Bourbon hunting in ... UK supermarkets
So how easy do you think it would be to politely request 5 UK supermarkets through their customer service departments for a list of all American whiskeys and prices? We thought we would even simplify this request by just asking for American whiskeys and not asking for what we really wanted, which was a list of just bourbons currently on sale in their stores.
Well the answer is very difficult as it turns out. It would have been easier to plait fog or nail jelly to a ceiling! Not a single major supermarket could provide us with a simple and complete list (Its almost like they don't care about a website run by Two amateurs that hadn't even launched yet....).
Listed below are the responses received from the famous 5:
Thank you for contacting us, if you log onto our Asda Grocery Website without signing in, you will be able to see Asda's range of whiskeys
Received a phone call explaining that they were unable to send us a list in case we published the list on our website and they then received complaints that the whiskeys we reported were not available in their stores
Sent us a link to their corporate website (which was of zero use)
Received phone call to say that a list was not available and we should look at their website
Now finally, a list was received. It was incomplete, but at least it was a list. We know it was incomplete because we’ve been customers there before and have been very impressed with their bourbon selection.
You might be thinking at this point why don’t you just get off your backsides and go and visit the stores yourself and make your own list? Well yes of course we could (and basically ended up doing) but we made it clear to them in the email query that we were writing an article for an upcoming (ok so we may have exaggerated) UK Bourbon website and had hoped they might actually think about all the free publicity they could get. The explanation from Morrisons was somewhat silly, as of course we were going to say in the article that our lists were not definitive and were subject to store availability.
So now let’s see what’s available out there. There were only 3 bourbons which were available in all of the 5 supermarkets we chose. These were Bulleit, Jim Beam White Label, and Woodford Reserve. Bravo to their marketing departments. Cheapest place to buy all 3 comes out as Asda. Most expensive was a tie between Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Now we’re obviously not including any Jack Daniels products or flavoured whiskeys i.e. Jim Bean Apple or Red Stag but we are including the supermarkets own efforts in providing cheap blended bourbons as examples of how supermarkets are attempting to entice bourbon drinkers and because these are our rules and we can do what we like.
No. of bourbons: 9
Exclusive: Early Times Old Reserve £19.00 and their own brand (see below)
Best Buy: Bulleit, only £25.00
Must Always Have On Your Shelf: Jim Beam Devils Cut £23.00
Pay Day Treat: Eagle Rare £35.00
Own Brand: Their own offering is blended bourbon called Louisville (40% ABV) priced at £13.00. It is listed as a product of USA and matured in Kentucky. Aged in oak barrels and packaged in The Netherlands. It has a 3.5 out of 5 rating (customer voting) on their website
Verdict: A solid ‘B+’. Keep up the good work. Pricing is generally very good and they are regularly introducing new choices. It’s a shame that the more expensive bourbons are not on display and you have to ask for them (thanks shoplifters!).
No. of bourbons: 3 (yes that’s right only 3)
Best Buy: Jim Beam White Label £16.00
Must Always Have On Your Shelf: Bulleit £27.00
Pay Day Treat: Woodford Reserve £30.00
Own Brand: None
Verdict: A very disappointing ‘E’. The poorest selection from all of the reviewed supermarkets. As this happens to be the closest supermarket to one of the Bourbon Gents we don’t think they realise how much money they are potentially losing. Unforgivably they also list on their website a selection of Jack Daniel’s whiskeys and flavoured American whiskeys as bourbons (bangs head against wall very hard). Morrisons, please take a good hard look at yourselves.
No. of bourbons: 5
Exclusive: Just their own brand (see below)
Best Buy: Jim Beam White Label £17.00
Must Always Have On Your Shelf: Woodford Reserve £30.00
Pay Day Treat: Maker’s Mark £30.00
Own Brand - Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey (40% ABV) priced at £13. The description on the bottle reads “Rich, mellow smooth whiskey with hints of vanilla. Aged for a minimum of 3 years in Kentucky in new oak casks”. It is packaged in France. It has great reviews on their website as a mixing bourbon and is graded by their customers as 4 out of 5
Verdict – Middle of the road ‘C’. You might expect a little more effort here from one of the leading UK supermarkets. Time to do some more homework.
No. of bourbons: 10
Exclusives: Four Roses Small Batch £30.00, Knob Creek £32.66 and Wild Turkey 81 £23.00
Best Buy: Wild Turkey 81 £23.00
Must Always Have On Your Shelf: Buffalo Trace £20.00
Pay Day Treat: Knob Creek £32.66
Own Brand - A blended bourbon whiskey called Old Samuel (40% ABV) priced at £12 (not listed as a Tesco own brand but it sure does sound like it). It is a product of USA but blended and bottled in The Netherlands. It is advertised as a Kentucky style Blended Bourbon Whiskey with a rich and well-rounded flavour and can be savoured straight up, on the rocks or with cola for a longer, more refreshing drink
Verdict: Top of the class ‘A’. Take a bow, Tesco. The largest and most diverse collection available on the high street. The other supermarkets should take a leaf out your book and start copying your homework. The other Bourbon Gents local supermarket, so he is very lucky. If you love bourbon take a visit to Tesco and enjoy.
No. of bourbons: 8
Exclusives: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked £50.00 and Hudson Baby Bourbon £37.99 (35cl)
Best Buy: Maker’s Mark £29.00
Must Always Have On Your Shelf: Eagle Rare £36.49
Pay Day Treat: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked £50.00
Own Brand: None
Verdict – A solid ‘B’. Good effort. A little more hard work and they could soon be top of the class. A great in store selection with some hard to find on the high street beauties.
Below is a handy comparison guide of bourbons, supermarkets and prices. Just for the hell of it we have also included the prices from Masters of Malt for you to compare. Prices on line are mixed when compared with the high street but you can get some bargains. You do have to remember the delivery charges (free if you spend over £99) but at least you can do your shopping from the comfort of your own home. All bottles are 70cl in size apart from the Hudson Baby Bourbon which is 30cl.