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Supermarket Series 1 – ASDA Extra Special Islay

Too often we are distracted by the media reporting record breaking auction prices or distilleries cleverly marketing small batch, high age statement releases with disproportionately high prices. We are quick to forget that this does not always reflect quality and you should never buy a whisky based on age, price or colour alone. There are some magnificent younger and non-age statement offerings on the market, at sensible prices which should never be overlooked.

At the other end of the spectrum are supermarket bottlings, which are regularly overlooked or perhaps even looked down on by whisky lovers. At their low price and availability, I am keen to try a selection of supermarket drams and write a short review for the blog.

First in the “Supermarket Series” is an ASDA Extra Special Islay, coming in at 40% abv and matured in bourbon barrels, cost - £20. ASDA state that this is a "sweetly spiced whisky with subtle hints of vanilla oak and citrus fruit undertones, rounded off with a dry smoky finish".

Based off both the quantity at which the distillery produces liquid and the dram fitting the distillery profile, it would be my guess that this is a young Caol Ila. Don’t be fooled by the alluring amber hue and the complementing gold/green bottle. This has likely had a fair amount of colouring to compensate for its young age and clear spirit. That said, if the supermarket name was omitted from the front of the bottle you could be convinced this is a premium product and I would certainly display it proudly in my cabinet…as long as the quality matches the appearance.

Unfortunately it’s nothing spectacular, but for £20 I am not disappointed. I actually find it surprising that Islay can produce and sell its whisky at such a low price point and still offer it to supermarkets to sell under their own brand and make a profit. I often forget that behind the scenes of the romanticism, tourism, history, culture and cult of Islay, is an global market and powerhouse distilleries keeping up with the demand.

Overall I find this quite a weak whisky. Diluted to the extent it feels overly watered down with little to no mouth feel or finish. Feels young, as none of the flavours compliment one another and are fighting to get through, none of which achieve this particularly well. The peat smoke is well balanced and doesn’t dominate the dram, but dissipates quickly on the nose, taste and finish.

A few more years in cask, and bottled at a higher abv would make this a great dram, but it would then not be priced at £20. I don’t think “you get what you pay for” is fair, as I would typically say this if I didn’t enjoy something. However, at £20 a bottle don’t expect anything special. Once we can return to the football, I can see myself carrying a hipflask of ASDA Extra Special Islay in my pocket.

My tasting notes:

Colour: Amber

Nose: Butter, Cream, Vanilla, Pear

Taste: Diluted Pear, Vanilla, Caramel, Subtle Peat Smoke

Finish: Where this whisky falls down, is a short finish and quickly dissipating peat smoke.

AWG Rating: 55/100

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