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All the rage…
Supermarkets were once a common hunting ground for whisky lovers but with the current abundance of no age statement, 40% abv single malts, it seems like real quality is getting harder to find. Indeed, it is entirely possible that the supermarket trend for selling 10 – 12 year old whisky at low budget prices at least partly encouraged distillers to replace their products with younger, cheaper to produce alternatives. Whatever the case, an age statement is a rare thing to find on a supermarket shelf these days.
From a business perspective this move away from well-aged products is completely understandable. Vodka for example, takes a matter of hours to produce and thanks to minimum unit pricing in Scotland, will now cost at least £14 a bottle. Is it reasonable that a single malt Scotch whisky, possibly 10 years in the making, should occupy roughly the same price category? Even the cheapest of blends must be at least 3 years old by law yet they are priced alongside the cheapest vodkas, gins and white rums, all of which could, in theory, have been produced in a few days. One could even argue that entry-level Scotch whisky has long been under-priced when compared with rival spirits.
This matters little, however, to the long faithful Scotch drinker who has watched his favourite drams disappear from his local store over a number of years, only to be replaced with younger, inferior alternatives that somehow cost the same. It is, as always, the consumer who loses out, in the end.
Bargains can still be found however, especially if one is willing to look away from the established brands of yesteryear. In particular, supermarket ‘own brand’ whisky has been receiving a lot of media attention and a lot of praise over the last few years, with Aldi and Lidl seemingly leading the charge. Offering everything from the most affordable of blends to special 30 year old single malt bottlings released just in time for Christmas, the constant parade of spirits awards hurled at these chains no longer seems surprising.
One of the more recent additions to the Aldi range is Hogwash. This budget friendly blended malt has quite clearly been, ahem, inspired by a certain Wm Grant & Sons’ simian-themed favourite, but since a 2018 Drinks International Report found that dram to be the most popular Scotch brand throughout the bars of the world, one can hardly question the logic of following in its footsteps.
Given the name Hogwash in honour of the 250 litre Hogshead casks that mature a significantly large proportion of Scotch whisky, the blended malt has no age statement and is bottled at a lowly 40%, but retails at the ridiculously low price of just £15 a bottle.
Smell: Bourbon Vanilla, Chewy Toffee, Apple and Pear Drops, Honey and Lemon and a touch of Wood Varnish(?!)
Taste: Toffee & Green Fruits, Caramel, Milk Chocolate, Oatcakes and Creamy Fudge with a light touch of Peppery heat.
Thoughts: This is quite an enjoyable every day sipping whisky that can be snapped up for a pittance. Is it better than a £50 or £60 bottle? No… but it doesn’t have to be. All it has to do, is reward the people looking for a half decent dram on a budget and in that respect, it is a success.
The design and even flavour profile are clearly influenced by Monkey Shoulder but if the end result is more affordable whisky for the punter, who cares? On this evidence, I’m not in the least bit surprised that Aldi keep picking up medals in the low budget categories of the infinite variety of Whisky Awards the world over. It’s cheap but it’s tasty. Can’t say fairer than that.
For more on Hogwash