By Richard Thomas
Thanks to Jim Murray, generic supermarket whiskeys have been getting more attention in the last couple of years, and some have shown themselves to be very economical, good value buys. With that in mind, I decided to tackle a bourbon I have heretofore seen stocked only by Lidl, Western Gold.
I did so with some misgivings, however, based on my knowledge and what I saw on the label. First, I kept in mind that what constitutes “bourbon” outside of the United States isn’t the same thing as at home. Early Times, for example, is “Kentucky Whiskey” in America, but “Kentucky Bourbon” everywhere else, this being because Brown-Forman can get away with calling it bourbon abroad, despite its used barrel whiskey content.
This whiskey is bottled by a German company for Lidl, and they aren’t saying where the liquor within came from. I don’t know whether it’s true blue bourbon or not, but certainly one has grounds for wondering.
The other thing that gave me misgivings was the added caramel noted on the label, a sure sign of a very young product that required coloring to look like proper bourbon. Furthermore, Western Gold is blatantly packaged as a Jim Beam knock-off, what with the white label and Beam-style bottle.
The signature characteristic of this whiskey is how flat it is. It’s not really bad, just supremely bland. The liquid (40% abv) is not astringent or harsh, but the corn sweetness and vanilla notes one might expect from even a younger bourbon are quite faint. They are faint in the nose, faint on the palate, and the finish barely registers.
Once again, I have to wonder if this isn’t “Kentucky Bourbon” in the same way Early Times is, because even not-straight bourbon usually gets more out of being in new oak. After sampling the whiskey for this article, both neat and on ice, I have decided it’s not of much use to me except as a mixer or as cooking whiskey.
My bottle of Western Gold cost a mere €8. At that price, the whiskey is actually worth it. I have read that in the UK it runs £12 to £14, and that is definitely too pricey for what it is.