As the weather cools, I'm making my seasonal switch from gin and tonic to scotch. I'd also like to try some new malts. So, imbibing chowhounders, which liquor stores do you recommend going for:
1) Price and
I've found quite often that the best prices are at small liquor stores that don't sell much scotch, and therefore discount it (while not having much selection). I've also found that larger liquor stores, such as Surdyks and Hennepin Lake carry the same series of 10-15 brands.
if you want to sample before you buy, the scotch list at merlin's rest on lake street is pretty extensive-- a good scotch bar in an unexpected place. i wish the food was better, though.
Low end or high end? If you consider the high end anything greater than $100, prices seem to be pretty standard wherever you go as there aren't a lot of places that carry it. Blue Max liquor in Burnsville just east of 35W/35E on county road 42 has a really nice selection of all kinds. Although their prices are fair, especially on the high end, you will not find any bargains there.
On the lower end, as you said, it really depends on whatever is on sale. Zipps has fair pricing. I've found many good deals at the Cellars. They seem to always have several on sale for good prices. Costco in St. Louis Park usually has a few of the most common brands for good prices. Remember, you don't need to be a member of Costco to purchase alcohol there. I've occasionally gotten some good deals at Hennepin Lake liquor (Maccallan 12 year for $30) but it is hit and miss. Overall, I prefer the cellars as their sale prices are good, and the selection is decent but not overwhelming.
In North Oaks there is a place called winestreet that has a decent selection of single malts and other high end booze, like my favorite Hendricks gin. While you are there stop by Panino's and have a meal it is a nice Italian (read eye-talian not authentic, but tasty) place to eat.
859 Village Center Dr
North Oaks, MN 55127-3016
I have to presume you have already considered Surdyk's, but just in case it was missed; they have like 50 different single malts and all the major blends (including 3 version of the Famous Grouse from time to time).
I'm a scotch drinker and I only shop at Surdyk's, but mostly because it is close and something I need for my bar is invariably on sale when I go in. I have no idea if their pricing is competitive.
Coincidently, I just had a meal at the Happy Gnome in St. Paul. They have a scotch list like I have never seen, including some pretty high faulting ones. Maybe another good source to try before you buy?
I'm curious if anyone has checked out the scotch selection at Chicago Lake liquors. I've been impressed lately with cost and selection there - but I'm not buying scotch so I can't speak to that in particular.