Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Budget Bachelor - A Review of Trader Joe's Single Malt Whiskey

I like Trader Joes, and thoroughly love exploring one when I get the chance, always coming home with some tasty little surprises, shopping there always a pleasant experience with their  helpful staff and selection. That being said, when I heard they had their own brand of Whiskey/Whisky, including new single malts I had to check it out. The Two Buck Chuck was a nice surprise in the wine world when I discovered it in grad school. But $20 for a single malt?  Budget liquor is always hit or miss.  So I enlisted one of my male family members to  try it as well to get an opinion on taste from the male perspective, and then I would write up the review.

Twenty Buck Chuck - a  HOTR Review of Trader Joe's Single Malt Irish Whiskey.

Nose - It's a breakfast of Wheaties on the brand new deck overlooking green grass. The wood still looks wet in that one spot.  Oh *#(@ it is! I've got oil on me now. Sniff. Wait, is that glue?? I hope not, the party starts soon.

Palate -
The smell from the morning deck has faded, darkness falls, someone just lit the citronella candles. You're pretty content though, when you first think about it, cozied up next to the medium bodied honey blond that you just met. So many tastes and scents wafting up around you, the tarp of a bass boat, the smoke from the neighbor's burning yard clippings, you take it all in as you watch the fire die and munch on overly salted beer nuts. Somewhere in the distance is the barest of florals. A familiar scent, soft, yet now cloying. Did you invite a your girlfriend to this shindig?

There is a bitterness, suddenly, at the back of your throat.

Finish -
It lingers like a bad memory, the bit of lemon from the iced tea your girlfriend flung in your face as she stomped off, the sweet honeyed blond in her wake, gone before you barely knew her. You are left with sullen barbecue ash and bitter regret.

With water  -
Slightly improved, but that faint shower curtain smell that lingers only reminds you that you're still showering alone.


  1. Ooh...that good, eh? I want to see the Barkley-face for that one!

    Remind me not to buy some next time I spot a Trader Joe's.


  2. So... I can't tell if it's good or not.

  3. Sounds like the scotch doesn't come off as well as the 2 buck chuck. I do like Trader Joes. The first one I visited was in Santa Fe NM on vacation. There weren't any around here until a couple of years ago. Now the closest is an hour away. From the sound of this, I may stick with the wine and buy different cheap scotch. :)

  4. A while back I tried Speyburn's Bradan Orach and was pleasantly surprised. It's no Laphroaig, being much lighter and far less peaty than the Islay malts, but if you're looking for a budget single malt, it just might fit the bill.

  5. Ah, good: it appears the 20 Buck Chuck mostly avoids the delicate taste of a Scot's burnt peat moor boot sock, found in too many of the Islay whiskys.

  6. I think the lesson to be learned here is that "cheap" and "scotch" should never be used in the same sentence...much less the same glass.

  7. The fact that you can buy liquor at a grocery store is blowing my mind.

  8. Trader Joe's is one of the very few things I miss about Monkey County, MD. But being it's in a seriously stupid state, I couldn't have bought alcohol there, anyway.

    Their wine is a decent cheap. I don't think I'd be down for the shower curtain, though.

  9. Similar but not as bad experience with the Kirkland branded 7 yr Bourbon. Decent Bourbon flavor but overwhelmed by a caramel sweetness.

  10. Oh? Sounds as if someone knows someone who knows both scotch and women, and has an honest streak as wide as embarrassment?

    Oh, no, not poking fun. Just... taking notes... *scribbles*

  11. Monkeywrangler - It WAS better than some of their early efforts but I am definitely spoiled.

    That Guy - I sort of had enough at the shower curtain aftertaste.

    45er - There's one a quick jaunt from my best friends house, so I get there at least once a month. Always a fun trip.

    Pat St. Jean - thank you for the tip and Welcome!

    UnoMas - Oh ineed, there are some bad ones out there.

    Daddy Hawk - It's sort of like "easy" and "assembly" when the directions are in English AND Chinese.

    dehakal - thanks for the Warning, I could see my Dad picking that up (he LOVES his visits to the big box stores so he can flirt with the little ladies that pass out samples and buy enough toilet paper to last til the next century. I'll make sure he gets the good stuff.

    Doom - :-)

  12. Until recently, Florida had ALDI (TJ's corporate parent) but no Trader Joe's. We didn't discover Two Buck Chuck until we moved to PDX.

    We're not big wine drinkers, but we keep a few bottles of Chuck around because the Cabernet makes excellent Chicken Cacciatore.

    Our other favorite PDX food discoveries? Dave's Killer Bread, Chuck's Natural Market (no relation to the wine or TJ's), and WSU Cougar Gold cheese from the school's dairy program.

    (Yes, we have a really unfortunate mascot name at WSU.)

  13. Wow.
    Glad you didn't point me in THAT direction!


  14. Binnies in Chicago also has some private labelled malts. Do not recall if they were blends or singles. Have had one recently, with a group of, um... friends....

    They also have a rather large collection. Plan on spending a significant amount of time (and potentially $$) there if visiting.

  15. My brothers and I spent a couple weeks in Ireland trying to find a whiskey we didn't like. Took some effort, until we found some Tesco (yes, the grocery store) Irish Whiskey. Bottom shelf and a plastic bottle should have been a clue.

    You know how it feels when you've sprayed some carb cleaner that has splashed back in your face; and it's all you can taste while your face burns, and your eyes are closed tight so none of that horrible stuff runs into them and you can't see the people laughing at you?

    That's Tesco Irish Whiskey.

  16. Next time you're looking for Scotch find a brand called Scoresby. Buy the smallest bottle you can find. When you get home take a small sip then set the rest aside to use as a disinfectant for people you don't really like. You'll never buy cheap Scotch again.

  17. Good to know...I haven't seen TJ's brand whiskey at TJ's (here in Seattle, WA), but they carry mostly local spirits so that's not a surprise. I'm eager to see if you get a chance to try any WA whiskeys, how those come off. My palate is too juvenile for me to get those complexities.

  18. dehakal said...
    "Similar but not as bad experience with the Kirkland branded 7 yr Bourbon. Decent Bourbon flavor but overwhelmed by a caramel sweetness."

    You so need to read _Blandings' Way_, sequel to the cinegenic _Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House_. To say much more would spoil a really funny scene that perfectly captures the taste and usage of B-list bourbon.

    (I've never been much of a bourbon enthusiast but *am* considering dropping the requisite coin on something from the craft-distilled rye-whiskey resurgence of recent years...)

    As for Two Buck Chuck: Thrifty though I am, I've slowly resigned myself to having to pay *slightly* more for a cooking wine than I did for the bus ride to purchase it. Just in case I might like to put some into the cook as well as the recipe, you know.

    For just a dollar or two more at TJ's you're looking at something like Nero d'Avola (inevitably dubbed "Crazy Joe Davola" at our house) for red, or Green Fin chardonnay. On a scale of 1-10 where Chuckles is zero, their connoisseur score is about 0.2, but it is noticeably more tempting to actually drink some.

    A few bucks more than that and you can stumble across some actually good wines -- nothing that will excite readers of The Wine Expectorator, but very drinkable. Undiscovered vintners and ever changing exchange rates, not to mention how desperate any given country might be for trade at this moment in history, can result in pleasant surprises. Sure, trying to find a prince among the five- and six-dollar bottles will mean kissing the occasional toad, but if you don't like it you can always cook with it...

    Tesco whiskey sounds like something from the bottom shelf in American grocery stores and Stop'n'Robs. A little while back I noticed a gallon bottle labeled "Diluted Vodka."

    That was the actual name of it, not a description. Diluted Vodka.

    What's the deal, there -- you can't wait to get home and dilute your
    own vodka, preferring to sit on the curb in front of the store and enjoy it immediately?

  19. Giving strong indications as to why the malt whiskey is still single and likely to remain so for some time.

  20. "Sure, trying to find a prince among the five- and six-dollar bottles will mean kissing the occasional toad, but if you don't like it you can always cook with it.."

    As Julia Child often said - and just as often demonstrated - never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink.

  21. You really need to spend a few weeks in Scotland, visiting lots of distilleries. Will have an educational effect on your palate.

  22. You really need to spend a few weeks in Scotland, visiting lots of distilleries. Will have an educational effect on your palate.


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