Have you ever had someone try to tell you that a supermarket own brand Irish Cream is ‘just like Bailey’s’?
Personally, I’ve lost count of how many times someone has tried to convince me that and, depending on which bottle they were trying to assure me is a ‘pretty much Bailey’s!’, my reaction tends to vary from ‘Well, maybe they haven’t had Bailey’s in a while’ all the way up to ‘Oh crap, have they hit their head? Should I call a doctor?’. Maybe it’s just me, but nothing has ever come close to matching the quality of Bailey’s Original Irish Cream liqueur; both the consistency and the flavour of the big name brand is head and shoulders above everything else I’ve tried, and frankly I’m just about done with trying. The number of bottles I’ve had to finish off half-heartedly is too damn high, and I really don’t have space for them on my bar anymore. Its the ultimate first world problem but, dammit, it really is a problem!
That being said, I am a sucker for a dupe. So – despite knowing how stupid the cycle is – I keep trying each Bailey’s rip off, and every time I tell myself ‘this really is it, I swear!’, even though deep down I know it’s not. I found myself in Aldi when the first lockdown was lifted slightly and, having heard some very positive things about their Ballycastle Irish Cream Liqueurs in the past, once again found the temptation to be just too much – only this time, I happened to spot the Ballycastle Strawberry and Cream Liqueur on the shelf, instead of the OG cream liqueur.
And it was on sale. For £4.99. Oh boy, oh boy, this could get dangerous.
Naturally, I grabbed a couple of bottles, one for myself and one for my parents as I was visiting them later that day to drop off some shopping, and went on my merry way. Now, I’m not going to lie – I have a bit of a thing for Bailey’s. It’s definitely up there as one of my go-to tipples, although these days I am a bit more conscious of my calorie intake vs output (what up, sedentary lifestyle) so I haven’t had too much of it lately. I did actually try the Bailey’s Strawberry and Cream Liqueur a few months ago and whilst it was tasty, it didn’t quite match my expectations. Honestly, I think I have fonder memories of University night’s out where my pre-drinks consisted of a bottle of Corky’s Strawberry and Cream Liqueur than I do of the Baileys upmarket version. I know right, I’m so classy it hurts.
Suffice it to say, my expectations were low for this Ballycastle version because a) I have a bad history of off-brand Bailey’s and b) even the Bailey’s Strawberry and Cream was ‘meh’. But still, ever hopeful, I cracked open the bottle pretty much as soon as I got home. Yep, I didn’t chill it or anything. I’m just that kind of heathen/animal/low-life, take your pick.
The first thing that hits you when you break the screw top seal is the aroma – it smells good, pretty much what you would expect for an authentic Strawberries and Cream liqueur but without the harsh alcoholic edge that some ‘off brand’ varieties tend to adopt. Tick, one point in it’s favour, and frankly we’re already off to a flying start. The real proof, however, is in the tasting.
The mouthfeel when the liquid crosses your lips is both pleasing and familiar, thick and luscious like it’s big name brother but not too sticky on the palate where it’ll dominate everything else you eat for the rest of that day. Does anyone else find that too many of these copy cat cream liqueurs have a thin runny consistency, or is it just me? Either way, it’s not a problem here – the mouthfeel on this bad boy is top quality. Is that two positives my eyes see? Why yes, I do believe it is! But again, what about the taste?
I’m not gonna fluff my words on this one – the Ballycastle Strawberries and Cream Liqueur is freaking dope. Seriously, it puts Bailey’s to shame every day of the week; yes it’s creamy like you would expect a cream liqueur to be, and it has the gently rolling heat of its alcoholic content to boot, but most importantly it truly delivers on the advertised flavour. From the first sip to the last, it’s delightfully creamy and genuinely fruity – honestly it tastes like a big bowl of strawberries on a warm summers day. I cannot overstate how good it is. It would be impossible to oversell it in my opinion. Whilst the Bailey’s version of this liqueur was disappointing and a bit bland, Aldi’s Ballycastle variant has a rich, deep flavour befitting a MUCH higher price point (even at full RRP, it’s like £8. I would pay that, no questions asked and then thank you for the pleasure) and whilst it is unapologetically sweet – hello, cream liqueur – that’s not the single defining flavour of the experience. It’s a layered and complex drink, which starts out with intense strawberry flavour and ends with a creamy, smooth profile like you’ve just spooned a teaspoon of whipped cream to your mouth – so light yet rich at the same time, what’s not to love?
Now, when I made the first draft of this blog post it was maybe 1 or 2 weeks after buying my first couple of bottles, and you could still get it both in store and online (I should know, I bought 4 more of them) but I have been quite tardy in the last 3 months when it comes to finishing content for Geek and Tonic due to personal reasons. Unfortunately, it’s now out of stock as far as I know, and I don’t know if it will ever return. I ummed and ahhed over whether I should finish and release the post, after all it’s not guaranteed to return and it seems a bit hollow to dangle something so wonderful in front of you knowing full well it might be an impossible goal.
However, 2 things changed my mind: 1. We all know that Aldi likes to bring back fan favourite stock, such as their Lacura makeup/skincare ranges, so it’s not out of the question for them to bring this back too, and 2) When I visited the Aldi website yesterday, I saw a very exciting addition when I was perusing their Wine and Spirits pages…
WHITE CHOCOLATE CREAM LIQUEUR. WHITE FREAKING CHOCOLATE.
I am not ready for this, but you damn well better believe that my wallet will be when it’s finally released.
Whether or not you heard it hear first, y’all better get ready for this bad boy and stock up while you can – if the Ballycastle Strawberries and Cream Liqueur is anything to go by, we’re gonna be in for one hell of a treat.