£15.00 - 1L
£11.00 - 70cl
£5.75 - 35cl
Having recently run out of Kraken Black Rum, I ventured to Tesco and bought a small bottle of their dark rum. I had no idea how good this would be so opted to play it safe and buy the smallest bottle. That turned out to be a good decision as I was far from impressed with this rum.
It was maybe unfair to replace Kraken with this as they're not remotely in the same league. Kraken has a beautiful, distinct and deep flavour and this Tesco offering was the opposite. The low end branded product this may be more comparable with is Captain Morgan Dark Rum, but this is still vastly inferior.
Some people like to sip dark rum on its own, particularly Kraken, but for me the only great use of this type of rum is with ginger beer in the classic Dark N Stormy cocktail. Kraken is a bit overkill for this as the complexity and depth of the rum gets lost in the strong ginger beer flavour and it's also priced a little high for mixing. Captain Morgan's though is perfect. In a Dark N Stormy, this Tesco rum was a very poor substitute. The weakness led to a real lack of rum flavour in the drink and I found myself being forced to use twice the amount of this Tesco version than I normally use with Captain Morgan's.
The alcohol percentage of the Tesco rum is slightly lower than Captain Morgan's at 37.5% (CM is 40%), but it tastes like the compromise is far higher. Even on it's own, this rum lacks flavour and is notably lighter in colour than its rivals. Price wise, it's competitive, but Captain Morgan's can often be found for £13 per bottle and was even £11.50 in Sainsbury's just after Christmas as they tried to clear excess stock. With the far better branded rival only a couple of pounds more expensive, I can't recommend this rum at all.
£9.99 - 70cl
A few weekends ago we invited some friends over with the plan being to cook some Caribbean food. Needing some drinks to go with that, I ventured into Aldi to pick up ingredients to make Pina Coladas and Strawberry Daiquiris - a good white rum being essential for both, I purchased this bottle of Aldi's own brand.
The rum is clearly taking aim at Bacardi Carta Blanca, a rum with a rich history and few real rivals. I always have Bacardi in stock which made direct comparisons with this Aldi rum very easy to do. On opening the bottle, the smell was less distinct than Bacardi, and that theme ran throughout everything we did with this rum. Two side by side Pina Coladas made with the rival products produced a clear, distinct winner. The unmistakable flavour of Bacardi wasn't present when using the Aldi rum. This could be remedied by using slightly more of the Aldi rum, but that negates the fact that it is cheaper, and also got us tipsy faster as the alcohol percentage is the same at 37.5%!
Strawberry Daiquiris and rum and cokes followed and each time we had the same issue - We needed to pretty much double the measure of rum each time. Suffice to say, the bottle didn't last long! With the quantities increased, this is a decent rum with a nice flavour and none of the drinks we made that night went unfinished.
As far as price goes, this rum is fairly good value at under £10. A bottle of Bacardi of the same size retails for £16 but is regularly on offer for £13, so a small saving can be made by buying this.
If you love the unique favour of Bacardi then this rum is not for you at all. As a cheap and more subtle alternative though, this is a reasonable product. Cocktails will be more understated and a rum and coke made with this will be adequate enough. The only time I could see myself buying this again would be for a party to batch make a large number of something, I think on balance though, it's probably worth paying the few pounds extra for Bacardi in almost all circumstances.
£13.50 - 70cl
(Reduced to £10.19 when purchased - July 2018)
Those who know me well will know that bourbon is my favourite spirit. I love the versatility of being able to sip it neat, mixed with coke or in a number of gorgeous cocktails such as an Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour or a Manhattan. So when I saw this reduced in my local Sainsbury's, down to just over £10, it was a no-brainer.
I always have at least 2 bourbons in stock - a low end one such as Jim Beam or Jack Daniels for mixing with coke, and then a higher end one such as Bulleit or Woodford Reserve for cocktails. I fully expected this bourbon to be a decent replacement for the lower end mixers, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was better than that.
I personally find Jack Daniels to be a little to sickly sweet for mixing with coke so prefer Jim Beam at the lower end of the market. This product though is better than both. It's smooth and tasty without the sweetness of JD or the harshness of JB. The times I mixed it with coke, I actually felt a little bad as it is definitely capable of more.
Pleasingly and surprisingly, this bourbon makes a cracking Whiskey Sour, far better than JD or JB in my opinion. Whilst it isn't a great bourbon for sipping or using in a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, it still fills the middle ground very well.
Price wise, this is a well priced product. At its regular price of £13.50, it's about the same price as Jim Beam (when JB is on offer), and is in my opinion, a superior bourbon. At the price I paid, it was a steal. The evidence is that it didn't last very long at all. The open bottle of Jim Beam Double Barrel I had just sat there whilst I drank this Sainsbury's bourbon instead - a product almost half the price. Even at full price I would buy this again as it's a better product than Jim Beam which makes little difference mixed with coke, but has the flexibility of being used well in some other drinks, meaning I can save my top shelf stuff for special occasions.
NB. This product is currently (September 2018) out of stock on the Sainsbury's website and I can't see it in store either. This could be related trade issues and tariffs between the UK and the USA at the moment. Either way, it looks like Sainsbury's is in the process of moving suppliers, so this product may no longer be in stock. On the positive side though, if it's being reduced to clear as it seemed to be when I purchased it, then you're in for an absolute bargain.
£14.19 - 1L
£9.99 - 70cl
With summer in full swing, I recently decided to make some citrus infused vodka at home, which provided me with an ideal opportunity to try another supermarket spirit brand. I ventured into Aldi and bought their Tamova Vodka. As with other reviews, it's worth mentioning the target product - which should be fairly obvious from a quick glance at the bottle - the lettering and colour scheme being very reminiscent of Smirnoff.
Before making the citrus vodka, I tried the Tamova both neat and in a couple of cocktails. What immediately hit me was the smoothness and crisp finish there was with this compared to Smirnoff. I was surprised that it was a step above the named brand in both areas, leaving no bitter aftertaste like the named brand. In cocktails, vodka is often used to add alcohol to a cocktail already strong in flavour such as an Espresso Martini. Using Tamova in this cocktail, I could tell no difference at all compared to Smirnoff.
The conclusion then is that this vodka is highly recommended as an alternative to cheaper named brands and personally I much preferred it to Smirnoff and found it to be about on a par with Russian Standard, albeit significantly cheaper. These lower end named brands are rarely found below £14 for 70cl these days, so this Aldi product offers a decent saving.
It's worth noting though that this isn't a premium vodka and can't really hold a candle to Grey Goose, Ciroc or Belvedere. If you're wanting an outstanding sipping vodka or something to make a top notch Caprioska, then you're best sticking to those high end products over this one.
As for my citrus vodka - I think I'll be trying a different recipe next time as it ended up too sweet for my liking. That really shouldn't take anything away from this vodka though which is another fine example of an excellent supermarket alternative.
£11.87 - 70cl
Asda's Caribbean spiced rum was recommended by a work colleague, and she was kind enough to bring a bottle when we invited her over for dinner. Spiced rum has never been a spirit I've been hugley keen on, and there have been times where I've not had one in stock at all. The issue for me is that there is such a variety of products in the market with very different flavour profiles. Because of this, it's hard to pinpoint exactly which product this Asda variety is trying to target. It's certainly very different to the spiced rums which I have bought before such as Bacardi Oakheart or Sailor Jerry.
After enjoying this bottle very much (evidenced by the fact that it barely lasted a fortnight), I have to say, it comes highly recommended as a mixer. Whilst it doesn't have the subtle smoothness of Sailor Jerry, or the aged cask taste of Oakheart, this cheap rum is fantastic with coke, and I actually prefer it as a coke mixer to the more expensive brand names. The favour is very full on, with strong vanilla and caramel flavourings. On it's own, this would be way too heavy, and even in a more rum-fronted cocktail such as a Mai Tai, this rum is too strong and overpowers the other flavours.
On New Year's Eve, we had several friends over and a bottle of this rum was bought. It was a huge hit, and didn't last the night, with several friends commenting that they would be picking up a bottle in the near future. There's no better compliment than that. If top quality, refined spiced rums are your thing, then this may be too full-on for you, but as a mixer with coke, this is a definite winner and well worth trying for under £12 a bottle.
*EDIT* - Since reviewing this product, it's been pointed out to me that no where on the bottle is it actually labelled as "rum". A careful reading of the label shows that it is actually a neutral spirit infused with spiced rum style flavours. Bad form Asda... Marks off for this, despite it tasting pretty decent.
£12.50 - 1L
£6.75 - 35cl
It wouldn't be Christmas without an Irish Cream Liqueur in the house. This style of drink is a fantastic winter warmer with the smoothness of cream blended with the heat of Irish whiskey. The obvious market leader is Bailey's but there are several other brands around as well as supermarket own products which are attempting to compete with these. This particular bottle comes under Sainsbury's "Taste the Difference" range, so in theory should offer the very best quality, comparable with the market leader.
In practice though this is a vastly inferior product to Bailey's. There is a harshness to this drink which doesn't exist in a glass of Bailey's. Sipping this over ice is unfortunately not that pleasant and I was extremely disappointed with it. I was surprised that it has the same alcohol content as Bailey's at 17%, as there seems when sipping to be a much stronger alcohol sensation in this Sainsbury's offering. It also unfortunately left an unpleasant after taste. I was so eager to get rid of this, I threw it away before it was empty and also before I'd properly photographed it, so I've had to settle for a picture of a bottle on the shelf!
When considering the price of this product, I don't see value either. At £12.50 for 1 litre, this product is priced much cheaper than Bailey's usually retails for, but heavy discounting of Bailey's is extremely common in the run up to Christmas with £12 per bottle regularly offered at various supermarkets, and even occasionally it goes down to £10 per bottle. With the products then so similarly priced, I can't recommend the Sainsbury's Irish Cream at all. Even if the bottle is being bought for use in a dessert recipe, I'd highly recommend keeping a keen eye on Bailey's prices and buying the real thing. It's worth stocking up on Bailey's when it drops to £12 or £10, so long as you keep and eye on the expiry date, as Irish Cream doesn't last indefinitely. Usually a new bottle will be good for 12-18 months, which is plenty of time to make it worth buying a few bottles when it's cheap!
£5.75 - 1L
Vermouth is an odd spirit, and one which has a varied reputation. On one hand it's something that raises eyebrows amongst younger drinkers as it's considered something that maybe Grandma would drink, but on the other hand, it's an incredibly powerful spirit that is an essential ingredient in some classic cocktails, many of which are making a popular comeback in expensive bars.
Unlike other supermarket spirits which undercut the market leading brands by a couple of pounds, Asda and other supermarkets sell red, white and sweet vermouth for less than half the price of the market leader (Martini Rosso is £12 for 1L). This means a significant saving can be made if this is actually any good!
Red Vermouth is an essential ingredient in three of my absolute favourite drinks: The Manhattan, the Negroni and the Bronx, and as such, it's something I always have in stock. The nature of vermouth however makes it something which is extremely subjective to review - a fortified red wine infused with herbs, spices and other botanicals, but here goes.
With the UK market and my personal experience dominated by the Martini brand, this was something completely new to me. My first impression is that this is not merely a cheap imitation. The flavour profile is distinct and different to Martini. It's not especially more harsh as some supermarket brands are and actually tastes a little bit deeper and more complex to me. It's hard as someone with little vermouth experience to precisely put my finger on exactly what this is, but all I can say is that the botanicals used are clearly different and give an alternative flavour to the one I was used to.
I have heard from others who have had varying experiences with supermarket vermouth and I believe there are vast variations in quality. I seem here though to have picked a good one. The bottle, as you can see in picture, is almost empty, and the Boulevardier in the background represents the last in the line of many good cocktails this bottle has made for me. I would personally highly recommend this as an excellent and very good value alternative to Martini. Ultimately though, the subjective nature of vermouth will mean that individual tastes vary. For less than £6 a bottle, I really think it's worth a try, and is a real bargain for those who like it.
£17.00 - 1L
£12.50 - 70cl
£7.75 - 35cl
With Christmas round the corner, supermarkets are starting to stock up on brandy, both own brands and household names. Personally, I'm very partial to a glass of cognac in the evening, and previous to buying this, a high end VSOP cognac is the only brandy I have in stock. This product is clearly not a substitute for such a spirit but is most likely taking aim at branded brandies such as Three Barrels.
The packaging however does give off the air of quality and does seem to be more in the style of some cognacs. The VSOP age designation is clear and visible twice on the front of the bottle. This and the wine style bottle make it stand out from other brandies on the shelf.
Opening the bottle, a distinct smell of brandy comes out. Drunk neat, this spirit is surprisingly good. Whilst not comparable to the cognac I have, it's a perfectly acceptable sipper and excellent value when you consider that it's around half the price of even a low end cognac.
Where this spirit really excels though is in brandy based cocktails. Two of my favourites, the Alexander and the Champagne cocktail both call for cognac and using this as a substitute, I am unable to spot the difference between the Sainsbury's brandy and the much more expensive cognac. The presence of all the other strong ingredients in these cocktails serves to suppress the elements of the cognac that really make it excel on its own making this substitute a far better choice. There's no point wasting your good expensive cognac in these cocktails when a product that is half the price is indistinguishable.
Comparing the Sainsbury's brandy to the low end market leader, Three Barrels, I think the Sainsbury's bottle holds up very well and may even be slightly better. The taste on its own does seem slightly more refined and high quality with a slightly smoother aftertaste than the branded rival. With only a couple of pounds difference between them, the Sainsbury's brandy is a better choice in my opinion as it's at least as good, if not slightly better than Three Barrels.
The percentage of 36% is lower than other brandies, the majority being 40% and Three Barrels being 38%. This doesn't seem to noticeably affect the flavour though and should be just considered as a minor drawback.
Overall, an excellent brandy that would please most people if it is served on its own as a cognac substitute but really comes into its own when used in brandy based cocktails. I was so impressed with this bottle that it's now a permanent fixture in my drinks cabinet. I imagine lots of people will buy this to use in festive recipes such as Christmas pudding, but in my opinion, it's far too good for that.
£14.19 - 1L
£9.97 - 70cl
Aldi Gin is quickly gaining notoriety amongst savvy gin enthusiasts as a real gem of a product. From discussions amongst colleagues at work, articles in newspapers like the Independent and even prestigious spirit awards, it's hard not to have heard something positive about this spirit. But is it any good?
The first thing that struck me was the price - it's very competitively priced, and a cut below all branded rivals. The second thing that struck we was that the packaging and presentation which is clearly taking shot at the market leader in the London Dry gin category, Gordon's.
With so many different styles of gin on offer in supermarkets these days, it's worth noting that this is very distinctively a "London Dry" gin, and fans of more floral or herbal gins are likely to be disappointed. If your gin of choice however is something along the lines of Gordon's or Beefeater, then this is certainly a product worth considering. The alcohol percentage of 37.5% matches Gordon's and the smell as you open the bottle is comfortingly similar to those who have a familiarity with London Dry gin.
Taste wise, the similarities continue, without being a carbon copy of Gordon's. The gin certainly has juniper front as centre as does Gordon's, but to my taste, it's slightly more harsh with a little more burn. Pulling the tonic water out, this gin makes a very decent G&T, and with a good tonic and a twist of citrus, the differences with its pricier rivals almost disappear.
More high end cocktails such as a Negroni and a Martini highlight the weaknesses of this gin, and I would certainly recommend something more expensive and smooth if these are the types of drink you enjoy. As a substitute for Gordon's for simple, straightforward G&T's or for throwing into a shaker for something like a Long Island Iced Tea, this gin is highly recommended. My final experiment with this gin involved pouring some into a Kilner jar over sugar and freshly picked sloes. The result of which you'll have to wait 2-3 months for!
In summary - Highly recommended as a substitute for Gordon's or other branded London Dry gins, but doesn't hold up well compared to more bespoke craft style rivals, which is probably exactly what the intended market of the product is.