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Lidl have been making something of a stir with their whisky selection over the past few years. Their latest release is Abrachan, a blended malt Scotch whisky bottled at 41%. To be honest, it’s getting to the point now that it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Lidl release another decent dram at a crazily low price. For years now they’ve been offering whisky drinkers a budget-friendly option.
Abrachan is the name given to their Blended Malt range. It’s been around in one form or another since at least 2013, with Triple Oak and 16 year old versions being available at different times. This latest incarnation however seems a little more interesting than what has come before. Dubbed “Peated & Smoky” it comprises of “rich and distinct” speyside and highland malts.
To the best of my knowledge, this marks a first dalliance with peated whisky for Lidl, outside of their Ben Bracken single malt range. It rather intrigues me that the smoky element of the blend hasn’t come from Islay, although that “highland” definition could easily mean another island malt. Could it be Jura? Ledaig? Talisker? Highland Park? Does the blend contain spirit from Ardmore or a peated Speyside like Benriach or Benromach? We’ll never know of course, but it’s fun to consider the possibilities.
This release is also the first time I’ve noticed a bit of a backstory on a Lidl label (try saying that ten times fast). Apparently the Abrachan was a mythical beast that roamed the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland, tormenting villages and scorching the land with its fiery breath. Its smoke permeated their barley crop and flavoured their whisky, changing the way Scotch whisky was made forever.
Now, I’m all for a wee daft story with my dram. In fact I’m probably more open to a bit of marketing bollocks than the vast majority of whisky critics. Even I think this is a bit half-arsed though. I’ve no problem with Scottish mythology being featured in whisky marketing but whatever this is, it isn’t Scottish mythology.
In truth, we don’t really have fire-breathing dragons in Scotland. I mean, of course, we don’t, what I mean is they don’t really feature in our legends. The beasts in our myths tend to be described as worms or serpents like the Stoorworm of Orkney, or the Beithir, living in dank caves and defending themselves with a poisonous sting. This is a country of selkies and kelpies and banshee and faeries, of grey men and blue men and of the Loch Ness monster. With mythology as good as that, who needs some old bollocks about a fire breathing dragon?
Abrachan joins the Ben Bracken single malt range and the Queen Margot blended Scotch on the Lidl supermarket shelves. Bottled at 41% it retails for £16.
Paul McQuade, head of buying spirits at Lidl GB, said: “We worked hard to create a blended malt that welcomes new whisky drinkers and connoisseurs alike with something a little different. Its unusual bottle, incredible flavour and great price make it a standout dram. Bringing a blended malt whisky to our shelves at such great value is testament to our commitment to offering premium Scottish products to our shoppers at unbeatable prices.”
Smell: Rich, spicy nose with subtle smoke. Notes of raisins and toffee. Caramel. Cinnamon and clove. Earthy smoke. Water brings out some honey and orange peel.
Taste: Big arrival! Lots of oak and dried fruits. Dark chocolate. Coffee. Water brings out some malty notes and some fruity apple comes through.
Thoughts: Lidl has redefined what bargain whisky can be. With Abrachan, however, they might have raised the bar even further. No £16 whisky has any right to pack this much character.
41% is a bit of a weird bottling strength, though. You can’t imagine that there would have been much difference between that and the standard 40%. Having said that, the dram is a more intense experience than just about anything else I’ve experienced from Lidl so maybe that extra percentage counts some way towards that.
I’ve tried enough whisky from Lidl now that I go into these reviews expecting a decent dram. Nevertheless, I was still surprised by how good this actually was. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say it is the best whisky Lidl has released thus far. It’s richly flavoured with a nice weight on the palate and the smoke lingers for a pleasing amount of time. Honestly, I don’t think you’d be disappointed if you paid £40 for this, never mind £16. A new standard in budget-friendly whisky?