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UK Supermarket Whisky Wars

Curtis McMillan

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Posted by Fiona Beckett


First it was champagne, then lobster, now it looks as if single malt whiskyis the latest weapon in the supermarkets' battle to get our Christmas trade. Aldi's announcement this week, two weeks before it actually hits the shops on December 8th, that they will be selling a 40 year old single malt for an "unbelievable" £49.99 instead of the £300 they claim the bottle is worth should have the punters queuing at the door.

There's a snag. (Of course there's a snag.) Which is that there are only 3,000 bottles which, given Aldi's 450 stores, works out at 6 or 7 bottles a branch, assuming they allocate the same amount to Castle Bromwich as they do to Catford. Although anyone lucky enough to grab one could probably make a killing on eBay. As I've mentioned before, there's nothing whisky geeks like more than a limited bottling.

How good is it, though? I actually got to taste it a couple of weeks ago when Aldi wheeled out whisky writer Jim Murray of Jim Murray's Whisky Bible to present the two drams (there's also a 24 year old which goes on sale this Thursday at £29.99).

Conventional wisdom is that whisky ceases to benefit from wood once it reaches this kind of age but I have to admit it was spectacularly good, full of complex, rich fruitcake flavours. But £49.99 worth of whisky? Well that's up to you to decide. It's a posh bottling but "Glenbridge" isn't a widely recognised name. There's a good deal of speculation on whisky blogs and forums about the identity of the distillery who supplied the cask but only aficionados will appreciate the heritage aspect.

Aldi is not the only name in the game. Arch rival Lidl has brought out a range including a "Ben Bracken" 12 year old for £16.99. And Sainsbury's has recently been offering swingeing discounts on single malts includingGlenmorangie's Nectar D'Or which is aged in Sauternes casks and Cardhu 12 year old which is currently down almost £14 from £33.99 to £20.00 (the offer ends today).

But as usual with supermarkets what you gain on the roundabouts you lose on the swings. According to mysupermarket.com Sainsbury's "offer" price of £20 for Aberlour 10 year old - reduced from £26.86 - is still £5 more expensive than what appears to be Asda's regular price of £15. On the other hand Asda is charging £32.97 for Glenfiddich which you can currently buy for £20 in Tesco. You need to do your homework before you pull any bottle off the shelf.

Is the fact that a supermarket is selling a cut price dram enough to make you give it your custom? And are you strongminded enough to just to nab the bargain or will you end up - as I'm sure they hope - splashing the cash on a kilo of bratwurst, a pair of Ladies Fashion Wellingtons or aMemory Foam Pet Bed?

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