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Oct 31, 2013 12:42 PM

What's the best inexpensive scotch out there?

I'm looking for a scotch in the $20-$30 range... It's for a gift for a new scotch drinker. Is there any particular brand you would suggest? Or, do my chances of a decent scotch go up exponentially if I go up slightly in price? Or, for that price range, and I defeating the purpose?

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    Found this recent thread after posting! Looks like Black Grouse is in my price point (most others in that thread are in the $40+ range). Thoughts on Black Grouse??

    7 Replies
    1. re: The Oracle

      I think you've read my thoughts on Black Grouse in the other thread. It has displaced the even cheaper Black Bottle as my Islay influenced blend of choice. I love it.

      1. re: kagemusha49

        Dont buy Black Grouse for a new Scotch drinker! Islay scotches don't really work for a new drinker! However, the Famous Grouse is a hell of a first Scotch, it was my first Scotch too after doing a tasting at a liquor store.

        I believe it has Highland 12 in it as well as Glenlivet 12..

        It's a great blended Scotch at a great price.

        If you are trying to stay with single malts, go with Glenfiddich, can be had for 33 bucks at most places. A touch out of your range but it's oh soo good.

        1. re: Kleraudio

          Black Grouse is hardly a peat monster, the Islay influence is actually pretty subtle.

          Not all new Scotch drinkers need to be handled with kid gloves, as I said in my post below I didn't get excited about Scotch until I had Talisker and Ardbeg at a local whiskey bar. In fact, before that my first bottle was Glenfiddich 12 yr and I didn't find it particularly interesting, and didn't try another single malt for a couple years afterwards.

          1. re: Kleraudio

            agreed, Famous Grouse is entry level

        2. re: The Oracle

          Not crazy about Black Grouse. I bought a bottle after reading praise for it on CH. I find Black Bottle smoother and more interesting. For inexpensive single malts, those we have around here, I like Finlaggan, Tomatin, Old Pulteney at $25-30, or Bowmore Legend in a pinch. In some stores I can get Glenmorangie at $32, quite a good deal. Sometimes Diagio (sp?) will put up one of their single malts like Talisker 10 on sale for around $35. You just have to watch the shelves.

          1. re: comestible

            If I saw Talisker for $35, I would buy at least a case - I don't remember the last time I saw it online for less than $50, at a retailer that ships to NC.

            A very interesting inexpensive single malt is Ardmore Traditional cask. It is fairly peaty, and could pass for an Islay, though not nearly as peaty as the big 3. Also non-chill filtered and 92 proof, for around $30.

            1. re: ncyankee101

              +1 on Taliser @ $35. It's routinely $70 +/- around Boston.

        3. You should be able to buy a bottle of The Glenlivet 12 year old Single Malt for under $30. It is a very good single-malt whisky and a good value as well.

          You should be able to buy a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black whisky for under $30 as well. It is a very good blended whisky and also a good value.

          You cannot go wrong with either one as they are both a very good introduction for a new scotch drinker.

          37 Replies
          1. re: DavidT

            That depends on where Oracle is located, those are $40 and $42 here in NC.

            1. re: ncyankee101

              Wow, that is surprising. Beverages & More (BevMo) has both available for under $30 in Northern California.

              1. re: DavidT

                Yeah you people in Cali always tend to forget that not everyone in the US has your prices, especially those who aren't privatized. PA's prices are very close to NC's, whereas neighboring Georgia has both at about the same price as CA.

                1. re: ncyankee101

                  I would gladly trade you our California prices on scotch for all of your other prices in NC (gas, housing, food, taxes, etc). :-)

                  1. re: Scott M

                    Well you could always,move here like everyone else does and then talk about how great it was back where you came from ;-)

                      1. re: TroyTempest

                        I've lived in seven states in five regions of the country and seen/heard that "how much better it was back XXX" on many multiples of occasions.

                        Folks who move to NYC don't tend to do that too much. They either talk about how horrible it was back where they came from, never mention it at all, or move back within a year, overwhelmed by it all.

                        1. re: JMF

                          We now have a Trader Joe's, with 2 more on the way. Pretty soon we are supposed to get an InNout burger. I'm not sure what the relocated Californians will talk about once this happens.

                          1. re: TroyTempest

                            They can always tell you how much better the Mexican fare is in California ...

                          2. re: JMF

                            That's interesting. Several people I know that lived in NYC for 5-plus years [including two of my BIL's] that were glad to leave once afforded the chance. After praising the food scene and cultural opportunities, it doesn't take long to hear the laundry list of things they did not like. Worth noting is that most of them landed in Chicago.

                            1. re: hawkeyeui93

                              Folks, I simply commented that whisky was cheap in California! No cultural or quality of life judgements were stated or implied!

                                1. re: DavidT

                                  David, this is chowhound. Folks will ALWAYS take things off topic as far as possible...

                2. re: DavidT

                  I live in nj im pretty close 2 pa like a hour away but what's a good starter bottle of single malt scotch that i can get in either pa or here in vineland nj. I don't like anything peppery like jim beam,johnny walker, i did like cutty sark but that was just 4 shots. My favorite things to drink are Don Q,Palo Viejo, jave all these are Puerto Rican clear rum and my favorite whiskey is Jameson Irish Whiskey. So can you guys on here help me find a good starter,,Ty

                  1. re: JaySanchez3481

                    Not possible to help you really effectively from this info, but I would acquire some Glenmorangie and Balvenie when next on sale and see what you think.

                    1. re: docmon

                      I know it's probably easier 2 just order a few different 1s at the pub but id rather not waste my $ so i thought if a few people said the same scotch id just buy & try that and mahalo very much, im gonna write them down

                      1. re: JaySanchez3481

                        Balvenie Double Wood & Macallan 12 are both very mild and have a little Sherry flavor from spending time in old wine casks. Two of my favorites.

                        Glenlivet 12 & Glennfiddich 12 are 2 middle of the road easy drinking scotches. Little boring IMHO but very popular.

                        Laphroaig 10 & Ardbeg 10 are the extremes, heavy smoke with both & plus iodine with the Laph 10 which is my all time favorite. Either loved or hated.

                        For blends, JW Black & Chivas Regal rarely disappoint.

                        1. re: Tom34

                          All true. I did not point to Macallan for that reason, and the Balvenie should be simple 10yo, not sherried. No one but you truly likes Laphr (j/k). Glens are okay, yes. I just thought a place to start would be sweetish Highland/Speyside drinks. Agree there are many really well-made blends, like FG plain, but that is not what he asked about.

                          1. re: Tom34

                            Im looking for a single malt and don't wanna spend more than $40, Are these names under my price tag?

                            1. re: JaySanchez3481

                              In that price range i like Old Pultney. It has a little peatiness and smokiness, but not overwhwelming.
                              Well, maybe it is too peppery. Maybe speyburn or Tomatin for single malts.

                              1. re: JaySanchez3481

                                Hard to say, since prices vary so. It also is hard to figure out what you want. So, trying to be instructive here, why not buy a bottle of Famous Grouse and drink it, taking notes but not reading online, and then a bottle of Teacher's, White Horse, or JW Red ditto; then we can tell if you favor the sweet Highland/Speyside style or something with more peat and smoke (those last three). These are blends, sure, but good blends are awfully good, and often a better bargain and value than single-malts. We will be able to help you re the latter later on. (I myself drink blends more, but am always glad to get the singles as presents.) Don't let snobbism sway your education.

                                1. re: docmon

                                  Is famous grouse a single malt ? Bc a few people said try that and do u know if it's peppery. I don't want snobs telling me this or that bc they don't mind wasting $ just so they can say they have it. I just want a single malt on the rocks so i can sip & relax at night before i go2 bed im not just looking 4 something 2 get wasted on i want something that i will enjoy n say 2 myself it's worth what i paid & saved on it, bc if not i could just easily get drunk on some Don Q just not what im looking 4 or 2do. Ty 4 ur help so far

                                  1. re: JaySanchez3481

                                    Dude, from what I wrote you really should be able to infer that it is a blend. You lack confidence. All whiskies are peppery to an extent; it's the alcohol! Why do you want or need a single malt? You will have trouble finding a real good bottle under $40, but not impossible. I understand your wish to sip, but you are relying too much on the kindness of strangers. Buy a bottle of FG and have at it. Also one of JW Red or Teacher's. Under $40 for the two. Readily available. Sip at night and report back, please.

                                    If you are really wedded to the s-m ideal, wait for Glenmorangie 10yo on sale, buy and drink, and report back also. Or maybe one of the Glenns.

                                    No more questions. You have your assignment.

                                      1. re: JaySanchez3481

                                        Everyone sorry I'm being an ass about this but simple reason im bugging about single n the pepper thing I have ALS & theirs just some things i can't do anymore & before the day comes of eating & drinking thru a straw ima enjoy everything i can n i know what i have some issues with but mahalo for everyone who inputed

                                        1. re: JaySanchez3481

                                          My most sincere sympathies. I applaude your attitude of leaving life fully now. I shall try to absorb a bit of that myself.

                                      2. re: docmon

                                        What docmon (and many others) said.
                                        FG is a good blend. Flavorful, unlike cutty.
                                        White Horse is good, too.

                                        1. re: TroyTempest

                                          Mahalo im gonna try fg and somebody also told me about bowmore

                                          1. re: JaySanchez3481

                                            Dude, with ALS (so sorry), go buy one of each and every, and have at it. Bowmore is fine too of its type, but try the rather more methodical approach I have outlined first.

                                            1. re: JaySanchez3481

                                              Bowmore Legend is good and has nice smoke. Good introduction to the Islays.

                                              1. re: Tom34

                                                Sure. Is that a good thing to recommend to this newby, as opposed to Teacher's or WHorse or JW red? I mean, let us stay within prudent didactic process, I suggest.

                                                1. re: docmon

                                                  My recommendation budget wise were the Glens of which one is always on sale for about $35.

                                                  My recommendation for ease of drinking were Macallan 12 or Balvenie Double Wood because both have a very mellow sherry finish as apposed to the harsher finishes of many other singles. For most budgets they are not an everyday dram but well worth the extra $10 for the experience over the boring Glens.

                                                  I was pretty clear that the Islays were not for newbies but if someone wanted to try them, Bowmore Legend is both milder and cheaper than Ardbeg or Laph.

                                                  IMHO, JW Red tastes like gasoline. For a few $ more, JW Black or Chivas would be much smoother for a newbie.

                                    1. re: JaySanchez3481

                                      I am in S. Jersey as well. Total Wine & Spirits seems to be as cheap as any and cheaper than most. They also have a good website with prices for everything they sell.

                                      To answer your question:

                                      - the 2 Glens I mentioned are between $35 - $40.

                                      - The Macallan 12 & Balvenie Double Wood 12 are more in the $45 range.

                                      - The blends (JW Black & Chivas Regal) about $30.

                                      - The Islay's (Laph 10 & Ardbeg 10) are $45 - $50.

                                      *Glenmorangie is a decent Highland and I think its in the mid to upper $30 range*

                                  2. re: JaySanchez3481

                                    >>> I know it's probably easier 2 just order a few different 1s at the pub but id rather not waste my $ so i thought if a few people said the same scotch id just buy & try that. <<

                                    No offense, but that's nonsense . . .

                                    I know loads of people who, for example, love to eat poi. I can't stand the stuff! Lagavulin is the Scotch equivalent -- lots of people love it; I can't stand it.

                                    Before you drop $40+ on a bottle that may win a popular vote (but that you might hate!), try it at a bar . . .

                                    Famous Grouse is a great blended Scotch, IMHO, as is Johnnie Walker Black. (Not the "Double Black.") Chives is OK.

                                    Balvenie Double Wood and The Macallan 12 are both great, IMHO. The Glenlivet is on the light side and fine-but-boring. Glenmorangie is fine, too.

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      Love poi, was born in ktown Oahu but been listening 2 everyone n looking for common threads 2 go by

                                      1. re: JaySanchez3481

                                        Right -- some people love it; others, myself, think it tastes like wallpaper paste. My sole point is that by spending a few bucks on sampling a couple of Scotches in a bar, you won't be throwing $40 down the drain.

                                      2. re: zin1953

                                        Roger all, and FG also makes a 'black' that should not be where you start.

                              2. Try to find Hanky-Bannister. It usually is under $20 and is mighty fine. The best gift you can give a new scotch drinker is a smooth blend to get them into it and at a price where the can have it every day, if desired.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: DrinkinLife

                                  That's not necessarily true. The first bottle of Scotch I bought was a 375 ml of Glenfiddich 12 yr, and I didn't find it interesting at all. I didn't see what all the hype was about single malts, and it wasn't until a couple years later when I first tried more flavorful Scotches such as Talisker and Highland park that I really got into it.

                                  I would much rather get a bottle of something a little more interesting, such as Black Grouse mentioned above, Black Bottle, or Teacher's Highland Cream which is one of my favorite bargain Scotches. Any of those is inexpensive enough to drink every day.

                                2. A new addition to the blended Scotch market is a product called Monkey Shoulder. It is named after the guys at the distilleries that shovel peat their entire life (labor of love) and develop a "Monkey Shoulder." The scotch is really good and can be had under $30 at Bevmo. It's something different than your average bottle of Scotch and has a story behind it.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ABarAbove

                                    Monkey Shoulder is nothing special or different. It is all marketing, with no real story other than named after a work related condition, that isn't a "labor of love", just folks who didn't know how to perform physical activity in a safe and ergonomic manner and had a job to do to support themselves and their family. If you've ever floor malted barley by hand (or back may be more correct), or even think about what it entails, you know it sure isn't a "labor of love."

                                    Momkey Shoulder is a very tasty blended Scotch that supposedly only uses three different malt whiskies in the blend, as opposed to a blend crafted from more than three. While they say they are from three different local distilleries, the actuality is they choose from around a dozen or so Speyside distilleries if memory serves me right, and narrow it down to around three per batch. This is not a defining characteristic, especially when they may have to change what whiskey they use in the blend in any particular batch to keep the flavor profile.

                                  2. Famous Grouse is a good blended scotch. Not sure if Black Grouse is any connection. Have not had scotch at home in years. My choice is cognac, brandy, calvados these days. When friends serves me a scotch over the holidays I always enjoy it.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: CCSPRINGS

                                      Black Grouse is a recent addition to the Famous Grouse line and is IMHO far better than Famous (which is also pretty good) - definite smoky peat hit.