Whisky guide toasts finer taste of supermarket own-brand malts

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SUPERMARKET single malts have beaten top-brand distilleries in a taste test by one of the world's leading whisky guides.

Tesco's Speyside 12-year-old was given a higher rating than Glenlivet's equivalent, while the store's Islay single malt beat a similar bottle of Bowmore, according to the 2007 Whisky Bible, edited by Jim Murray.

The Tesco tipples also scored better than the malts from its rival, Waitrose.

Experts said the findings proved choosing the best was a matter of personal taste rather than label-driven snobbery.

In the guide book, Tesco's Islay malt is described as "sumptuous and mouth-coating", and Mr Murray notes that it would have been given an even higher score if the colour had been more natural. Bowmore's 12-year-old, which costs up to 10 more than the Tesco bottle but scored four fewer marks out of 100, was said to "reveal greater peaty youth than of old".

The Waitrose alternative was described as "head-thumping, unforgiving peat with a lovely salty depth".

Simon Dunn, whisky buyer for Tesco, said: "This will have many of the big distilleries recoiling in horror as there is a lot of snobbery in the industry.

"Although this will undoubtedly prove a shock to the drinks industry, it'll come as no surprise to our customers, who have known about the quality of our own-label single malts since we launched them last April."

But not all supermarket whiskies topped the charts. Asda's Speyside was described as "a vast improvement on previous years though the aroma hints at some casks whose next stop are flower pots".

David Fletcher, of the Scottish Malt Whisky Society, which runs a bar and restaurant on Edinburgh's Queen Street, said: "Tasting whisky is subjective. Experts are often surprised by what they find during tasting and obviously the same will be true of novices."

The Whisky Bible, published annually, is seen by the drinks industry as the definitive word on whisky. It rates more than 3,600 of the world's leading and lesser-known whiskies.

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