£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.
£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!
£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.