Banoch Brae is a blended scotch produced as an 'own label' whisky for Nisa. Nisa is an association of small independent retailers, a national 'brand' for your local corner shop, as it were.
They have been around since 1977, but I must admit that I've only really become aware of them in the last decade or so – although that may be a factor of geography, as Nisa started out in the Northern half of the country (their name standing for the Northern Independent Supermarkets Association).
Given their market position, my gut reaction to the thought of their own-label products was not overwhelmingly positive – how good could a corner shop whisky be? Well, Nisa are proud of their silver medal from the International Spirits Challenge so perhaps it's better than my rather cynical assumptions (although the ISC is a topic for another day).
Banoch Brae is an ageless blended scotch whisky, that makes no comment about what regions appear in that blend – about the only thing the packaging tells us is that it's been "carefully matured in oak casks", presumably to distinguish itself from all those whiskies that are carelessly matured. It's pale, and bottled at 40% ABV.
The nose is initially dominated by raw ethanol. As it sits, other notes start to emerge – cane sugar, pear drops and a touch of green apples.
Water damps down both the alcohol and the sugar, revealing some delicate, lightly toasted oak aroma along with a suggestion of vanilla.
It's surprisingly smooth in the mouth; initially sugar sweet on the tongue, becoming more like vanilla toffee and only at the end showing a little rough grain character.
Watered, the sugar sweet start is lost and you're straight into slightly richer, toffee-like flavours. The oak again starts to show through, but it brings with it a rough, tannic undertone that's far less noticeable without water.
Ok, so it's not a complex whisky but at the same time, it's a shade under £13 a bottle. Yes, it's a bit rough around the edges and it's simplistic, but it's a perfectly drinkable dram for a remarkable price. 2.5 stars.
This review was originally published 8th October, 2014. It was last updated 1st June, 2023.