Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Bargain Blends (Ideal for Xmas)

As I started this week I began, as mentioned previously, with the best of intentions to push on with my whisky exploration.  That suffered a slight setback when I woke to discover a minor flood in our kitchen this morning….thankfully my whisky was unharmed.

As the last area of the kitchen was drying off I glanced up to my ever growing collection and took in the various styles and quality on display.  To the bottom end of this scale I noticed my two budget blends - Grant's Family Reserve and Ballantine's Finest.  These were both picked up in a local supermarket recently for £25.  Extremely reasonable in today's whisky prices.

As we move into the season of goodwill, we should all get ourselves down to our local supermarkets as there are some pretty serious bargains to be had.  Each week the bosses at these stores will drive their prices down in an attempt to persuade all of us to come their way and spend our pennies.

Now, some of you just getting started on your own whisky journey may think that the reason these bottles are so cheap is that they are of poor quality and only exist to be mixed in large amounts with Coke or Lemonade but the reality is that there are some great whiskies out there as the two reviews below will hopefully show.

Ballantine's Finest Scotch Whisky - 40%

Nose - Light and fresh spirit.  Unripe banana, candied lemon and a hint of bubblegum!!! Light grains make an appearance along with some fresh cut wet grass.  There is a faint whiff of smoke but not peat.  This nose has a feel of a Highland whisky with no obvious sherry present.

Palate - Light and inoffensive and eventually some clove spice and sweet malts take over.  With a touch, and a mean a touch, of water the sweetness and spice arrives much quicker accompanied by the fruits picked up on the nose.

Finish - Light, clean and warming spice settles and fades into more fruit with emphasis on peach and red apple.

Overall - This was bought for £15 and to be fair it feels that this was a nice price to pay. It's a nice, decent blend with lovely light fruits and spice.  It is perfectly drinkable and grand as far as value for money goes.

Grant's Family Reserve - 40%

Nose - Initial hit of fresh peat smoke which fades over time.  Stewed blood orange, soft grains and light honey.  Time in the glass allows sherry malt flavours to come through in the form of dried fruits, ginger spice and Christmas cake.  Throughout the nose there is an underlying nail varnish remover / ladies perfume note but it's nothing more than a slight background effect and is in no way unpleasant.  With water some gentle pear and green apple decide to show their faces.

Palate - The very initial arrival is that of light alcohol spirit, which would account for the underlying varnish note, but this fades quickly in the mouth to reveal sweet malt and grain along with juicy red fruits (strawberries, red currants, etc etc).

Finish - The finish is shortish but is very smooth, warming and ends with vibrant peach and apricot.

Overall - This was bought for £10 and in my opinion is an absolute belter for that price.  Considering some supermarket, own brand, "white label" spirits retail for roughly the same price, this is a whisky that can not be ignored, when on offer.  This really is a great example of what can be bought if we take a bit of time and examine closely what's in our local stores.

If I had to pick a winner it would definitely have to be the Grant's and to be honest, whilst the price is a big factor, I still would have this as the victor if the prices were the same.

To conclude I would simply highlight that it is not only the blends that can be found at scarily good prices.  At this time of year some of our most favourite single malts can be found at prices we would never see anywhere else.

Get out there, get looking and enjoy.

Until next time,



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