‘Tis the season to buy whisky. Part 3: Morrison’s

When my local Safeway was taken over by Morrison's, they ripped out the authentic pizza oven and replaced it with pies and all the lemon drizzle cake you could ever want. In hindsight, perhaps I should have expected that. What I didn't expect was a fish stall that is better than Waitrose and a bottled beer selection that would one day include BrewDog beers. And they do have some whiskies that might surprise you too – usually at a good price. Would I find something for the third part of my guide to off-the-beaten-track whisky bargains for Christmas?

I'm looking for a small range of whiskies at each supermarket that would go together to make a decent and varied whisky cabinet. Ideally, they should be non-standard bottlings and save a few quid.?? I've already been to Waitrose and Sainsburys.

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban ??23.49. Save?? ??8 and Glenmorangie Lasanta ??25.99. Save ??8

Some of the "16 Men of Tain" who, according to the labels on Glenmorangie, make this Highland whisky must be spending time courting the UK supermarket whisky buyers; there's an impressive range of their wares on offer this Christmas. These two are both "wood finishes", that is, whiskies that have spent the last part of their maturation before bottling in casks that previously held another drink, in these cases, port for the Quinta Ruban and sherry for the Lasanta. Both have a suggestion of Christmas.

The Quinta Ruban is very subtly done; it isn't at all dominated by port, but has taken on spice and chocolate with some orange sweetness. Don't worry, it's not Terry's chocolate orange, but a sophisticated, late-night dram.

The Lasanta has matured for 2 years in Olorosso sherry casks, but is like its sister, not overpowered by the finishing cask. Rather than the obvious sherry character that the Aberlour A'bunadh I recommended from Waitrose, the sherry gives a hint of Christmas cake flavours: nuts and spice and dried fruit. Save it for Boxing Day.

Ardbeg Ten ??30.99. Save nothing (supposedly). Talisker 10 Year-old ??22.95. Save ??6
I'm breaking my own rules to get a smokey whisky into the cabinet. Both these selections are the standard expressions of their distilleries, and the Ardbeg doesn't even show a discount. The Talisker is a very good price and a great whisky, but easy to find in a pub (even in the UK!). The Ardbeg Ten is a little harder to spot and I haven't seen it in any of the other supermarkets, so far. It is also something of a peat monster, and every cabinet should have one. At this price, it's seven quid cheaper than at some specialist whisky shops, so there's my discount satisfied. Sort of. It is also probably the best "ordinary" bottling of any malt whisky I know.

Bruichladdich Rocks ??22.32. Save ??3
Pronounced (something like) "brook-laddie", this distillery is from the same Hebridean island, Islay, as Ardbeg, but there, the similarity ends. I'm not sure if there is any such thing as a standard Bruichladdich these days, but the marketing says "the sophisticated Islay", by which they mean "not heavily peated*". A bit disingenuous, if you ask me, but at least the contents live up to its the very smart packaging.

This "Laddie" is called Rocks, is unpeated, so is not smokey at all, and is also a "wood finish", spending time in casks that used to hold French Grenache wines. It gets its name from supposedly made being made to go with ice. Many a malt fan would throw a wobbler at the very thought, but you bought it, you put what you want in it. It does make a good aperitif: light, vanilla cream aromas from the bourbon casks, and showing fruity wine flavours, as well as the luscious silkiness of a non-chill filtered whisky.

Black Bottle blended ??12.49. Save ??2.50
This is not your average blended whisky, and deserves to be better known. It distinguishes itself from most other blends by containing a higher than average proportion of malt whisky, and by being smokey. Morrison's also sell Black Grouse, the smokey version of The Famous Grouse – and a reasonable blended whiskey, but not in this class. The not nearly-as-famous Black Bottle is not quite as peaty as the Ardbeg malt, nor is it as complex, but for the money, a very good, malty/smokey, everyday whisky.

Bushmills 10 Year-old ??21.95. Save ??9.41 (ahem!). The Macallan Fine Oak 10 year-old. ??23.23. Save ??9.96
In choosing the final pick for my "instant whisky cabinet", I'd go for an Irish, a Bourbon/American, or a good blended whisky. I selected the floral, creamy, toffee, vanilla Bushmills for the Sainsburys cabinet, and it's the best Irish on show here, even if it's 4 quid more expensive in Morrison's, and the full price, if accurate would put it more than ??6 dearer than Sainsburys full price. I mention in passing the Macallan Fine Oak because it also uses bourbon casks for maturing and is a great, light-tasting but lovely whisky at a good price here.

Morrisson's website
To see the full range of Morrison's offers on whisky, go here (under Offers). Confusingly, I couldn't get to the whisky range by going through Drink.

Morrison's "instant whisky cabinet"
Silky fruity aperitif. Bruichladdich Rocks ??22.32. Save ??3
Brilliant peat monster. Ardbeg Ten ??30.99. Save nothing (or ??7)
Boxing Day with Christmas cake. Glenmorangie Lasanta ??25.99. Save ??8
Bushmills 10 Year-old ??21.95. Save ??9.41

Total cost: ??101.25
Total saving: around ??20
Reserve, instead of the Ardbeg
Black Bottle blended, which would make the total cost ??82.75 at a saving of around ??25

The one pick
Ardbeg Ten

*Apart from the Octomore bottling, which is as smokey as a Cabinet war office.

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