£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.
£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.