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Wednesday 14 December 2011

When is a single malt NOT a single malt?

Aldi have been making the headlines lately with the release of their 40 year old whisky, Glen Bridge, which has sparked more outrage/intrigue (delete as applicable) than any whisky we can remember this year. A fair dram it is too especially at £49.99- you can read our assessment of it here:

However, it was paired with the not-so-good 24 year-old Glen Marnoch.
Sadly for those in search of a good bargain, the 40 year old predictably (and swiftly) disappeared from the shelves and those left scratching their heads at the back of the queues were faced with the dilemma: go home from Aldi empty handed (is this possible?) or pick up a bottle of Glen Marnoch for £29.99.

Now... we didn't like the Glen Marnoch. At all. In this price bracket, there are a number of far more flavoursome options to consider as solid stocking fillers.

However we were drawn to a small but noticeably glaring error on the box, which begs the question: Who puts these things together??

As you'll see from the image above, apparently 'Glen Marnoch Speyside Single Malt Whisky has been distilled in continuous stills before being aged for an incredible 24 years in hand made oak casks....'

Right. Something doesn't scan properly here. Continuous stills??

Egg sucking grannies aside, based on this description, Glen Marnoch can't be a single malt.
The S.W.A rules surrounding the definition of a single malt Scotch whisky state that it must be produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in Pot Stills.

We don't want to beat anyone up here unduly, but this is a sloppy error. Come on guys!!

To be fair, after we asked Aldi to clarify the situation, they contacted us and their spokesperson issued the following:

"We can confirm that the whisky was distilled in 'pot stills' and not 'continuous stills'. This was simply a packaging error, and we apologise if this caused any confusion."


Fortunately, we couldn't help but notice that Makro has a super deal on multi-packs of Tipp-Ex at the moment ;-)

Even if this had been made in a continuous still, like grain whiskies that go into Scotch blends, it isn't good an example of whisky making on any level.

However, a good example of a whisky made in continuous stills is the grain variety. Up and coming as a category it its own right, there are some cracking single grains out there at very reasonable prices. Take, for example, this North British 1997...

North British - 1997 - Single Grain - Signatory Bottling - 43% abv (£23.25)

Nose: Exactly what you want from a grain; some unripe banana, whipped cream (sweetened), a hint of eggnog sans spices. Not rich, not thick but works well as an aroma.

Palate: Again, not thick and rich, but this is not to the detriment of the the liquid. Some lemon notes (limoncello), classic grain notes of pva glue (sounds awful, but it works) and the unripe banana again.

Finish: Not too long, but sweet and delicious.

Overall: A good example of single grain whisky at a price that makes it worth taking a risk.

Our bet is that single grain will grow, all be it slowly, as a category in the UK as stocks of malt are diverted abroad to markets where profit margins are higher and taxes lower. A good time to start thinking about expanding you palate towards these grain products.

Now, pass me that Tipp-Ex...