Glen Marnoch 29 (40%, Aldi Christmas Release 2017)

This was the second of the now-traditional Christmas releases from Aldi, which have all featured impressively aged Scotch single malts (as well as Irish whiskeys) at even more impressive prices. The first release in 2016 was a heavily sherried whisky almost certainly from Mortlach, as was indicated by the tell-tale bottling strength of 43.4% ABV. This one unfortunately is a more low-key affair, bottled at 40% and with no clues as to its origin, not even in terms of general region. However, given that it was the price you’d normal expect a 12 year-old whisky to be, we can’t complain very much.

Nose: Dried peaches and apricots with a lot of oak spice. Honey and wood varnish. This feels younger than 29 years old – I expect there were a lot of refill casks in the vatting. A bit of time makes it open up quite well, with orange and apricot jam as well as vanilla. Upon opening the bottle, the nose was dry, relatively inexpressive and, frankly, a bit tired, but after a few months it improved considerably. Water takes away some of the wood spiciness and adds more sweet notes – more jam and fruit. Very pleasant overall.

Palate: Spicier than the nose suggests, with pencil shavings and other indicators that it has spent a lot of time in casks. Unfortunately, the low strength makes the body and development quite weak, and this isn’t as expressive as the nose. The dominant note here is the oakiness, as opposed to the sweet fruit of the nose.

Finish: Quite short, with a lot of bitter oak.

Comments: The nose is the best thing about this, as is often the case with older whiskies, especially those at a low strength. The palate is a bit too middle of the road and anonymous (and veers dangerously close to old wood juice, which is another issue with old whiskies of course) and would have been better at a higher strength. However, we have to take into account the absurdly low price, which provides lots of people with no experience of really old whisky to try it for themselves. Water improves the nose, but does the opposite to the palate. As for where it’s from, your guess is as good as mine – whiskies, as well as other aged spirits, tend to converge after a lot of time in wood, and there are dozens of distilleries with old refill casks that could have produced this style.

Score: 80/100 (The nose alone would easily be in the mid-80s, but it’s let down by the palate and finish.)

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