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Jul 22, 2010 03:31 PM

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.


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  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.

    6 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. re: JMF

              I just had this experience last night. Ended one bottle, opened another...Very strong smoky flavor in the new one. Completely different taste. I thought it was very strange. Really didn't like the smoky one, tasted like it had been through a fire.

        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: 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.

          1. 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


            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.



              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.