Here’s an interesting one. I sent Mrs Cake out to pick up a bottle of Aldi’s Ballycastle Premium Irish Cream to accompany us to the family Christmas in Fleet last year… and she forgot – but not entirely. She’d already been in Aldi and had gotten to Tesco when she remembered. She considered Bailey’s but, much more interestingly, plumped for this. This is Merlyn Welsh Cream and it is made with malted barley spirit from the Penderyn distillery.
It is housed in a black, matt, Bruichladdich-style bottle that the Penderyn website calls modern, with a red strip label that, together with the bottle, signifies the premium nature of the brand – it also says. Sounds like a pitch from The Apprentice to me. The writing is described as “hand drawn calligraphy” and “reflects its smooth and mellow flavour”. Quite how, I’m not sure but we’ll go with it. It goes on in the tasting notes to describe nose and palate impressions before backing out of describing the finish as it is “too complex to describe”. May as well not bother then.
They apparently produce just one cask of spirit per day as they use only the finest malted barley. That’s nice because, you know, it’s not like everyone else claims to use only the finest malted barley. Does that even mean anything? Does it mean they don’t make any of this finest malted barley into whisky, or does it mean they set aside one cask per day for making the welsh cream, while the rest goes to making the Penderyn whisky? Anyway, they bottle it at a commendable 17 ABVs and while it normally retails around £17, this bottle was only £10. At £10 it’s good value, at £17 much less so.
A quick nose around the interwebs has revealed that the Merlyn has really tickled the fancy of a few people – many proclaiming it to be better than Baileys. Shall we give it an evaluation of our own then?
Let’s see, it’s much lighter in colour than I’ve come to expect from Irish cream. It smells malty and tastes milky and, while it’s quite thin, you can taste the whisky – or perhaps more accurately, malt barley spirit – it won’t have been aged long enough (or at all) to be able to be called whisky. The balance is good; not too sweet. This is probably where some people’s preference over Baileys comes in. I actually prefer Baileys – and even the Ballycastle Premium – they are more like desserts, while this one is more the consistency and style of an iced coffee. It’s pleasant enough for a change, but it’s never going to be my favourite of the genre.
That's it for this week; just a quick one. Next week I think I'll be evaluating an Islay classic - the Bunnahabhain 12. See you then.