Bought: ASDA, 4th January 2017
76/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
4/5 Stars – ASDA Website (average from 3 reviews)
‘Tasgall’ was the name ASDA superstore gave to its own brand of blended whisky, which appeared on the shelves in 2014. I was one of the first to mention Tasgall on whisky forums, where it soon became apparent that there was very little interest in this new blend. Priced at £60 for the 30yo and £50 for the 25yo, the Tasgall was more expensive than similar bottlings by Aldi and Lidl, which may explain the lack of interest. Towards the end of 2016 the inevitable happened and ASDA labelled the Tasgall ‘reduced to clear’, first by £10, then by half. The Tasgall is no longer listed on the ASDA website. Discontinued? It looks very like it.
The official tasting notes for the Tasgall 30yo say “full bodied and velvety smooth with rich fruitcake, honey and oak tannin flavours enveloped in a vanilla sweetness with delicate spice and floral notes”. The blend is formed from a combination of Highland and Speyside malts mixed with Lowland grain.
Scoring 76/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable score for the Tasgall 30yo but as a point of reference, all 6 versions of Lidl’s Glenalba blend score 81/100 or more. That’s the sort of competition the Tasgall had. Nevertheless, comments on the ASDA website were quite favourable including “very rich and complex” and “this is a sensibly considered product which will give a strong sense of luxury to anyone who usually enjoys a regular blended whisky.” Curiously one reviewer mentions “rich peaty undertones”, which aren’t in the tasting notes. A later review says “no hint of peat”. Perhaps batch variations sometimes included a peat flavour from the Highland malt element. Or maybe someone’s taste buds were playing tricks on them.
On the tube and label of the Tasgall 30yo it says “exceptionally rare”. Nothing that sits on a supermarket shelf for 2 years is exceptionally rare but now that it’s gone bottles will be getting rarer. As an obscure blend it is unlikely to make a good investment but if you were fortunate enough to buy one of the last bottles for £25 it should soon double its money at auction. But after commission, postage, etc., you’d be better off drinking it or giving it as a present to a blend lover. I’m sure they’d appreciate it.
Bought: ASDA Supermarket, 18th October 2016
79.75/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)
‘Tasgall’ (meaning ‘cauldron of the Gods’ in Norse) is a brand name that ASDA Stores Ltd decided to use for this blended Scotch whisky. They released a 25yo and 30yo in late 2014 for £50 and £60 respectively. This may seem a good price for the age until you consider what Aldi and Lidl bring out for Christmas. It took 2 years before ASDA reduced the prices to £40 (25yo) and £50 (30yo). This tempted me into getting the 25yo mainly because of the You Tube review below. Comments online suggest there’s no clear winner between the 25yo and 30yo in terms of taste so the price of the 25yo won it for me. But at £40 would this blend tempt a single malt drinker away from the likes of the Ardbeg 10yo or cheaper options like the Highland Park 12yo or Glenmorangie 10yo? Probably not. I suspect the Tasgall is aimed at the occasional blend drinker (or as a gift to one) where seeing a significant age statement means ‘better’.
On the tube of the 25yo it says “oak-aged blend combining the spicy, floral flavours of Highland malts, the sweetness of Speyside malts and the purity and strength of Lowland grain whisky”. Clearly a load of marketing waffle but at least it tells us the regions that contribute to the mix. The official tasting notes say “vibrant, full bodied and sweet with creamy vanilla notes, slowly revealing a rich, elegant finish with lingering hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and baked fruits”. It certainly sounds nice enough and reviews online tend to agree with the consensus being that the Tasgall 25yo is very drinkable.
A slight annoyance about the Tasgall 25yo is seeing “very rare” printed on it. No it’s not! Anything that’s been available in a supermarket for over 2 years isn’t rare. One review online says the Tasgall is collectable. Clearly this wasn’t written by a collector and is probably part of the marketing guff. In the present market a non-rare blended whisky isn’t a good investment (even a 25yo or 30yo) but who is to say that the current collecting criteria wont change. Perhaps in 2050 old supermarket blends will be all the rage and Scotland will win the World Cup! The future is in the lap of the Gods, having jumped out of the cauldron.
‘Tasting Britain’ review on You Tube (January 2015):
Bought: ASDA, 6th April 2015
85/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
80.44/100 – Whiskybase (average from 29 member votes)
In recent years the whisky industry has been going through a boom period. More and more whiskies are appearing on supermarket shelves. Imagine you run a whisky distillery famous for a 10-year-old single malt. Back in 2005 there was no way of telling what the demand would be for your 10yo in 2015. You have 2,000 barrels of 10yo spirit ready to be bottled but your sellers want more. What do you do? You have 1000s of barrels containing younger whisky but it has a while before it reaches 10 years. You decide to mix 200 barrels of younger spirit with 1,000 barrels of 10yo and create a new NAS (non age statement) release. Eventually you’ll phase out the 10yo in favour of this new bottling, which is easier for you to produce because you’re no longer tied to a minimum age of 10yo whisky.
OK, so that’s a very simplistic view of the whisky industry but it’s a dilemma that a lot of the distilleries are now facing. Macallan have discontinued their 10yo, 12yo and 15yo bottles in favour of NAS, likewise Glenlivet are phasing out their 12yo for a new ‘Founder’s Reserve’ NAS. Talisker have introduced the ‘Skye’ at a similar price to the famous 10yo, so you have to wonder how long before the 10yo is officially replaced.
The Whiskybase rating for the 10yo is 85.68/100 from 335 member votes compared to 80.44/100 for the ‘Skye’ from 29 member votes. It’s still early days but any new Talisker was always going to struggle to replace the famous 10yo. I just hope that what made Talisker unique to so many of us in the affordable 10yo isn’t lost: drowned by younger spirit to try and keep up with demand.
Here’s Horst Luening with his thoughts about the Talisker Skye on You Tube (April 2015):
Bought: ASDA, 20th March 2015
I first added ASDA’s ‘Extra Special Islay Malt’ to my wishlist back in 2013 when it was sold as a 12-year-old. The Whisky Bible 2013 rated it as 91/100, which classified it as ‘brilliant’. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a bottle because I wasn’t overly excited about Islay malts back then. I made a list of the best supermarket blends and single malts according to the Whisky Bible 2013. The ASDA Islay 12yo was no.7 of 21, and the only ASDA whisky to get over 80/100.
Jump forward to 2015 and I’m a big Islay fan, especially the Ardbeg 10yo. Unfortunately, it costs over £40 a bottle, so it’s an expensive whisky to have as a regular sipper. What I needed was a good but inexpensive Islay malt to space out samples of the Ardbeg, and slow down its consumption. My thoughts returned to my supermarket list.
ASDA’s ‘Extra Special Islay Malt’ is half the price of the Ardbeg 10yo but certainly not half the quality. It’s the same price as it was in 2013 (£20.50) but it’s been reduced from a 12yo to a NAS (non aged statement). Sadly, Jim Murray hasn’t included it in his Whisky Bible since 2013 so you’re stuck with my opinion (sorry!). In general I find it very pleasant, albeit a bit rough around the edges. The marketing literature describes the taste as “light” but it has enough body to be satisfying. All-in-all I like it but I haven’t a clue which Islay distillery it could be from. As always with a supermarket whisky, this remains a mystery.
Bought – ASDA, 3rd November 2014
79/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
77.3/100 – Whiskybase (average from 82 member votes)
With the name “tailfire” I was a bit worried about the finish on this whisky. Is it designed to set your palate on fire? Or does it mean I’ll have indigestion for a week after drinking it? Or perhaps a ‘tail fire’ more commonly experienced after a hot curry?! The ‘tailfire’ actually refers to a salmon fly, used for fishing, although the tail pictured on the back of the whisky box looks more like that of a dragon’s! (I now realise it’s supposed to be a fish hook, not a tail).
The Dufftown Distillery hasn’t exactly been setting the world of whisky on fire in recent years with their lacklustre 12yo, so it’s nice to see some new releases aimed at injecting life into the brand. Although the current rating on Whiskybase isn’t great, it’s not bad either. The member, and expert vlogger, Mark Dermul summaries his review of this new malt with “The difference with the Sunray is quite clear. This one is much better. A nice addition of red and dark fruit and a wonderful finish. Again eminently quaffable and friendly priced, so if I had to make a choice, I would take this Tailfire home.”
Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible only has 3 words to say about the Tailfire, which are “tailspin, more like”. Not exactly complimentary and 79/100 classifies this single malt as “average, and usually pleasant though sometimes flawed”.
Here’s SingeMaltManiac with their thoughts about the Tailfire on YouTube (Nov 2015):
Bought – ASDA, 24th October 2014
92.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
81.79/100 – Whiskybase (average from 84 member votes)
89/100 – Ralfy, Buffalo Trace Review, YouTube (October 2010)
The Whisky Bible 2015 doesn’t have much to say about this standard version of Buffalo Trace, which is hardly surprising given the 6 pages dedicated to all the other distillery releases. For the author, Jim Murray, to try so many variations of Buffalo Trace, he obviously thinks this bourbon is a worthwhile sipper. 92.5/100 classifies this whiskey as “brilliant!” with a comment of “easily one of the lightest BTs I have tasted in a very long while”.
Nearly 82/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark when you consider this bourbon can be found in the UK for less than £20 (even cheaper elsewhere in Europe). Reviews include comments of “standard, but a quality bourbon. Nose itself deserves very high marks”, “overall very smooth. The hits of vanilla and caramel go together with the nuttiness of the finish” and “highly recommend for most bourbon cocktails. Very versatile.”
If you’re a Jack Daniels drinker that wants to try something different, or never tried bourbon before, then Buffalo Trace is certainly worth getting hold of.
Bought – ASDA, 15th October 2014
88/100 – The Whisky Bitch – YouTube (January 2012)
One annoying thing about buying a whisky miniature is, you often don’t get all the information found on a bigger bottle. Take for example this ‘Single Barrel’ by Jack Daniels. There are 5 different versions reviewed in the Whisky Bible 2014, each with different cask numbers. This information would be written on a 70cl bottle but it’s missing on a 5cl. Hardly surprising given the shortage of space. And it’s my fault for being such a cheapskate and not spending £45 on a bigger bottle!
The good news is, of the 5 versions of the Single Barrel in the Whisky Bible, the lowest scores 86/100 and the highest 93.5/100. In other words, according to the author, there’s no such thing as a bad version of this bourbon. This is backed-up by the different versions of the Single Barrel reviewed on Whiskybase, all with scores in the 80s. Whichever barrel my miniature came from, it should be good.
I first discovered the Single Barrel when hunting for a present for a Jack Daniel’s No.7 fan. And this is exactly the sort of market the Single Barrel is designed for. So, if you have a friend or relative that loves Jack Daniel’s No.7, but you wish to get them something different (and better) for Christmas, then the Single Barrel is the bottle of choice. And, if you’re lucky, they’ll share it with you! 🙂
Bought – ASDA, 15th October 2014
77/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
73.8/100 – Whiskybase (average from 82 member votes)
84/100 – Ralfy – Gentleman Jack – YouTube (October 2010)
When Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol, if she couldn’t think of anything nice to say about a contestant’s voice she had a fallback statement of “nice shoes!” Gentleman Jack, I can honestly say, nice bottle! As for the contents, the Whisky Bible isn’t very complimentary, saying “a whiskey that wilfully refuses to say anything particularly interesting, or go anywhere”. At the same time the Whisky Bible gives the Jack Daniels No.7 an excellent 92/100. Compare and contrast, we have Ralfy saying that Gentleman Jack is better than the No.7 in his opinion, with more complexity. Whose right?! Who knows! Ralfy certainly considers this bourbon worthy of a review, so he clearly likes it.
Although some supermarkets regularly reduce the Gentleman Jack to the low £20s, I decided to get a miniature to give this bourbon baby a try before committing to anything larger. The average score of 73.8/100 on Whiskybase from 82 members is very low, which isn’t filling me with a lot of confidence. It sounds like the “nice shoes” I need are a pair of trainers, so I can run as far away from the Gentleman Jack as possible! But I enjoyed the No.7 so I’ll spare my judgement until after the tasting.
Bought – ASDA, 15th October 2014
93.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
83.7/100 – Whiskybase (average from 186 member votes)
84/100 – Ralfy – Glenfiddich 15yo Distillery Edition – YouTube (July 2014)
The rating from the Whisky Bible 2014 dates back to the 2010 edition. The author, Jim Murray, says of the nose “quite astonishing and, even with its spice nip, one of the great whisky noses of 2010.” He then says about the taste “my word!! Just so lively…enormous complexity from the very first mouthful.” It’s only the finish where Mr Murray feels this malt falls down slightly because it ends too quickly. Nevertheless, with a mark of 93.5/100, the classification for this single malt is “brilliant!”
If you listen to Ralfy’s YouTube review, one thing he and Jim Murray agree on is the presence of bananas. Ralfy even suggests “roasted bananas?!” Add this to sultanas, heavy fruits, barley, vanilla, spices and coconut and you’re in for quite a tropical surprise of loveliness. If you’re interested in a whisky with Speyside sweetness expanding in numerous directions, with a 51% kick and non-chillfiltered, then this dram has your name written all over it. Definitely one to add to your letter to Santa!
I’m being a bit picky here but I’ve been pondering, why “Distillery Edition”? With Glenmorangie giving names like “Quinta Rubin” and “Lasanta” to 12yo bottlings, and Glenlivet naming a 16yo “Nadurra”, I’m wondering if the Glenfiddich marketing department were at the pub on the day scheduled for thinking up an interesting title. After several drinks, the names they were coming up with were certainly interesting but not the sort of thing considered fit for public consumption. I would think “Distillery Edition” is stating the blatantly obvious – it’s an edition of whisky that’s come from the distillery. Wow! I’m only bitter because they didn’t accept my suggestion of “The Dog’s Bollocks” when I wrote to them regarding new whisky names.
Bought – ASDA, 13th August 2014
82/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
An upgrade! My miniature of the Clubhouse has finally been surpassed by its big brother, the 70cl version. I was a bit concerned it might be 50cl because there appears to be two sizes of the big version mentioned online, and sometimes even the sellers get them muddled up. If you go shopping for this blend then watch out for that.
When I posted about my miniature of the Clubhouse last year I mentioned the Whisky Bible score but not what the author, Jim Murray, had to say, which was “not quite the clean, bright young thing it was many years back. But great to see it back in my nosing glass after such a long while…” This had me reaching for my 2009 copy of the Bible and, sure enough, no Clubhouse or any of the Old St Andrews range. I went back to 2006 and there they were. Back then the Clubhouse scored 90/100, which was the best of the bunch with a 5yo scoring 77/100, an 8yo scoring 69/100 and a 12yo scoring 88/100. Although standards for the relaunched Clubhouse have slipped (in Jim’s opinion), the new aged-statements (Twilight, Fireside and Nightcap) appear to be an improvement on their predecessors. It’s clearly swings and roundabouts, or should that be ‘swings and putts’?! 🙂