...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Single Malt Report: Trader Joe's 10 year old Highland

For Thanksgiving week, I'm going to determine my level of thankfulness for two inexpensive store brand single malts:  Trader Joe's 10 year old Highland (reviewed today) and Kirkland 18 year old Speyside Sherry Finish (reviewed on Tuesday).

Both were supplied to the retailers by Alexander Murray & Co, the US's leading independent bottler of 40%abv cheapie single malts.  I've seen Murray's own bottlings at liquor retailers of decent repute, yet though their labels carry the names of well known distilleries and actual vintages, their 40%abv deters me from trading my cash for their whisky.

Some Trader Joeses are carrying these distillery-named whiskies and are keeping the price low, but none of those specific TJs stores are in my local area.  Instead, it's this 10 year old "Highland" single malt that I've seen on the shelf since 2012.  I've probably been to TJs 70-80 times over that time period and have considered buying this $19.99 single malt 70-80 times.  Should I have gone for it?  Lemmee see.

LabelTrader Joes
Distillery: ???
Bottler: Alexander Murray & Co.
Type: Single Malt
Region: Highlands
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: I can only assume oak casks
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Thank you to Florin (a prince) for this sample!

The color is a light amber.  Not much e150a?  The nose starts with dried grass clippings and potpurri-like floral notes.  It's slightly earthy without being peaty, maybe some dirty herbal notes too.  Moments of black pepper, lemon peel, and prunes as well.  Quite a bit of buttery oak lingers throughout.  The palate is... ... ... Buttery.  Papery.  Some caramel.  Stale raisins?  Maybe some bitterness.  Not much.  Kinda blendy.  The nose's floral note returns in the finish.  There's the sherry-ish raisins and prunes.  Lots of caramel and butter.  A good lime note starts up only to turn into sour vinegar.

Okay, I'll start with the pros.  It costs $19.99.  The finish is somewhat interesting.  The nose is the best part of the package, leading one to think he or she is getting a decent simple palate to follow.

The cons?  That palate never arrives.  Instead there's something bland and empty in its place.  It's not terrible.  It's just not there.  And while the finish is better than the palate, it's let down by the off vinegary thing in its conclusion.

There are worse whiskies to buy for $20 (e.g. JW Red Label, Dewars White Label, Cutty Sark).  But that's not much of a compliment, especially when Speyburn 10 can be had at the same price or less for a major step up in quality.  If you've got $20 and you're determined to spend it on crap whisky at TJs, go for Finlaggan -- at least The Fin is so ugly that it's fun -- and save the extra dollar for a pack of dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

Level of thankfulness: Better off having a dram of gravy instead.

Availability - Trader Joe's (though it's been getting harder to find)
Pricing - $19.99
Rating - 71


  1. Here were my comments - I liked it better than you, maybe due to the low expectations. I agree that I'd pick Speyburn 10yo over this any time, but it was also not the worst single malt I had, by a wide margin. I did not rush to replace the bottle.

    2.5-3*. The first impression is quite positive! Not a world beater but certainly a pleasant sipper. I noticed a few months ago that the color of TJ's 10yo got appealingly pale - they used to be sickeningly dark. It has a surprisingly heavy, oily body for 40% abv; nose and taste malty and fruity, with a dash of lemon oil; medium finish (some caramel bitterness). It likes air. No identifying elements on the label; my bottle code is something like L13V354 5 (December 2013? Consistent with the purchase date.)

    1. Yeah, I think you're right about the bottling date. I was very glad about its pale color too. Found the malt and fruit (especially lemon) on the nose. The palate just came up very blank for me -- with air and without, by itself and next to the Kirkland's. Seems like more of a summer whisky than an autumn one.