It’s a pretty sad state of affairs in the scotch industry when we need to put together a blog post on ‘Value’ whiskies under $80. Unfortunately, that is where we are. Demand for scotch whisky is at an all time high and aged stock is reportedly at an all time low…now I’m not an economics grad but I’m pretty sure that’s what they call supply and demand and when supply is low and demand is high…price goes up.
What does this mean for the scotch industry? Well we don’t really know…but Curt at ‘All things Whisky’ has a prediction that I tend to agree with. You can read his post HERE.
That was the bad news. Here is the good news…the variety of different whiskies we have to choose from at different price points (albeit somewhat high price points) and styles has never been better. Here in Alberta we have access to a stunning array of whisky that I would stack up to almost anywhere in the world.
With all that being said, I reached out to five liquor store owners/managers in Alberta and asked them for their ‘favourite scotches priced at $80 or less’. Here is what they had to say… (I also added my picks at the end of the post)
Dave Scott/Manger-Keg n Cork Liquor (Edmonton, Alberta)
1) Laddie 10 2nd Limited Edition ($74.96)
“Newly released to the Alberta market for 2017, the 2nd limited edition of Laddie 10 is an excellent dram. Cask marriage of 1st fill Bourbon, Sherry, and French red wine barrels. At 50% abv, this one is full flavoured, while maintaining the sweet, creamy, bourbon forward profile that the ‘Laddie’ series is known for. One of the best unpeated Bruichladdich releases in recent times. Long, lingering finish.”
2) Benromach 10 ($76.96)
“A combination of 1st fill bourbon and 1st fill sherry casks makes this one a winner. A great example of how quality wood can make a bigger difference than long maturation times. Full bodied, rich mouthfeel, and a whisper of peat on the finish thanks to the 10ppm barley used in the mash. Comes in very non-traditional packaging, so is overlooked by many, but savored well by the few who know.”
3) Compass Box Great King Street ($51.96)
“Compass Box’s Blended Whisky offering, still quite high in malt content (50%), compared to blends at a similar price point. Liquid gold – you simply can’t get a finer, better drinking whisky for less money.”
4) Glendronach Peated ($77.96)
“A welcome departure from the typical Glendronach profile for a number of reasons. First, it’s peated, with a well integrated floral and earthy smokiness. Second, they’ve taken their foot off the sherry gas pedal, & used some bourbon casks in the vatting, which provides more balance and complexity than the typical Glendronach full term sherry maturation can offer. Not a big peat blast on the nose or palate, but gentle and warming peat notes give this one an incredible backbone.”
5) Tullibardine Sovereign ($64.96)
“A bourbon cask matured whisky with subtle charms. The delicate Tulli spirit, enhanced with vanilla and earthy characteristics. Like the Compass Box GKS, this is a ‘sessionable’ bottle. If you haven’t tried Tullibardine, their entry level Sovereign is not to be missed.”
Andrew Ferguson/Owner-Kensington Wine Market (Calgary, Alberta)
“There are whiskies like Glen Garioch 12 Year and Laphroaig Quarter Cask that will be on everyone’s list. They are good, but I lean more towards the more obscure. Here’s my six…I couldn’t narrow to 5!”:
1) Great King Street Glasgow – $62 – Sub $100 blends are by and large very boring, not this one!
2) G&M Miltonduff 10 Year – $80 – Highly underrated distillery, closest thing to an official bottling!
3) Arran 14 Year – $80 – So undervalued, and for so long!
4) Tamdhu 10 Year – $75 – Loss for words on this one, amazing value, tastes beyond its years.
5) Jura 12 Year Elixir – $62 – Would prefer to see a higher strength, but this is damn tasty.
6) Tomatin Cask Strength – $73 – Cask strength under $80 is amazing these days.
Ryan Engen/Director of Spirits/Wine and Beyond/Liquor Depot
1) Benriach 16yr Sauternes finish: If you like Glenmorangie Nectar Dor (and I do), this is a more robust alternative.
2) Bunnahabhain 12yr: I prefer my cask strength Single Barrel better but this 12yr is a solid pick.
3) Compass Box Peat Monster: My favourite every day whisky. So well balanced.
4) Glen Moray Peated: Great entry level for someone looking to get into Peated whiskies. Only $50. Not too overpowering, no medicinal qualities of Islay, more campfire smoke.
5) Highland Park 12yr: The 15yr was my all time fav but I can’t access it anymore so I had to trade down. I alway have a bottle in my whisky cabinet.
Adam Koziak/Manager-Chateau Louis Liquor Store (Edmonton, Alberta)
“It all depends on the week. My favourites under $80 are always changing. This week, they are:
- Arran Sauternes cask
- Dalmore 12
- Glenglassaugh Torfa
- Ledaig 10
- Fettercairn Fior.
*Again this is a few I am enjoying this week.”
Graham Usher/Owner- UnWined Fine Wine, Spirits, & Ales (Edmonton, Alberta)
- Amrut Fusion: A former whisky of the year I like this whisky because the mouth feel is so different from the nose. You expect creaminess but you get a much darker coffee taste with a gentle peatiness. $79.00
- Auchentoshan Vallinch: While the sherry-bomb Auchentoshan Three Wood is the more popular expression, I prefer the grassy, earthier notes of the Vallinch. At cask strength it seems to hold the finish longer with a hint of spice. $$76.50
- Old Pulteney 12 yr old: I love this distillery. While visiting it in Wick this past July I asked the distillery manager if he actually used the pressure gauges (that looked in serious disrepair)? “Nope” he replied, “when you smell pineapple – that’s when it’s time to make the middle-cut“! Although that pineapple doesn’t come through on the palate, you can definitely taste the sea when you tuck in. $64.00
- Springbank 10 yr old: My favourite distillery in Scotland. You can taste the passion that the 60+ workers put in to this whisky … from the local barley to the on-site malting floor to the bottling line where even the office staff pitch in – this is a family affair and it shows in their whisky. Lightly peated with tons of citrus notes and a long, tangy/smokey finish. Imagine eating oranges around a campfire. $77
- Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2007 (Rockside Farms): Islay is well represented with this Bruichladdich expression. You really taste the mineral-i-ness of Islay with this barley – grown right behind the distillery. That maritime air really influences the saltiness and tanginess of this spirit. And I especially like the fact that the distillery was still owned by an Edmontonian (Sandy McTaggart) when this expression was created by Jim McEwan.
“In all Unwined has over 25 whiskies under $80 so it was very difficult to pick just 5. Honorable mention has to go to Glendronach 12 and Glengoyne 12 – for those who like a hint of sherry.”
Travis Watt/President-The Edmonton Scotch Club
Because we are in the middle of winter and because we spend several months a year in a deep freeze here in our city, most of my list will be comprised of delicious peated whisky for under $80…
- Ardbeg 10: Whisky doesn’t get much more Islay than this. A longstanding classic. Ralfy recently gave it a 90 pt review!
- Talisker 10: One of my all-time faves that you can still find for under $80 at certain outlets. I really need to try more from this distillery.
- Glenglassaugh Torfa: This one was already on Adam’s list above but it deserves more credit. This lightly peated young whisky has possibly my favourite nose, ever. Loads of young green apples that i just haven’t got with any other whisky before. The palate and finish could use some work but the nose alone is worth the price, i’d say.
- Bowmore 15 Darkest: Only because every time I buy this for someone they tell me they love it.
- Kilchoman Machir Bay: Maybe I’m a sucker for young peated whisky but this is a great young distillery making great young whisky. Seek these folks out and you will not be disappointed.
- Tomatin 12 French Oak: I believe this one was only made available in North America but I could be wrong. This one is not peated but dangerously drinkable and delicious. All the fruitiness you would expect from Tomatin. I thought this stuff was off the market but I have seen it in several Alberta stores so grab a bottle while you can!!
Well there you have it! 31 scotch whiskies for $80 or less that should keep most whisky drinkers happy for a while anyways.
Let’s cross our fingers that prices correct themselves and we can see even more fantastic whiskies in this price bracket in the near future.
Huge thanks to Dave, Andrew, Ryan, Adam, and Graham for sending me their $80 whisky picks!
Until next time…Cheers/Slainte!
-The Edmonton Scotch Club