HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >

Discussion

Lower end Scotch tastes

OK.............. so I think I know lots about wine, but I know diddley about scotch. I tend to like it on the rocks but (as with wine) there are tastes that I like and those I don't. I'm not really into the better stuff these days, so I'm looking for anything that comes close to the taste of Chivas for about 30% less or so. I've tried Cutty @ around $23 for 1.75L and find it too strong for my taste (I wish I knew more of the language to use). J&B was even more tough for me.

So............ what does anyone think I'd like in that price range <$25 for 1.5L. I guess than translates to upper teens for 750ml. Pricing is for SoCal if that helps.

Also, any thoughts one vocabulary to describe this would be helpful.

Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. The best deal in blended Scotch is Famous Grouse which is right about at $25 for a 1.75L. They usually have it in 1Ls at Trader Joe's for less than $20. Between Chivas, Cutty and J&B, it's definitely more similar to Chivas, though it's richer and I much prefer it to Chivas.

    5 Replies
    1. re: sku

      I use to be a Dewers drinker back when but for a blended scotch Famous Grouse is excellent. It has an impressive list of single malts in the blend.

      1. re: sku

        Totally agree with you, not too impressed with Chivas, but that is the great thing about Scotch, everyone's pallet is different. I like Dewars White.

        1. re: Kailyn06

          One thing I noticed about Dewars White recently. I never drink it, but I used it in creating a cocktail at one restaurant, and it was very smoky. I was in another place and playing with it and their was no smoke taste. Does it normally vary like this?

          1. re: JMF

            Maybe the second place didn't really have Dewars in the bottle. Just sayin suppose.

            1. re: Hughlipton

              No, I was in charge of the beverage program at both places.

      2. The only two low-priced Scotch blends I have bought that I will buy again are White Horse and Teacher's Highland Cream, both about $16 for a 750 here in NC. I prefer both to Chivas, but haven't had enough of the Chivas to really compare the taste profiles, just a couple mini bottles - I just remember thinking JW Black was much much better in the same price range as Chivas, so no reason to buy a whole bottle.

        I hated J+B, really has a nasty finish to me. I have also hated Ballantines and Dewars white label, and found Famous Grouse and Glen Salen to be OK but not nearly as good as the two I mentioned earlier.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ncyankee101

          Nice video review/discussion of Teacher's Highland Cream:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heX2ai...

          1. re: DavidT

            I agree with him completely - this is an "every day" type of Scotch, when I just feel like having some but not necessarily hitting a $50 bottle of Ardbeg 10 or Highland Park 12.

            There are also a few low-priced single malts I have had which are decent. Tamdhu is not bad at all for $21 here, not the most interesting but it doesn't have anything unpleasant about it either. I also rather like the McClellands islay for $23 here in NC (prob less in CA) - I have heard it is a 5 yr old Bowmore, and though it does taste like a watered-down "real" Islay, it does have some smoke, peat and brine to it, probably the most interesing "cheap" single malt I have had.

        2. This information is very helpful. Please keep it coming.

          I was at my local 'best overall selection' wine & spirits shop yesterday and picked up a 750 of Black Bottle. First impression is that it's easier drinking than the Cutty I'm just finishing up, and much smoother than the J &B. Not sure I love it as much as Chivas, but a nice change so far.

          I went to that paricular shop because they sell a lot of 'mini-bar' bottles, but the choices were pretty nil among the scotches discussed so far.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Midlife

            I think Famous Grouse, Teacher's and Black Bottle pretty much covers your best bets for blended scotch at a reasonable price. Bell's is a big seller in Scotland and is worth trying.

            Since you live in SoCal, you might want to swing by a Trader Joe's and look for Glen Moray single-malt at $20 or Finlaggan single-malt around $18. In theory, they are a step up from the blends. The Glen Moray is a Speyside whisky, rather smooth and "sweet." The Finlaggan is from the Isle of Islay and is smokey/peaty. Both will give you some sense of the characteristics of the regions they come from.

            1. re: DavidT

              I wish I could get Black Bottle here in NC . Or Black Grouse.

              Here's an interesting article

              http://whiskyparty.net/?page_id=1569

          2. Bailie Nicol Jarvie (often called BNJ) is an excellent blended Scotch whisky, with a relatively high percentage on single-malts in the blend. It is produced by Glenmorangie. Unfortunately, I believe it is not available in the U.S. Should you ever see it, be sure to give it a try.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bailie_N...

            http://whiskyforeveryone.blogspot.com...

            1. It's important to note that there is no right or wrong answer here. I prefer an Islay single malt every time (especially Laphroag) and have for over 40 years but I have friends who are much better "tasters" than me who prefer other malts. For a reasonably priced blend, I like Teachers, though a well respected friend had me try some Black Grouse. For just a nudge up in price, I must say I'd buy the Grouse for a party of whisky drinkers. I gave my brother-in-law a 1.5L of Cutty a year ago for his whisky drinking friends. He still has 1/4 of a bottle left but has gone through 4 bottles of Dewars.
              I guess his friends feel the same way about Cutty as I do-- it's not very flavorful compared to Dewars. You should just keep sampling until you find one or more that you like.

              1. There was a time when I was drinking scotch almost exclusively. The problem was that my favorite (Lagavulin) went from under $50 to over $70. I switched to another Islay-type scotch, but it has gone up too.

                So I branched out. I found Clontarf Irish Whiskey -- the cheaper black label is my preference -- and at around $20 it was so much more affordable. I also started drinking rum neat, and found that my dollar went a lot farther.

                And then there are a lot of satisfying bourbons and ryes, too.

                I'm just not a big fan of any inexpensive scotch that I've tried. Perhaps I just haven't tried the right one.

                Don't shoot me. Just a thought.

                1. I agree with EvergreenDan. Its just not worth it. The cheapest scotch's I've ever found that I'm willing to drink are Aberlour and Jura, and even those are over $30 for a 750ml (VA prices, which are somewhat high). Choose something else--my go-to drink when I don't feel rich enough to afford scotch is rye on the rocks, or a sazerac--you can get an excellent rye for around $20/750ml, and although good absinthe is more expensive, if you're only using it for sazeracs the bottle will last you literally forever.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: mdzehnder

                    @mdzehnder:

                    If you like Jura ($34 here in NC), you cant try two others in the same price range that have similar flavor profiles - Glen Garioch 8 is cheaper at $27 and IMO nearly as good, maybe a little rougher finish but I like it a lot for the price. Aberfeldy 12 is slightly more at $40 in NC, but is my favorite highland I have tried yet.

                    All three are rather sweet up front followed by some pepper and spice and a gingery finish, and quite interesting.

                    1. re: ncyankee101

                      @ncyankee101--thanks for the suggestions. If I see those in the store I may give them a shot. My problem now is I've been finding more and more that I just don't seem to enjoy anything aged less than 15 yrs. Even scotches I enjoy in their 15 or 18 yr versions--such as McCallans, Glenlivet or Glenfidditch--I don't enjoy in the 12 or 10 yr variations. The rough edges are just too much for me--I'd rather switch to a good Bourbon or rye than to drop below 15 yrs in an aged scotch. I will, however, try your suggestions, and perhaps they will convince me otherwise.

                      1. re: mdzehnder

                        To be honest if you like the smoothness of the 15+ year olds you might not like those, I don't mind some rough edges if the Scotch has an interesting flavor, my faves are the Islay peat monsters.

                        I am surprised you would say you would rather have Bourbon, I find the finish in most Bourbons to be less smooth than Scotches of similar ages. In fact when I first started drinking Bourbon neat the amount of wood in the finish was a turn off for me but I have gotten used to it and actually like some that I didn't like when I first tried them.

                        1. re: ncyankee101

                          That's exactly it. I Don't mind rough edges in and of themselves--I actually enjoy the rough quality of a bourbon--that's just not what I'm after when I drink scotch. I see no reason to pay $25, $30, or $40 for a bottle of scotch when I can get a bottle of Old Overholt, which I enjoy as much as if not more than the 10 and 12 year scotches, for $12. When I drink scotch I'm going for that aged, complex smoothness, and I'm willing to pay more to get it.

                          1. re: mdzehnder

                            Sorry but I love Rye - have owned, finished and rebought bottles of sazerac and wild turkey, have unopened bottles of Bulleit and Rittenhouse 100 (which I had in a bar) - and I have a bottle of Old Overholt I got for $10, and I wouldn't buy it again, I just find it completely bland, boring and rough. I have heard that at one time it was good but has changed distilleries twice and in the current form I barely find it worth drinking at any price. I would rather drink my favorite $15 blended Scotches - teacher's and white horse - than Old Overholt.

                            If you honestly like this as much as 12 yr old Glenlivet or Macallan then you should probably disregard my advice. I wouldn't call either of them rough at all, Macallan is a little heavy on the sherry for my taste and for the same price (usually less) I prefer Balvenie Doublewood. Glenlivet 12 is just not all that interesting to me, almost too smooth, but I would buy it for the right price, not the $40 it costs here in NC but Hitime wine has it for $24 at which price it's a no-brainer IMO.

                            Note that I almost always drink whisk(e)y neat, not on the rocks - if you put ice in Glenlivet 12 it pretty much ends up tasting like water, as the flavors are very subtle to begin with.

                            1. re: ncyankee101

                              +1 on Balvenie Doublewood. Sometimes it is on sale for a very attractive price, which explains the spare bottle collecting dust. Now that fall is here, I'm sure I'll work my way through it.

                              --
                              www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                  2. I have always favored Black & White as a moderately priced blended scotch, but it is getting harder to find. If you are ever at an international duty free shop, or in London, Bell's scotch is very smooth and about 9GBP per litre.

                    1. I have been on the trail you are on, Midlife! Some of the other posters have had good suggestions. I can't stomach Teachers for some reason.. would rather drink Dewars. I am a single malt fan (and absolutely LOVE Islay whiskies above almost any other drink) but I can't spend like I'd like to so the desire for a list of cheap alternatives is always welcome. I happen to like Chivas quite a bit and wish it wasn't so dang expensive!

                      Other bottles I've had and enjoyed (and would buy on-sale only probably):
                      Blends
                      Dewars Reserve 12YO (not-exciting but not at all flawed)
                      Johnny Walker Black (ditto)

                      Single Malts
                      Bowmore "Legend" (this is my "house' scotch and have been able to find it $20-23/ .750L for well over two years).
                      Dalmore "Cigar" malt (was finding this for $22 for a while- but it's been a long time now since I've seen < $30)
                      12 Year Aberlour (this drops to $25 occassionally) as does:
                      12 Year Highland Park
                      10 Year Old Laphroig never goes cheap but I've found it for $28 before and that's a dream come true for me
                      Old Pulteney (not a huge fan- but in a pinch (if it's on sale < $25))
                      Auchentoshan- found this for ~$25 a couple of times- very tasty

                      I tried to make McClelland's work and it was awful IMO. Also cheap choices that I didn't like: Lismore and Speyburn.

                      Hope you find some other stuff for me to try!

                      Also- as someone else posted- I've been happy with some of the Irish choices I've made although when they are pricey- what's the point? Example: Connemarra is damn good peated whiskey.. but I could have Laphroaig for less.. why would I buy it? I like Tullamore Dew okay... loved the Tyrconnell when I can find it < $25... would appreciate suggestions in this area too.

                      It's not easy being a thrifty whiskey lover!!

                      21 Replies
                      1. re: e_bone

                        Bowmore Legend is a remarkable value, but it's usually closer to $30 around here.

                        1. re: EvergreenDan

                          I should have stated somewhere that my pricing is Denver, CO.. I see you are on East Coast EvergreenDan so that explains your markup I suppose. However- browsing on line liquor stores in MA I see Gin priced similar to our discounts.. wonder why you are paying a premium on Scotch?

                          1. re: e_bone

                            I consider myself a pretty ruthless bargain hunter & sale shopper. I live in San Francisco. Some of the prices you have listed above seem VERY cheap relative to what I see in these parts. I don't think I have seen Aberlour or Old Pultney anywhere close to $25 at any time in the past few years. BevMo is currently charging $38 for Aberlour and $43 for Old Pultney.

                            You can find Glenfiddich 12-year single malt for under $25.

                            Trader Joe's was recently selling Glen Moray single-malt for $20, but I think that was a one-time deal. I remember when TJ's was selling Dalmore 12-year old for $20, but those days are long gone!

                            1. re: DavidT

                              Currently at Davidson's you'll see Bowmore Legend for $21 and Pulteney (you have to go to the lookup page) for $28.99. NOT $25 as I stated but then again that's standard price and not sale. It goes on sale for $25 twice a year or so. Aberlour is back up to $36 and I will concede that it's been a long time since i've seen it mid-$20's and maybe never will again. I prefer Islay style anyway so no great loss!

                              http://www.davidsonsliquors.com/speci...

                              Pricing on the coasts is probably just naturally higher as is everything else. It's why I had to move back to Colorado.. I needed to buy a house someday!

                              1. re: e_bone

                                I'll echo some items: Black Bottle, Clontarf, and Bowmore Legend are all very good.

                                But for a good blend, in a handle, at a quality price there is Ballentines Finest. It's fairly rich like Chivas but also easy on the wallet at around $25.

                                For a single you can usually get Glen Garioch for around $20.

                                1. re: e_bone

                                  Thanks for the info. Not quite compelling enough for me to move, but I am impressed!

                                  Are you able to shop at a Trader Joe's where you live? If so, have you ever tried any of the single-malts they offer under their own label?

                                  1. re: e_bone

                                    @ e_bone:

                                    I thought Ballantine's was ok when I first opened it - maybe somewhat sweet and bland but not offensive - but after a few weeks it tasted awful to me, the finish just seemed nauseating like J+B. A guy whose blog I follow
                                    http://jason-scotchreviews.blogspot.com/ used to like Ballantine's but recently revisited it and said the same thing.

                                    Sorry you didn't like the McClellands Islay, people seem to be split down the middle on it. I have heard it called decent by some and ghastly by others. I don't think it is in the same ballpark as Ardbeg or Laphroaig, but at half the price here in NC it is adequate when I want something Islayish but don't want to break out the good stuff.

                                    1. re: ncyankee101

                                      I've never not wanted to break out the good stuff.

                                    2. re: e_bone

                                      Quick update for you Denver-based bargain hunters... Prices are up a bit since before Christmas and I imagine they'll stay there forever. <pouts>

                                      Bowmore Legend, not on sale, = $24
                                      Highland Park 12 (on sale) = $29
                                      Bruichladdich Rocks (on sale) $37

                                      Laphroig 10 is up near $40... Laguvualin (sp?) is ON SALE for $73 ... Ardbeg is $45.. these are dark times for Islay Lovers on a Budget!!

                                      1. re: e_bone

                                        Yeah I wish I had those problems, the best price I have seen anywhere that ships to NC is $35 for HP and $26 for legend - $40 is the best price I have seen for Laph 10 on the east coast other than a place near Tampa where it was $33 but only shipped intrastate.

                                        Astor in NY still has Lag 16 for $55, I got 2 a few months back for $48 each.

                                        1. re: ncyankee101

                                          $48??? !!?? <weeps into arm> Honestly- I think I'd buy a case if I could find it that cheaply. A buddy recently purchased the Caol Ila Dilstillers Edition for $65 and I honestly thought it gave Lag a run for its money. Loved it. Deep, refined, luscious. wish we'd tried them side-by-side.

                                          1. re: e_bone

                                            I like the Caol Ila 12 quite a bit, got it in FL for $46. Very similar to the Lag but not quite as rich.

                                            Picked up a bottle of Laph 18 while in PA for $60 and it is quite nice also. I haven't done a side by side with the Lag but I plan to at some point.

                              2. re: e_bone

                                @e_bone,

                                I was just looking back over this thread and thought i should let you know - hitimewine.net has Laphroaig 10 yr for $32.99, recently is was $30 - and they had the 1/4 cask for $35 a month or two back, unfortunately it is now $53 :-(( I have had much better luck finding Laphroaig on the cheap than Ardbeg, i have seen it in the $30 range several times while I have never seen Ardbeg under $40.

                                I find it surprising you didn't like Lismore, I thought it was much better than Auchentoshan classic - I bought a bottle of this and just find it bland with a weird sourish finish, reminds me a lot of Glenmorangie 10 yr which I didn't like much at all. My first and probably last lowland Scotch. I do not like it Sam I am, I do not like Auchentoshan.

                                1. re: ncyankee101

                                  Excellent use of Green Eggs and Ham.

                                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                                    Why thanks Dan, though I took liberties with the proper pronunciation which I think is aw-CHEN-taw-SHEN.

                                    Gotta say, I am sipping on some of this right now and I really don't like it. REALLY really. As I said though, this is the new "Classic" release with no age statement - I had seen some decent reviews of the old Auchentoshen 10, maybe that is what e_bone was referring to.

                                    1. re: ncyankee101

                                      Oops I just realized I miswrote that, should have been AW-chen-TOSH-en.

                                      1. re: ncyankee101

                                        I have to say, I've had two bottles of the Auchentoshen classic, and the second seemed quite different from the first. I thought it was just me. The first was better, and that's why I bought it again.

                                  2. re: ncyankee101

                                    @NCYankee101 - I trust you so I will buy another bottle of Lismore and give it a spin around the glass. Report due next week. Thanks!

                                    1. re: e_bone

                                      Well I feel honored that you trust me, I hope I don't steer you wrong - it does have a lot of green apple and is a lttle estery in the nose, but not overly so - so if you don't like that kind of taste you might not like it. Reminds me a lot of Glenlivet 12.

                                      I would wait a few months to get it, last year it came out around Christmas in a gift set with a genuine Glencairn crystal glass woth half the price of the Scotch (I got two.)

                                      1. re: ncyankee101

                                        Almost a year later.. but I did try a bottle last week. It was $16.99 (!!!) at our local big-box. I actually do find that I enjoy it.. I find it to have some citrus / floral notes to it and a sweetness that reminds me of a poor man's Balvanie.

                                        Thanks for the rec- this will be a nice fall back when my Bowmore isn't on sale (it's back up to $24 right now).

                                        1. re: e_bone

                                          You're welcome, glad you liked it - were you able to find a holiday gift set this year? I didn't see any around here.

                                          I have also seen a 100 proof Lismore online, though it is a little more expensive - I don't see a price on it currently but I think Hi time had it for between $20-25 while their price on the regular is $16.

                                2. Reminds me of a quote in Pelton's latest book on adventure travel/journalism: "Don't bother aquiring a taste for single malt, because they rarely have it in the 3rd world."

                                  1. I have Buchanan's as my fall back . Yes it is a blend but for me it has a bit more character than most and It comes in at about $25-30. A few more bucks will put you into the lower Balvanie range and that is good stuff.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: budnball

                                      Other than Red Seal @ $130, my local go-to store's online site shows Buchanan's Black & White ($23) as the only other one they stock. Since they tend to know, their stuff I thought I'd ask where this one places as far as Buchanan's is concerned. BevMo has more Buchanan's around $30. Thanks.

                                       
                                      1. re: Midlife

                                        I'm drinking the 12year Deluxe Buchanan in a square bottle with hiccup top. about $30 at Bev Mo in northern California. I forget how different prcing can be around the country.

                                    2. I will second (third? fourth?) those steering you to Famous Grouse @ your price point. The blend includes two fine highland malts: Macallan and Highland Park.
                                      I'm less sure about the recs for Black Grouse. I'm personally a big fan of smokey/peatey Islay scotch (Talisker!! Laphroiag!), but it's a different taste and will be a bigger departure from your Chivas.

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: Poindexter

                                        Black grouse has a pretty subtle Islay flavor, definitely not a peat bomb. Same for Black Bottle (I've only had the NAS version.)

                                        1. re: Poindexter

                                          It took me years to like Laphroiag. I drink all my Scotch straight, not even ice cubes (I have a fear of water). Drinking Laphroaig was like drinking a cloud of smoke and peat. Now I find it as delightful as an after dinner Cognac. As like so many other things in the world of food, Scotch is an acquired taste. Although I've had the blended I think if those are too strong for his/her taste that the OP might as well acquiring a taste for the Single Malts and then work backwards for the more simple after I get home from work Scotch.

                                          1. re: Hughlipton

                                            My first taste of Islay scotch was Laphroaig quarter cask - tasted like iodine to me at the time. Though it was a bit much with my level of Scotch experience, I could tell I would like it once I got used to the potent flavor - and I did, recently got a bottle of Laphroaig 18 and I like it as much as Lagavulin.

                                            1. re: ncyankee101

                                              Sorry to bump a dying thread NCYank but .. you say "Iodine" like it's a bad thing! :-)

                                              Real reason I post- as several mentioned above (including you) I bought a bottle of Black Bottle for $19 recently and am very happy with it. It needs a few ice cubes.. and maybe a splash of water as it's a bit "hot".. but the flavors are Islay and it is smooth on the finish for the price. Very nice find.. Domo Ori-Thank-o!

                                              1. re: e_bone

                                                You're quite welcome, yes I think Black Bottle is one of the best bargains for the money. I have heard similar things about Finlaggan in Trader Joes, which seems to be available mainly in cali.

                                                White Horse has a very similar flavor profile but it is a little more subdued, which makes sense because one compenent is supposedly Lagavulin.

                                                1. re: ncyankee101

                                                  I like White Horse, but for some reason it is getting harder to find down here, and it is now more expensive than Dewars. I like it better, but IIRC, it used to be cheaper.

                                                  1. re: TroyTempest

                                                    That's odd - I checked the NC site and they no longer carry the 750 ml bottles, though they do still show the 1.75 ltrs at the same price of $30.

                                                    Hitime wine in CA still has 750s for $20, same price as Dewars white label.

                                                    1. re: ncyankee101

                                                      The liquor stores that i see it in only seem to have the 1.75.

                                            2. re: Hughlipton

                                              you think Laphroiag is smoky? try some scorpion mezcal(complete w/scorpion in the bottle). WOW...I guess it is the way it is made literally w/smoke.

                                              sorry to go off tangent...I agreed w/your post. It is amazing, if I was a kid for 200yrs I wouldn't be able to drink&savor this stuff like I can as an adult. Tastes are developed. Of course, I would still drink it as a kid way back when. I would just mask that taste&belly it!

                                              1. re: creamsherry

                                                Creamsherry,

                                                I have tried a few Mezcals - not Scorpion, but Sombra is very smoky (and very good).

                                                . I have also had some that weren't quite as smoky, including Fidencio Sin Humo that is cooked in an autoclave rather than roasted underground so it has no smoke.

                                          2. Here in the NYC area the cheapest single malts are $27-29. In that league, as others have suggested, I'd go with Bowmore Legend, Auchentoshan Classic, and a couple of outliers I can sometimes find in NJ (a wonderful Tomintoul, the one marked "with a peaty tang," same price level, a steal for the quality) and Tomatin 12.

                                            Next price level up (up to $35), I like Glenrothes Select Reserve and Glenmorangie Original.

                                            Haven't found an acceptable blend except to say that Teacher's is really not bad at all.

                                            1. I like to save but when it comes to scotch I'll dish out more. In all seriousness though, a good cheap scotch(blended 36mths) is the military special under your price definately and 1.75ML. If you can get on a military base it is automatic you'll find it. Anyways, thats my cheap scotch shout out. It is actually pretty good.

                                              1. Have you tried Black Bottle? Blended with a fairly high amount of Islay malts to give it a mild smoky flavor.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: kagemusha49

                                                  I did try Black Bottle and it was OK. Just maybe a little harsh to my taste.

                                                  1. re: Midlife

                                                    Just about every scotch in my home is a single malt - just one or two blends that relatives who don't know better have given me. Still recently I have purchased Johnny Walker Double Black for $32 (I'm drinking it now) which has much to recommend it - and Black Bottle for $16 - if this was all I could afford I'd probably buy it regularly.

                                                2. Wow. I'm surprised to see anyone describe Glenfiddich 12 as rough. Perhaps a bit shallow in terms of depth of flavor, but rough??? I think it's one of the easiest drinking scotches around even if it is also somewhat boring.

                                                  For cheaper blends, JW Black and for even cheaper price, Black and White. Black bottle is an excellent value for folks who favor smoky scotch. Also, Ballantine 12 is a cheap blend that is quite tasty, though not particularly deep or substantive. Tried some Teachers recently and was not impressed. Will not drink it again.

                                                  When I hear people refer to their scotch preferences primarily through the dollar value of their purchases, I tend to question their judgement. Scotch attracts a lot of folks who enjoy it for the status symbol quality of buying a $60-$80 bottle of booze. Yet in terms of the grand landscape of Scotch these folks are often a bit ignorant. Big money does not always mean better product, nor does additional age. Just as an example, Johnny Walker's Black and Blue are far superior, IMO, than the green and gold bottlings...and cheaper to boot. Balvenie 12 is actually superior, IMO to Balvenie 15. I think the HP 12 is superior to the 18, though the 25 really is in another league. There are some wonderful sub $50 single malt bottlings, as well as some excellent sub $40 bottlings. Off the top of my head I'd suggest Glenmorangie 10, Clynellish 14, Glenfiddich 12, and Highland Park 12. Of course this in the MD suburbs of DC...your costs on these may be more expensive.

                                                  Also, while the idea of dropping ice cubes in good scotch irks me to no end, so does the belief that it MUST be drank straight. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any experienced scotch drinker, or distiller, will attest to the often necessary addition of water. Certainly it's a dram-by-dram basis, but adding a wee bit of water to most good scotch opens it up in a number of ways while diluting sometimes excessive alcohol burn that stuns the tongue and masks the subtleties and complexities that you're actually paying for in a good bottle...well..that and the status symbol of owning an expensive bottle of booze. The key is to be very, very restrained until you get a good feel for how much water a scotch needs (if it needs any at all) to reach it's full potential.

                                                  12 Replies
                                                  1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                    Sorry but I don't quite get this statement:

                                                    "Johnny Walker's Black and Blue are far superior, IMO, than the green and gold bottlings...and cheaper to boot."

                                                    Perhaps you meant to say the Black is cheaper?

                                                    I would say it is a stretch to say the Black is far superior to either the Green or Gold, I have bottles of and like all of them and the differences in them make it difficult to compare. The Gold is silky smooth and honeyed with very little smoke, trying to compare it to the black is like apples and oranges - whereas the green is to my palate very similar to the black, and I can't say I find either one much superior to the other. I have yet to open my 200 ml bottle of Blue label, saving it for a special occasion.

                                                    I have only had Glenfiddich 12 yr a couple times - a 375 I bought several years ago, my first single malt, well before I got into Scotch. I did not like at all and it put me off trying any more Scotch for a while. Then I had it in a bar more recently (didn't see that they had Laphroaig 10) and again I didn't like it (this was after drinking some tiki-style mixed drink so my palate was compromised). I don't remember exactly what I didn't like about it but I do like (not love) the similar Glenlivet 12.

                                                    1. re: ncyankee101

                                                      Ooops, yes. Color mismatch on my part :) However, the point was that (especially for the money) I find the two mid-tier Johnny Walker's to be better whiskey. Granted, I haven't drank the high-end bottles in a couple of years but I do usually have a bottle of the black sitting around since I tend to use it as my house Scotch when having parties. It's also usually on sale at most liquor stores around here as well :) I'll grant that the gold is extremely smooth, but I think that it achieves that characteristic by also being rather dull. The only bottle of blue I had (which I thankfully got as a gift) really underwhelmed me considering the price tag they put on it. Again, smoothness with a lack depth or interesting dynamics from the whiskey. For that price, you can get some single malts (or even bourbons) that would be both better drams and quite frankly, at that price point, legit liquor investments. Then again, one of the points of a blend is smoothness. Smoothing out the quirks found in many single malts is part of the goal of a good blend, though for many of us, those quirks are what we love about single malts. And just to be fair to JW, I have enjoyed every one of their whiskeys that I've tried. Though I've never sampled the red, the others were all quite tasty blends.

                                                      Sometimes context makes a difference. Tiki drink to scotch wouldn't work for me either :) The first scotch I had was Laphroiag 10. I was a big bourbon drinker at the time and the stuff wanted to make me gag. I'm still a big bourbon drinker but Laphroiag (and other smoky scotches) are now some of my favorite whiskeys, though I certainly love a sweet, soft Speysider like Aberlour. Glenlivet's base single malt is indeed really quite similar to Glenfiddich 12. To be really general about it, the main difference I find is that the Glenfidich has more of a light sherry sweetness whereas the Glenlivet has more of a roasty, nutty, grain flavor. I actually prefer the Glenfiddich, but you'd never catch me turning either one down :) FWIW, the Glenfiddich 15 is actually a pretty nice step up from the 12.

                                                      In terms of smoke... I had my first glass of good mezcal (sacacuento silver) on saturday and loved it. I actually thought it was a bit reminiscent of black bottle, but it had a more focused quality with a wonderful finish that was rich, clean, and decently long lingering. Liquor stores down here don't carry a lot of mezcals, but I'll start keeping my eye out for them nonetheless. Like I said, I don't know much about them, but if you see the sacacuento silver, give it a try. It's not as smoky as Laphroaig, but given your preference for smoky scotch, I think you may like it.

                                                      1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                        So you meant you like the Black and Green better than the Gold and Blue? The green is an all-malt blend so many people like it better than the others. I would likely have been disappointed with the gold had I paid $80 for it, but I got it for $70 with a free 750 of the Black so it was quite a bit better bargain.

                                                        I do love the Islay peat/smoke monsters, my first one was Laphroaig Quarter cask - though it didn't make me gag, i found it overwhelming at first, as it was one of the first single malts I tried, but even then I knew I would like it once my palate became accustomed to that level of intensity. At the time I was very into beer and I liked the strongest tasting stouts and IPAs.

                                                        I have never had the Glenfiddich 15 though i have heard mostly good things about it, and I nearly bought it for a decent price in an online order that got out of hand (had to cut some). I actually like the fruitiness of the Glenlivet 12 when I am in the mood for it, I get a lot of green apple from it - though it is rather pricey in NC at $40 and I keep a bottle of Lismore on hand which I find very similar at a much lower price.

                                                        I have several bottles of Mezcal, though I had never heard of the sacacuento till now. I have the Fidencio - regular and smokeless - and have tried a sample of Semillero Joven, which are all decent but I like the Sombra and Del maguey Vida much better - the Vida is not all that smokey but has a nice tangy fruity taste (all can be found in the $30-40 range). I have tried a sample of the top-tier Pierde Almas Dobadaan and it was excellent, well balanced and very complex. I have an unopened bottle of los danzantes repo which I plan to crack at some point soon, supposed to be one of the best (same as Los nahuales).

                                                      2. re: ncyankee101

                                                        Glen 12 yr is my regular go to. Mind you I'm a novice yet, but it's reasonably priced while still being palatable to drink regularly. I tried JW blue and gold, didn't see a huge differnece between them, the blue a bit smoother. Neither is worth the $$ up here anyway. In truth I find Glen 12 not that far off either of them.
                                                        I saw your earlier post about Laph 18 being better than Lag. Dying to try it, I love Lagavulin, my favorite spirit to date, hands down (well, DJ Anejo is real close for fav as well). Laph 18 is $180 here, Lag 16 is $110. I gotta move south.

                                                        1. re: ephnright

                                                          Glen what? livet or fiddich?

                                                          I didn't say laphroaig 18 was better than lagavulin, I said I liked it as much - though I have tried them side by side more recently and found the lag to be richer and a little more cohesive in flavor, the laph 18 doesn't seem to have benefitted from it's time in wood as much. In fact I would say I like the quarter cask best of all the laphroaig line i have had, though I would love to get a bottle of the triple wood I had recently and try them side by side.

                                                          1. re: ncyankee101

                                                            Sorry, should have specified... livet. Was surprised how good it is as a lower cost alternative. My father in law gets it for xmas from his boss, I tried it and was sold.
                                                            Unless I come into some $$, I won't buy the Laph 18 (I love the 1/4 cask as well) . Lagavulin is my hands down favorite scotch. The missus and kids get me a bottle at fathers day. God love em.
                                                            Haven't seen triple wood here but sounds mouth watering.
                                                            20 yrs ago id'a thought this linda talk was b.s. But now it's definitely quality, not quantity.

                                                          2. re: ephnright

                                                            Good lord. Do you live in Canada or the North Pole?

                                                            1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                              Canuckistan.

                                                            2. re: ephnright

                                                              Laph 18 prices are all over the place, I have gotten it in PA for $60 and seen it online for as little as $68 and also for over $100, as high as $120 from a retailer in Cali who has excellent prices on other Laphroaig offerings (Hi time wine,)

                                                              Lag 16 is pretty high in most places, $90 here in NC and I rarely see it for less than $75-80 online, so your price on that is not that far out of line. I have gotten it for $48 a bottle from Astor spirits in NY, though it is now $55 (still a great price).

                                                              1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                Price doesn't vary much here at all, on any of it. They run sales occassionally, but may only drop 20%, tops. I wish I could get it for $55.

                                                                1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                  Once again, despite the outcry from folks in Montgomery County over our county run liquor wholesales, the prices are tough to beat. Lag 16 is currently $63.75 a bottle.

                                                                  1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                    Lag 16 for $64, wow, I wish. I was just drooling near the Lag bottles at the liquor store.
                                                                    Picked up the old standby Glenlivet 12 instead, the 1.14L is $62. No comparison to Lag 16 of course but I can at least almost justify it.
                                                                    Just finished the Glenmorangie. I found the last few glasses tasted heavily of vanilla. Definitely will buy again.

                                                          3. OP here.

                                                            My son just bought a French Bulldog puppy and (for some odd reason) named her Macallan. So............... I guess that settles it for me, though at a slightly higher price. :o]

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Midlife

                                                              We were given a bottle of The Macallan, Cask Strength, and I have to say I find it dreadful - so peaty that it tastes and smells like kerosene to us. Is there possibly a way that this could "go bad"? We are not Scotch drinkers so not sure whether we should pour it down the drain, or take it to the specialty liquor store here in Canada to see if they can give us their opinion. Any one out there have one? There is no year on the bottle, just Cask Strength, Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, Exclusively matured in Selected Sherry Oak Casks from Jerez, Spain.

                                                              1. re: SolitaireSally

                                                                I have never seen any Macallan described as peaty, it is a Speyside and tends to be sweet, fruity and heavy on the sherry. I had it once a long time ago but don't remember it all that well, other than it had a lot of burn neat. I have had a lot of the 12 year and it is not peaty at all.

                                                                1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                  Agreed. There's been a bottle of Macallan 12 at band practice for about a month, so I have a dram or two every thursday. Peaty is the last thing I would call it. That said, after scanning a few reviews of the cask strength, one or two people mentioned a very light smoky aroma, but that seems a bit odd for Macallan's typical profile. The scotch was finished entirely in sherry casks, so it would likely be intended as a sweet sipper. Truth be told, peat doesn't smell anything like kerosene. Are you sure you're not being put off by the fact that it is cask strength, and thus 120 proof? Even a typically light scotch like Macallan is going to have some serious burn at 120, and if it is a bit young, it could have a lot of raw alcohol on the nose given the strength. Those seem like better explanations for a "kerosene" effect than peat, which seems better described as a sort of earthy, musty, brackish smokiness.

                                                                2. re: SolitaireSally

                                                                  As others have said, Macallan is not a peated Scotch, though it likely has trace peat levels. Sherry casks, which Macallan is aged in, are treated with sulphur prior to being filled with whisky and can impart sulphuric notes (think burnt matchsticks). I haven't noticed a lot of sulphur on Macallan cask strength, but I haven't had one in a while and it's certainly possible.

                                                              2. My favorite local big-box was selling "Hankey Bannister" for $13 for 750ml. I had to bite and try it. It's positively agreeable with some ice cubes. Obviously lacking the Islay character I crave.. the price makes it hard to say no.

                                                                1. For a low-middle shelf scotch I've drank my share of Grants... mildly smoky, very good with splash of water to taste over rocks...