Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Let "La Reine" commence - Queen Margot (40%abv, Lidl).

Before you read any further I'll state my position clearly. I would recommend buying a bottle of this if you get the chance. 

There are times when I want a dram to slap me in the face, push my eyebrows into the surprised position, and turn the corners of my mouth up into "you little beauty mode" - this dram doesn't quite do that for me. It lacks a certain depth and "roundedness" that I have come to expect from some of the more well known (and much more expensive) blends. However, there are those drams that take you by surprise for other reasons...this dram does just that.

When Lidl hit our shores in the mid 1990's its reputation was, let's be blunt, somewhere on the shit side of shabby. Its early infamy rested to a large part on the fact that you could buy booze on the cheap side of free, and that, as a consequence, the stores supposedly attracted a clientèle seeking instant alcoholic gratification (often at the expense of a bed for the night). Indeed, there was a joke circulating the streets of the North West in the 90's that went something like - 

Q. "What's 40ft long and smells of p**s?"
A. "The queue outside Lidl"

Whilst the "joke" was (and is) in poor taste, it reflected the challenge that the German chain had to overcome in seducing a somewhat staid, unexperimental, and domestically conservative British public. But perseverance, resilience, and canny marketing have slowly transformed Lidl perception to the point where, alongside Aldi, they are nipping at the heels of some of the supermarket pack leaders.

Lidl has flirted with the whisky market for some time but has, some might say, finally arrived with Queen Margot 8yo, a gold medal winner at the recent IWSC. Not only has it arrived, it arrived without fanfare, without lumpen, doorstop decanter paraphernlia, without Beckhamesque braggadocio, and without the disingenuous pomposity of the "tyranny of the age statement" brigade. Indeed, it wears its age proudly on its somewhat basic label...8 year old.

But what else can we say about it?

Appearance: A grainy gold, oily in the glass dram...nice legs! 

Nose: Sweet fruits, honey with a touch of lavender and citrus notes.

Palate: The creamy maltiness is prominent in what is a very pleasant mouth-feel. The fruitiness is still there although for me, no particular fruit dominated. Many of the existing reviews indicate the presence of coconut notes although for me, this was just a hint at the back of the palate.

Finish: There's a warmth to the finish which complements and extends the fruit and malt notes. Interestingly, as the flavours ebbed I detected a slightly soapy note although this didn't affect my overall enjoyment. 

Overall comments: I had to work a little on this whisky, it certainly doesn't take the palate by storm but nor does it disappear without a trace. I revisited it a number of times, compared it to other whiskies at slightly higher price points, tasted it after drinking some of the more high end malts, and I kept coming back to the same conclusion - this is a really solid and enjoyable blend. For the price, it represents outstanding value. It retails between £11.99 - £13.50 ......Yes, that's right! 

I would recommend buying at least one bottle of this, I don't think you'd regret it. I had a dram on four consecutive nights and from a starting point of "this isn't bad at all", my appreciation increased significantly.

One day, mayhap they'll
name a whisky after me!