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Supermarket Scotch

by Gavin D Smith, 10/06

There is still a significant degree of snobbery regarding supermarket 'own label' Scotch whisky. Yet many of us would doubtless be embarrassed to see our prejudice revealed as just that by the results of a blind tasting of own label versus branded blends...

Here we put a range of own label single malts fromthe major UK supermarkets through their paces, and give our tips for the very best available.

the whiskies

Asda, Islay Pure Malt 10-Year-Old (Scotland)
The nose is deceptively light, with floral and fresh peat notes. Pink elastoplast. More assertive on the palate than the nose might lead you to expect. Robust body, black pepper, chillis, with lingering tarry, phenolic notes kicking in late. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, ?13.98, Asda.
Morrisons, Pure Malt 8-Year-Old (Scotland)
Warm leather, spice and malt on the nose, this is also smooth and honeyed on the palate, with decent balance and weight. Morrison's have turned out a malt that is well rounded, sweet and very drinkable at the price. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, ?9.95, Morrisons.
Sainsbury's, Sherry Cask Malt (Scotland)
A blended malt, comprising a number of Highland single malts, finished in Oloroso Sherry casks. The component malts are probably quite young, but the effect of the Sherry wood is to give this whisky an attractive depth and rounded richness. Medium bodied, its delicate fruity characteristics are not overwhelmed by the sweet, Sherried notes. A good buy for lovers of whisky with a clear Sherry influence. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, ?11.99, Sainsbury's.
Sainsbury's, Single Speyside Malt 12-Year-Old (Scotland)
There is close competition among the supermarket own-label Speysides, but Sainsbury?s expression just wins out. Soft, sweet nose with a touch of peat, vanilla and caramel. Fruity, slightly citric on the palate, spicy, drying, with quite a lengthy finish. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, ?15.99, Sainsbury's.
Tesco, Lochruan Speyside 12-Year-Old (Scotland)
This Speyside from Tesco is a close runner up to Sainbury?s preferred own-label Speyside expression. Citrus fruits and malt notes on the nose, malt and fudge on the palate, with a suggestion of peat and oak coming through, too. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, ?15.49, Tesco.
Waitrose, Highland Single Malt 12-Year-Old (Scotland)
Most of the major supermarkets sell 12 year-old Highland, Speyside and Islay single malts at very similar prices, all bottled at 40% ABV, so competition is fierce. Best of the Highlands is the Waitrose, which offers a sweet, floral nose, and is medium bodied, sweet and malty on the palate, with some spice. Well balanced with quite a long, sherried finish. Lots of character without any harsh notes. Seriously good value. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, ?14.99, Waitrose.
Waitrose, Island Single Malt 10-Year-Old (Scotland)
Identified on the sleeve and bottle label as being produced in Orkney, reference to the smuggler Magnus Eunson points the consumer in the direction of Highland Park. Smokey and peaty on the nose, with malt and honey. Surprisingly peaty on the palate, with big, sweet notes of honey and fudge. Quite different to the branded 12-year-old Highland Park, but an excellent dram. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, ?16.99, Waitrose.
Waitrose, Islay Single Malt 10-Year-Old (Scotland)
Big, phenolic nose with aromas of fish oil, bonfires, peat and tar. Very smoky on the palate, which is buttery, with a note of kippers and medium long, fruity finish. A classic southern Islay. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, ?16.99, Waitrose.


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