Thursday, 22 May 2014

Irish Cream Three-Way: Carolan's vs Bailey's vs Ballycastle Premium

For many people, Irish Cream is a staple requirement around Christmas time. That’s why the main supermarkets start a bit of a price war, one that this year led to Baileys being available in Asda for £9. Yes, that’s more than you’d pay for Aldi’s Ballycastle Premium, but as I keep saying, Baileys is the undisputed king, and that’s a pretty good discount (about £5).

For me, Irish Cream is a staple all the time, though particularly in my coffee of a Sunday morning. I’ve been trying other brands, but I’d actually started to think I might never get around to buying a bottle of actual Baileys again, you see it’s hard to justify the usual price tag when the Ballycastle Premium is so damn good. At £9 though, I’d be letting you down if I didn’t give it a shot – especially since all the Carolan’s would soon be gone so, not only did I need a new bottle, but if there was ever going to be a chance to compare two premium Irish Cream brands, this was going to be it.
don't know why I can't rotate this...

Asda actually had a choice of Baileys flavours on offer, but I haven’t gotten around to those yet. It’s the Original I’m interested in at this point. Mrs Cake agreed to join me in a comparative tasting later that afternoon.

Statistics first though; I paid an outrageous £14.50 for the Carolan’s, which equates to £1 per percent of ABV. The Baileys, which is usually pricey, as I said was £9, but here you’re getting a cockle-warming 17%.

In terms of packaging, they are not dissimilar, though Baileys seem to have streamlined their bottle a little, which I actually prefer to the standard Irish Cream receptacle. Baileys has some fun text on the back that says something along the lines of… we like cream and we like spirits. But both together, they said? We just smiled…

So, one comparative tasting with the missus coming up…


The main use we have for Irish Cream is over ice, so that would be where the winner would be decided. I would also try the Baileys in coffee, but that would be just additional to the main experiment. I poured a glass of each product for Mrs Cake and I and repaired to the living room to watch a bit of telly and draw some conclusions.


I couldn't tell any difference. Both look creamy and good, neither show the kind of wateriness you might expect from cheaper brands. Neither are cheap, so all is as it should be. Mrs Cake called them out by sight, but I forgot to ask her what gave it away.


I don’t drink Irish Cream in the same way I drink spirits so nosing doesn’t really come into it. I started with a couple of sips of Carolan’s, and enjoyed it as I had been doing up to now. When I went for a sip of the Bailey’s though, the nose leaps out at you… it’s just so creamy… like good ice cream. And the flavour… is just superb, not a note out of place. Carolan’s is nice, in fact Mrs Cake said she prefers Carolan’s for its unique flavour, but for me, while I enjoy the Carolan’s, moving back to the Baileys makes me exclaim – out loud, things like ‘it’s like chocolate truffles!’. It achieves the ultimate accolade – a drink that is worth savouring every drop so for me, at this point it is still the king.

When it comes to coffee, I already stated in an earlier post that Carolan’s doesn’t go too well. There’s just something a bit weird about it. None of that with Baileys… in fact no other Irish Cream has failed to excel with coffee so far, so that has to be a mark against Carolan’s.

Well, we know now who is the Irish Cream champion among the higher priced category, but we need to know who is really the king though. I had to get a Ballycastle Premium in, didn’t I? Oh yes. So I did.

It has featured on this blog before, but just as a reminder, Ballycastle Premium is the premium expression of Aldi’s flagship own brand. For ABV it matches Baileys with 17% and my latest bottle cost £6.49 – that’s an increase of 50p on last time, though it still represents great value.

There’s no need to go too deeply into this one, so let’s cut to the chase; is it as good as Bailey’s? Well, not quite, but it’s very close. Mrs Cake reckons she prefers the normal Ballycastle to both, but for me the Bailey’s is just slightly more luxurious, slightly better balanced, more creamy, less milky but… you have to remember that pricetag. If you can pick up a Bailey’s consistently for £9 I’d recommend that you do but if you can’t… or if the pounds are a little hard to come by one month… Ballycastle Premium makes an able deputy.

I think… it’s time to start heading out into all the different supermarkets and seeing what alternative brands they have. Keep an eye out for further updates.

That's me for this week. The post is a bit early as I'm going to the Bearded Theory festival tomorrow to stand about in the rain and drink 24 cans of Holsten Pils along with whatever spirits I can handle and hopefully a liberal quantity of Thornbridge Ales. Then next week I'll be in the depths of despair once more. Join me once the horrors have subsided for another post. And enjoy yer bank holiday.


  1. Thank you for taking the time to post a review of the Baileys versus Carolans. For some reason, here in the U.S., Baileys is exponentially more expensive than Carolans - especially around the Holidays (probably just a supply and demand thing) but I must say, since I read your post after the fact; I am really glad that I went with the Carolans over the Baileys because I just paid almost 50% less (Baileys $39.99 1.75 LTR, Carolans $23.99 1.75 LTR) and seeing that it will be enjoyed by my wife and guests who don't know the difference, well in America we call that a... 'Win, win" - - Cheers!

  2. thanks for taking the time to read, Gabe! I hope everyone enjoyed your victory.

  3. Boy do you know your stuff Neil!! ;)

  4. maybe Baileys is better, because the Carolans is oversweetened with the honey?

    1. Very possibly. You've shown up my lack of research there. I hadn't been aware Carolan's contained honey! Must do better.

      Thanks Charliec!