned peaches in syrup and a hint of fresh pine are about all you're going to get.

Palate: Ugh, this is simply one of the worst whiskies I've ever tasted. It's like a bad Frankie Boyle joke: bitter, horrible and leaves an awful taste in your mouth. It's like someone has tried to glue my mouth shut using a fixer made not from the whole of a horse, but just from the genitalia.

Finish: If I'm being polite: very young, spirit tones and a hint of bright banana. If I'm being honest: salty and synthetic... utterly awful.

Overview: “Dear Tesco: what the f- do you think you're playing at?! Seriously. With this stuff, I might have to get all Malcolm Tucker on your ass...”

So, what do you buy for your £8 which might be better than this total liquid let down, this purgatory in a pouch? 

Well, not a lot to be honest. 

Yesterday's £10-ish 20cl of Lagavulin 16 doesn't so much as play both Emperor and King over this Jester of an offering, but also plays God to something which tastes like Satan's house whisky from the bowels of hell.

But if £8 is your limit, your absolute maximum for a purchase, then head over to Master of Malt, who do their wonderful 'Drinks By The Dram' selection. Here, you may only get 10% of the size of the pouch above, but you won't feel like you've had Dutch squatters in your mouth, using your tongue for a mattress and your molars as toilets.