Whisky Shoot-Out – Lidl Abrachan vs Aldi Glen Marnach

It’s a month till Christmas, and both Lidl & Aldi are pushing their high-end, higher-price whiskies to compete with higher-quality supermarkets.
But there are still bargains to be had.
We put two £17.99 whiskies from Lidl & Aldi together to see if they compete with the big brands.

The big whisky story with these supermarkets for Christmas 2015 is their older whiskies.
But I thought these two below looked really interesting, and great value for the money.

Both Glen Marnoch and Abrachan are made-up names – there’s no distilleries of those names with twinkly old coopers gazing at the sea..
Someone had excess stock to sell, and Aldi and Lidl didn’t get so big by missing a bargain.

Lidl – Abrachan Triple-Matured Blended Malt Whisky
43% ABV

It has been aged in bourbon & sherry casks, and something else, although I can’t read the label. Tiny type, where’s the point?
Annoying, as I suspect there’s an interesting story in there, somewhere.

AbrachanColour As you can see – rich, warm, attractive caramel.
Nose Enticing, fruity, ginger, slightly salty. Very nice.
Taste Smooth. The bourbon and sherry casks give a complex, satisfying taste.
Starts off a bit fruity, then a bit of spice (ginger), and a touch of the Islay style sea tang. A hint of sweetness.
Easy drinking but fulfilling.
Outro More of the same, but with a bit of salt, like returning from the seaside, or an oyster aftertaste.
Verdict This is a really good value whisky. Any whisky drinker would be delighted to have this in the cupboard.

Aldi – Glen Marnoch Islay Single Malt
ABV 40%     £17.99

The peaty, smoky Islay Single Malts are very popular now, particularly with the Americans, so decent deals are hard to come by.
So anything with the words Single, Malt and Islay for under £20 is a must-buy.

Glen Marnoch IslayColour Bright amber honey.
Nose Boom! Big peaty smoke, some iodine/TCP. A rustle of green vegetation, more medicine coming out over time, some seaside ozone. Bonfire.
Taste Quite smooth. Nutty! Yes, I think so, but then Boom!, more peat smoke. Then some sweetness, then a touch of oak. Lively, less sophisticated than your big-name, longer-aged whiskies, but a hell of a thing.
Outro  A smoky feeling, walking back from the bonfire. Being at the seaside. What a great bonfire night treat to have in your hip flask.


And the winner is …  YOU!
There’s no “best” here.
Well, OK, I’d say the Islay is a MUST-BUY, but only if you like that sort of thing.
Bethan doesn’t – “yuck, it’s medicine, it’s smoke, it’s horrible” – but if you do, then this is silly money.
It is definitely a half-price Islay at its normal price.
I like this sort of thing. I have a real fire, I like to stay up & watch the football. Why have I only bought one bottle?

The Abrachan will appeal to a wider community, but this is not to damn with faint praise.
It’s very good stuff – an interesting, smooth, easy-drinking whisky
If you like the peaty end, then the Islay is well worth a try. If you’re not keen, it will make some superb cocktails.

Yes, I have spent £36 on whisky, but I’ve got a lot of it, and I’m really enjoying it.
I did this tasting on a Saturday lunchtime, before my lunch, and my clear palate loved them.
Top tip – hold them in your mouth a bit, let the flavours develop.
This is more my sort of thing than the gins.

** Update 13 Dec **

And so, three happy weeks later, the bottles are drawing to an end, so I thought I’d put the Lidl blend up against Johnny Walker Black Label.
This is certainly one of the best blended whiskies in the world, and normally retails for £28 (£10 more than the Abrachan, though you can often get a fiver off on offer)
Black Label AbrachanI’m sorry to report that Mr Walker kicked Abrachan’s butt.
It’s smoother, more complex, with a much longer finish.
What I can’t tell you is whether it’s worth that extra tenner.

**Another Update   15/11/16**

I tried another bottle of the Aldi Islay at Easter, and was less bothered. Tasted a little metallic.
But now it’s re-appeared for Christmas, I’ve tried it again and liked it just as much as I did last year.
It’s a very strong performer.
A little unsophisticated, a bit upfront and showy, but it’s a big smoky peaty treat.

**Yet Another Update 27/12/16**

The higher end of Lidl’s Glenalba range re-appeared in some stores before Christmas (not Aberystwyth, though, because they think we’re plebs).
Bethan got me the 25 year old sherry cask finish (£35, though I’m told came down to £31 later, annoyingly).
It’s certainly very good, and like the Aldi Glenmarnoch has a strong nose and taste of sweet fruit cake about it. Touch of marzipan too.
But it does taste like a blend, rather than the more sophisticated Aldi single malt offering.
It does have the advantage of at least being in some stores (the Aldi one sold out almost immediately), and it’s tasting notes are hilarious (“This liquid gold meteorite blazes a trail of brandy snaps, Gazpacho Anadaluz … intricate echoes of maraschino cherries” etc etc).
But in the end, I think it’s over-priced, especially when one considers the amazing offers on Amazon at the same time.

** June 2017 Update **

Lidl sold of the last of their 34 year old Glenalba for £30, and very good it was.
I was also able to put the Aldi Islay (£18) up against Caol Ila (£35), and they certainly looked and tasted very similar.
I suspect the Aldi one is from Caol Ila, but of course, I can’t prove it.
And since the Aldi is half the price, it looks twice as good value …


10 thoughts on “Whisky Shoot-Out – Lidl Abrachan vs Aldi Glen Marnach”

  1. I also agree that this extremely cheap Islay is a joy to drink.
    I am a big fan of Islay whisky, in particular Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Caol Ila. It is most certainly not up to the very exacting standards of Ardbeg or Lagavulin but does have it’s merits. I much prefer this than Laphroaig Select which is £10-£15 dearer and it certainly does a good job of delivering the phenols you expect from a good Islay.
    Well done Aldi

  2. If Islay is a taste you’ve yet to acquire, Aldi also have a very palatable Speyside single malt from the same range at the same price. Sweeter and less punchy, it is similarly too good for any dilution. For those who have suggested mixers, the shop also stocks a blended scotch with a plain black and white label for under twelve quid. I like it neat and it is also remarkably good for the money.

  3. Smooth and peaty that,s the Glen Marnoch Islay malt for you a great buy at £17.99 not every ones tipple but certainly mine if you like Laphroaigh you will like this whisky for sure will be trying out Aldis other single malts as well

  4. I love laphroaig and lagavulin and I love this Glen Marnoch. More laphroaig than lagavulin, and so if you like laphroaig you will like this – and love the price. My wife said it smells like antiseptic and so shewon’t touch it – another bonus! It goes from the shelves in our Aldi as fast as it appears, so clearly I am not alone in my enjoyment around here.

  5. Just tried the Glen Marnoch, we are great fans of Aldis whiskys, but have to say, this is awful! It tastes like TCP/mouthwash, and the only time we have ever diluted whisky with coke, we usually dilute whisky with more whisky. Sorry Aldi.

    1. Oh yes, that Islay is an aggressive one, that’s for sure.
      Personally I like the TCP/iodline taste, and I admire Aldi for making their brand so challenging.
      But it’s certainly not for everyone.
      It would make a great base for cocktails, with the flavour more of an accent than a full attack.
      Have a look at these, or do some Google-ing …
      Islay Cocktails

    2. I agree, it IS very much TCP/medicinal but this is a taste I love! It’s much like Laphroaig (in fact, I actually think this is were it’s been distilled).

      I wouldn’t put coke in it if I were you, it won’t work with the peaty smokiness. I’d suggest using it in cocktails if it’s not to your taste.

  6. Hello 🙂

    Have to agree this Glen Marnoch Islay edition is a joy. Smoky nose and wonderful tastes of mixed spice, ginger and nutmeg. At £17.99 it’s a steal!!!!

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