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Monday, 21 November 2011

Aldi Want For Christmas Is You

Sometimes there are places which you never go to. You don’t even know anyone who does. But then all of a sudden, you meet a series of folk who have been there, or are going there.

Kazakhstan is an example of this. One week, nothing: never heard of anyone who has been there. The next, there are like five people in a row who have been out on holiday or business. What’s that all about?

I believe this is what Malcolm Gladwell calls ‘The Tipping Point’, described in his book of the same name as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors [sic] spread like viruses do." so what better way to push your business towards a tipping point, than with a good old PR stunt...

The idea of a ‘lost leader’ in Supermarkets, a cheap product to draw people in, in the hope that while you’ve got the shopper there, they might also buy a loaf of bread, a can of beans and some pork cylinders for supper, is nothing new. It’s just another form of advertising spend for the Supermarket, as it is making such great profit on the other items, that they can afford a small loss on the product originally on offer.

And so to Aldi. A shop that needs to reach its tipping point. A bunch of, actually quite good, TV adverts has seen this once unknown German Discount Supermarket battling against Lidl to become the go-to discount store in times of recession and economic uncertainty. With 450 stores in the UK (Lidl trumps it with 580) it needs to drive footfall towards its doors in the run up to the biggest shopping time of the year, Christmas.

What better way to whip the whisky world in to a frenzy than to knock out some old liquid at, what can only be described as, an unbelievable price. Try these on for size: a 24 year old single malt for £29.99. But, more amazing than that, a 40 Year Old Single Malt Scotch for... £49.99

£49.99. Yeah, that’s right. £49.99.

Now, I know what most of you are thinking “Honestly, you’d have to pay me to go in to an Aldi. It’s the Mos Eisley of supermarkets, drenched in the stench of humanity.” and you’d be right. I popped in to one last week just to prepare myself for the inevitable trip in for a bottle of 40 Year Old and it wasn’t a fun experience. It was like being in a Wes Anderson movie, if Wes Anderson had a crystal meth problem. Less Every Little Helps and more Care In The Community. Less Jamie Oliver, more Ronald McDonald. Less Waitrose, more Waiting For Godot...

But we should really put the medium of the sale to one side for a moment. It’s a shop, it’s going to be selling whisky at a knock-down price and making it available to the masses. What can be wrong with that? Nothing, so long as the whisky is good. So let’s find out if it is:

Glen Marnoch – 24 Year old Single Malt – 70cl – 40% abv (£29.99 from Aldi)

Nose: wet cardboard, steamed veg, Bovril, toasted brown bread.

Palate: Some green banana, a hint of tinned pineapple, sweet tea. But really sweet tea. This is one of the sweetest drams I’ve ever tasted. Once the sweetness hits, and it is not a good, brown sugar sweetness, it’s an artificial sweetener saccharine-style flavour, you don’t get much more out of it.

Finish: Copper and liquorice with a touch of salted caramel give way to damp wood and wet leaves, post-autumn.

Overall: Pretty one dimensional and to be honest, pretty poor. I just can’t get the saccharine flavour out of my mouth and I’m not a fan of very sweet whisky. Not a bottling for me, even at £29.99

Glenbridge – 40 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Whisky – 70cl - 40% abv (£49.99 from Aldi)

Nose: A hint of smoke, some orange peel, marmalade / dry jaffa cake notes. New leather and wax jacket, but the overriding tone is dried orange peel.

Palate: Warming, oily palate of cough sweets, orange again (the middle of a jaffa cake), some wood tones, fresh figs, melon wrapped in param ham and a wee bit of coffee.

Finish: The orange lingers, developing in to cherry sweets and cracked black pepper. This whisky has been matured in European Oak Sherry casks and this really hits through on the finish, adding spices to the stewed fruits of the palate.

Overall: In a word, this stuff is very tasty. Take the age statement off this and it would still be a cracking drink for £49.99. Stick it on, and you have an absolute steal of a whisky. Warning, it does fall apart a little with water.

In summary, the 40 is great, esp at the price they’re knocking it out at. But sadly the 24 Years Old really isn’t that great. The biggest question is why? Why are Aldi doing this? Are they hoping to lure in people who wouldn’t normally shop there, pre-Xmas or are they wanting to reward their loyal customer base with a steal of a whisky?

Either way, with only 3000 bottles across 450 stores, we'll all be pretty lucky if we get hold of one. And so it is that I wish you good luck, yet at the same time apologise in advance for my elbows in your face, as the shutter on my local Aldi rises for the sale.