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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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  1. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/920719

    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.

          13 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. 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.