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Trader Joes Highland Single Malt 10 Year Old

Private Label From an Iconic Chain

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@JeffCReview by @JeffC

3rd Mar 2012


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
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  • Brand: Trader Joes
  • ABV: 40%

Trader Joes is an iconic American grocery store chain. At one point (it may still be) it was owned by the same family that owned the global (but mostly European) Aldi grocery store chain. Trader Joes sells a number of private label products (e.g., beer, wine, kefir, cheese, chocolate, olive oil, etc.) as well as products sold by well known manufacturers. I have never been disappointed by a private label Trader Joes product and their single malt scotch is no exception. The only drawback to shopping at Trader Joes is that products may not be frequently or widely available. While beer and wine are widely sold, alcohol is only sold in US states that allow it. So when I recently visited my parents in California and saw a $20 bottle of a 10 year old Highland Single Malt I had to buy it. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that somebody buying a similarly labeled bottle may be getting the same whisky.

While this bottle is not great, for $20 single malts it readily bests the competition (McClellands and Speyburn come to mind). I could imagine that a price tag at double the price offered (i.e., $40) might be offered for the same bottle if the actual distiller were named.

I had this as a second glass a few times and have the following tasting notes sampled two nights in a row out of a Glencairn glass as a first dram. The color is rather pale like chardonnay. The nose is rather meek with a fresh cut apple and pear aroma and a bit of honey. The palate is a tad watery which may be expected for a whisky at 40%. The whisky hits the mouth with a bit of honey and toffee on the front of the tongue and there is a bit of smoke in the background that also comes out on the finish. While the finish is rather short, the smoke that comes out is also accompanied by a fair bit of an alcohol burn. While this clearly does not have pretensions of greatness and is kind of boring, there is not a really off note to this and one could do far worse for a single malt at this ridiculously low price point. Although I probably won’t buy this again and overall it is, in my opinion, a bit below average for the single malts I have tried, I would definitely recommend this for those feeling their way in single malts and looking for an acceptable Highland archtype. Based on my experience I would buy a Trader Joes private label single malt again.


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