Up until a few years ago the saying ‘there's no smoke without fire’ was very apt with regards to the reputation of supermarket own branded whisky, but as the industry has grown over the last few years so have the quality of offerings available from the supermarkets.
Now I’m not saying that every drop of drammage on either the lower or higher shelves in the supermarket is going to deliver a whole wealth of dramming delight, but the tide has certainly turned and there is now an ever evolving range of impressive single and blended malts that deserve to be discovered and drammed.
I have to say that I was rather pleasantly impressed when I recently stumbled across the ‘Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Highland 12 Year Old’. Up until now this particular region has been badly represented as far as supermarket malts are concerned in my opinion, but this particular bottling compares and stands up very well to many of the higher priced distillery branded offerings available.
The nosing kicks off with a whirlwind of moorish wonderment, in the form of a rich moist homemade fruitcake that has all the aromas of Christmas, and a bag of warm West Country vanilla fudge.
Rampant yet balanced waves of oak, caramel and a jar of ‘Kirsch’ soaked cherries, make for the next set of sensations, along with a subtle spice explosion of cardamoms and cloves.
A zing of grapefruit, a pinch of pepper and a subtle hint of cindering smoke then leap enthusiastically into the proceedings, helping to provide a very pleasant level of balance.
The palate is pretty much a concentrated reflection of those wonderlicious elements that wowed the nose. This time around a glugging oak infused wave of caramel kicks off the proceedings, followed by the vibrant freshness from some vivacious, clove infused vanilla.
The aftertaste from that aforementioned fruitcake kicks off the next set of sensations along with more of those cherries, but this time round in the form of a rather watered down but still satisfying sweet jam.
A zesty fresh infusion of lemon and cardamoms then arrives, which helps to balance out and keep all the other palatable delights in order. Then once you think this dram has given its all, it delivers a subtle and satisfying smokey undertone, which further adds to its balance and overall quality.
This is a fabulous dram and one I hope will open people’s eyes and indeed palates. We all know the saying to ‘never judge a book by its cover’ but now I think it’s equally important to ‘never misjudge a supermarkets own brand dram’!