Ben Bracken Speyside / Highlands / Islay

Ben Bracken is the range of single malts sold by Lidl supermarkets. Over the years they’ve had all kinds of bottlings, some with age statements (12 Years, 16 Years, 28 Years…) many of which have only been released in the UK. Since 2017 they seem to have a standard NAS range with three expressions:

  • Ben Bracken Speyside single malt
  • Ben Bracken Highland single malt
  • Ben Bracken Islay single malt

They also have a Glenalba brand (generally older) and Abrachan for blended malts. The current range is bottled by ‘Clydesdale Whisky Co’ in Glasgow, not to be confused with the other Clydesdale independent bottler and supposedly related to Whyte & MacKay according to some sources.

The three Ben Bracken single malts that I’m trying today were recently available in Belgium for the holiday season. The label says they are 3 years old, but I’m not sure this is meant to be an actual age or more of a legal mention.

 

 

Ben Bracken Speyside whisky (Lidl)Ben Bracken ‘Speyside’
(40%, Clydesdale +/- 2017)

Nose: fresh and not too bad actually. Banana ice cream, vanilla custard, raisins. Apricots in syrup. Sugary cereals, hints of honey. Faint nutty notes. Seems a bit older than 3 years.

Mouth: less exciting. Even with the low ABV the alcohol isn’t really integrated. Apples, raisins, some peppery oak and plenty of malty notes. A little caramel too.

Finish: medium, with light oak spice and sweet malt.

I wasn’t sure what to expect for € 18, but I think this is a fair offer from Lidl. Nothing to get excited about but good value for money, even with the harsh edge on the palate.

Score: 79/100

 

 

 

Ben Bracken Highland single maltBen Bracken ‘Highlands’
(40%, Clydesdale +/- 2017)

Nose: soaked oats, toffee, nutmeg and a light meaty edge. Overripe orange. It has a lot more weight to it than the Speyside but I find it a little less interesting. Lots of cereals and caramel, nothing stands out.

Mouth: less rough this time, but not as fresh either. Certainly more toast, toffee sweetness and a hint of chocolate. Cooked fruits. Cinnamon. A hint of roasted nuts.

Finish: medium, with hints of coffee, spice and chocolate.

This is richer and more heavyweight than the Speyside option. It also feels less immature on the palate. That said, I’m not a fan of the slightly bloated character and I prefer the brightness of the Speyside. Reminds me of Dalmore production in a way. Even cheaper than the others: around € 13.

Score: 73/100

 

 

 

Ben Bracken Islay - LidlBen Bracken ‘Islay’
(40%, Clydesdale +/- 2017)

Nose: quite smoky, with hints of kippers and brine behind it. Some vanilla and almond sweetness in the background. Cigarette smoke. Sweet citrus. Hints of yeasty dough. Lacking some punch, it feels like a docile, flatter version of Big Peat.

Mouth: sweet mineral notes, with brine and spices. Plenty of cold ashes now, not bad. Lemons, hints of salted toffee. Hazelnut. Dilution hurt it a little though.

Finish: quite long, slightly high on the spices but also nicely oily.

Around € 18 again, for what’s supposedly a Caol Ila single malt. I’m sure this would have scored better with a proper ABV. But again, this is a price / quality ratio that is hard to criticize.

Score: 78/100