Ben Bracken is one of Lidl’s whisky brands and the stable generally contains the ‘too good to be true’ expressions which are released as limited editions.
This 22 year old Islay Single Malt was released for Christmas 2016 and is priced at £44.99, making it a very tempting proposition indeed. It also won the ‘Best Islay Single Malt’ category in the World Whisky Awards this year.
Ben Bracken is chill filtered (credit to Lidl for being explicit) and bottled at 40% ABV.
Clearly an Islay with salty smoke, but a bit more restrained than some.
I’d guess there’s some sherry cask influence in the mix, as the sticky dark fruit is immediate before subsiding. Slightly medicinal with some eucalyptus notes a little green banana and a doughy wheat note.
It’s a good nose — interesting but not too full on.
The peat smoke flavours also lead in the taste, but it’s quickly followed by burnt sugar and then sweetens. A hint of stewed apple moves to lemon drizzle and fleeting tropical fruit notes.
A little ginger, some orange and dark chocolate coat the mouth.
The finish is quite short (in part due to the 40% ABV), but what is there is good.
A pleasant tobacco dryness takes over from the dark chocolate and gives just the right amount of bitterness to finish — not too acrid, but enough to keep it lingering.
I like the fact that this Ben Bracken has a distinctive Islay character, but is approachable enough that you could give it to a whisky novice without putting them off the spirit forever.
At £44.99 it could never be called cheap, but I would say it is great value and and a very good whisky in its own right.
Perhaps not quite up there with the legendary Maxwell 33yo but definitely worth seeking out.
Thanks to Lidl UK for the sample. Ben Bracken 22yo Islay Single Malt whisky is a limited edition expression and is available in Lidl while stocks last.