By Richard Thomas
Jim Murray has been causing quite a stir lately, first by announcing that bourbon has been beating out scotch lately. Then he gave Glen Orchy 5 Year Old, a generic brand available through the Lidl supermarket chain an 88.5 rating, higher than many basic, mass market blended scotches in The Whisky Bible 2014.
Glen Orchy 5 Year Old is a product of the very Scottish-sounding Clydesdale Scotch Whisky Co., which supplies Lidl with many of its scotches, and is owned by Whyte and Mackay. The scotch is a vatted malt, a surprising feature for a generic supermarket brand and probably why Murray liked it so much, and is bottled at 40% abv. Glen Orchy itself is a real place in southwestern Scotland.
The color of Glen Orchy is a rich gold, leaning a little into coppery. The appearance is dark enough and the whiskey within young enough that I was left wondering if caramel wasn’t an additive, and checking the label I found it was.
The nose is malty and a little sweetly so, with notes of grass and brine, and just a touch of toffee. The taste runs from there, offering malt and toffee, and a tinge of dry astringency. The finish is very mild.
Glen Orchy is nice, simple stuff, and certainly a cut above most mass market blends. As to whether it deserves its laurels, recall that the 100-point system used by critics like Jim Murray is sometimes misleading, since products with a score of 86 or 87 are often merely average. To an American, seeing a score of 88.5 suggests a B+, and that is certainly not the grade Glen Orchy deserves. Even so, it is a step above the typical mass market blended scotch.
Where Glen Orchy has it’s real “wow” power is in its price tag: €7.99 ($10 or $11). How often does one see a vatted malt, even a young one, at such a price? Furthermore, Glen Orchy is priced well below comparable brand name blended scotches. Simply put, this is slightly above average whiskey going for rotgut prices.