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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.

                    2. We love Lismore- we buy it at Trader Joe's for like $20 or maybe even less. Very smooth. WAY better than you'd expect for the price. Pretty bottle for gift giving.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kmah

                        I like lismore when I am in the mood for a nice fruity Scotch as opposed to my usual Islays. I find it very similar to - and every bit as good as - Glenlivet 12 yr.

                        It also came in a very nice gift set with a genuine Glencairn glass a couple years ago (I got 2).

                      2. I have a slightly similar question that I figured I'd piggyback onto this thread. I'm also someone who's not an experienced Scotch drinker, and I'm looking for something hopefully at around $30 or less range (in NY, though)

                        The difference is I'm looking for something I could use in cocktails that call for a blended Scotch, like a Blood and Sand or Rob Roy. Are there any tips on what sort of Scotch would come through in a cocktail, but also plays well with others?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: A_Gonzalez

                          I've found that most blends work well in cocktails. But it depends what you are looking for. Some blends are smokier, some more floral, some woodier. Hopefully folks can come back with their experiences. I will be putting together a blended scotch list of flavor characteristics over the next few months, to use for cocktails in my new bars, but don't have anything quite yet.

                            1. re: A_Gonzalez

                              Glenlivet 12 YO works well in cocktails, and can be found under $30.

                            2. Bowmore Legend is my new daily scotch and it's a fantastic value. It's an Islay. I was drinking Tomatin 12, a highland which was fine. I tried Speyburn 10 and that was similar to Tomatin 12, but I preferred the Tomatin. All less than $25 in the DC area.

                              1. As someone who recently got interested in scotch, I would recommend the following.

                                Glenlivet 12 - not my first intro to scotch, but it has become my "everyday dram" and what I think is the perfect intro to the Speyside region. It can be purchased for around $30 if you bargain hunt (at least near Chicago).

                                Teachers Highland Cream - My intro to scotch and a really good blend for the money. You can get a 1.75 liter bottle for around $30 and though it tastes a bit young compared to some of the
                                blended scotches I will go into, it's smooth and has some peat and smoke to it. I think it's a great intro scotch and have had few blends I like as much for the price.

                                Black Bottle - Very smooth and a good amount of smoke for the price ($20 or under in Chicago). In a side by side comparison, I found it more interesting than JW Black, personally.

                                Black Grouse/Famous Grouse - I think Black Grouse is more interesting and complex, but depending on how much smoke you like in a scotch, Famous Grouse is the better choice (Black Grouse is smokier and peatier).

                                Johnnie Walker Black - Aged 12 years, very well rounded, very easy sipper neat, and makes a GREAT cocktail. Runs between $25-40 where I live, but if you can get it cheap, It is a must buy IMO. It elevates a Rob Roy or a Rusty Nail to the next level. I'm sure Black Bottle would do the same, but I've only had one bottle and drank the whole thing neat or on the rocks.

                                1. My vote is Lauder's on rocks with a splash of soda.

                                  1. In Houston we get Old Parr - a great, classic 12 yr old blend for USD 25 per 750ml. You cannot beat that price for a 12 yr old and many inferior 8 yr olds are more expensive. Go with the Old Parr with your eyes closed and your taste buds open.
                                    Lin Giralt

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: eegpas

                                      Random thoughts:

                                      1) The OP posted this question nearly one year ago. I think it's safe to presume the desired bottle has already been purchased.

                                      2) Old Parr is very good, but there is nothing magical about being 12 years old (or 8 or 18 or . . . ). The "goods," so to speak, must still be in the bottle. There are some 12-Year Old Scotches I prefer to younger/older Scotch whiskies, and some younger/older whiskies I prefer to a 12-Year Old Scotch. Further, the price of Old Parr varies widely across the U.S. For example, it's $42.99 in California, but only $26.94 in Texas, and $39.97 in New Jersey . . .

                                      1. I know the worst. Cluny.
                                        Don't ask why i bought this.

                                        1. Our favorite, and better than many others more costly in our opinion, is Finlaggan, rumored to be a young Lagavulin, and available at Trader Joe's stores. It is around $18 or so. We did a blind tasting with family and my Scotch-loving sister-in-law picked Finlaggan as her favorite among several others, including Laphroaig and a Macallan.