The headlines are everywhere.
- Yahoo Finance: "Aldi Whisky Named Best in the World (Again)"
- Forbes: "Inexpensive Whiskies From Supermarket Aldi Win Gold at 2018 Scotch Whisky Masters"
- CNBC: "Aldi supermarket scotch whiskey the best? One drinkers' journal says it is"
- Fortune: "Aldi's Scotch Whisky is Cheaper Than Most. It Was Also Named One of the World's Best"
No, Aldi Whisky is Not the Best in the World
Yesterday, my inbox was inundated with a flurry of headlines proffering (and not for the first time) a bargain bottle of whisky from Aldi as the finest in the world, and my blood (again, not for the first time) boiled....MUCH MORE
The headlines, oh the headlines: “ALDI OWN-LABEL WHISKIES NAMED BEST IN WORLD” (the capitals alone are enough to make a reasonable man wince), and “Aldi’s $17 Whisky Was Just Named the Best in the World“… These statements, while excellent clickbait fodder, are simply not true.
Now the last time we got wind of Aldi’s liquor receiving any accolade, it was for a rosé which won a flurry of medals and awards (some of spurious repute, others not). An initial idea, to have a professional sommelier rate it (and perhaps other wines from Aldi), turned into a full day of tasting just about every alcoholic product the German supermarket chain had on offer, which we (luckily) filmed (there was little chance of remembering much).
We also had a whisky expert come along for the ride, and a comedian, because why the hell not?
And there were some winners, too. A AU$7.99 bottle of Mosel proved to be delicious, as did a AU$12.99 shiraz from the Barossa. They also sell a bloody tasty champagne for a clean lobster, which tasted more like something for which you’d expect to pay thrice the price.
But they also sell a LOT of crap–which is fine, by the way, it’s cheap liquor. Nobody is expecting it to be Louis XIII–and this is why this continued track record for winning award upon award is so perplexing.
Until you take a closer look at two things: the awards they’re actually winning, and the nature of those awards.
I’ll start by drawing your attention to an article published by ELLE last year, lauding Aldi’s then-recent win of no less than five awards. While factual in nature, it casually glosses over the fact that the 2017 Melbourne International Spirits Competition, which it cites as its source for these awards, is not exactly the Walkleys of the liquor industry.
In fact, a quick glance at the results page and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the award categories themselves were casually created as the (paid for) entries came rolling in for obscure brands. There are wholly separate categories for Germany Gin of the Year, Germany Liqueur Distillery of the Year, Germany Rum of the Year and Germany Vodka of the Year, but not a single for Gin of the Year. Or Tequila of the Year. Or Even Scotch of the Year. Need I remind you that this is the MELBOURNE International Spirits Competition, a competition which received fewer than 190 entries, and nothing from any major distiller? There’s seemingly, and very conveniently, a specialty category for every single entry.
Including Australia Cream Liqueur of the Year.
Aldi’s Highland Black, the 8-year old blend which has once again been lauded as the GOAT by every digital outlet from here to the Hebrides, is a genuinely crap whisky. I know, because I have half a bottle sitting in the liquor cabinet–a rarity in the sense that nothing ever lasts longer than three days in there. Highland Black has now made it past the one-year mark.
Seriously, I drunkenly polished off a half-bottle of Midori over this last week.
Chock-a-block with de-flavoured spirit caramel E150a, which bestows the iconic “piss” colour endemic to all whiskies struggling to find any meaningful hue after their time spent in a third-fill cask, the look alone gives the impression of a crappy spirit. But it doesn’t stop there. Acetone and, in lesser amounts, isoamyl acetate (fake banana) dominate the nose–this, unfortunately, doesn’t much dissipate with air.
The front palate is harsh and slightly bitter, even. There is some attempt at incorporating a peated influence, but it tastes more like it’s been filtered through an ashtray from the pokies room at Rooty Hill RSL. There is some caramel and chocolate in there, but not quite enough to make a Fantale, let alone a 700mL bottle, taste palatable.
The finish is, unfortunately, quite long–normally a sign of quality I’ll admit, but here just a sad reminder of the liquid you’ve regrettably rolled around your tongue.
Which brings us to this week’s barrage of shoddy coverage, claiming that, somehow, this whisky is THE BEST IN THE WORLD....
And although Modern Drunkard has not yet weighed in, we do have Boozist firmly in Man of Many's corner:
Aldi whisky did not get named ‘Best in the World’ – sorry bargain boozers
have never tried the Aldi whisky that many are claiming won “Best in the World” and costs a mere $17. I can still state with 100% accuracy though that it was not declared “Best in the World.”
Yes, an Aldi whisky won a gold medal in a competition, two in fact. But this isn’t the Olympics. Gold doesn’t equal best. It’s not even the top honor. The highest award in the Scotch Whisky Masters is Master, and 20 brands were awarded Master.
Here’s a very short list of why the Aldi whisky isn’t the Best in the World:
The Spirits Business reports that there were an, “impressive number of entrants,” but fails to mention what that number is. That makes me think it might not have been all that impressive. There is also no way of knowing which brands opted not to enter. I can think of quite a few amazing whiskies that aren’t on the list.
- Only Scotch whisky was judged
- 93 different whiskies were awarded Gold
- Entrants had to be available in Asia
I’m sure the Aldi whisky is good, and it’s probably a steal at $17. That doesn’t make it the “Best in the World” or even one of the best. Sadly you’ll never find out for yourself because it’s not available in the US.
Here’s the full list of Scotch Whisky Masters awards:...MUCH MOREIt's a very long list.