...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, January 7, 2019

My 25 favorite single malts under $80

So it has come to this. Clickbait.

Actually if it were clickbait, the title would be "25 Best Whiskies Under $80!" and I would have posted it near Black Friday. Yet......you clicked over here so let's get to it.

I use the word "Favorite" (American spelling!) rather than "Best" because whisky is subjective and expensive. $80 is set as a ceiling because:

  • It's a personal limit I'm trying to abide by for as long as possible. Good luck to me!
  • The next level of each distillery's/brand's range appears just north of $80.
  • Dude, I'm trying to keep this to only 25 whiskies.
Seven years ago this would have been a list of my favorite single malts under $50. So it goes.

THE RULES

  • Official bottlings only - I'm trying to include whiskies that are at least somewhat available. And there's a grim lack of interesting indie bottlings at this price range.
  • Scotch only - Yep.
  • Three years - No, not 3yo whisky. I'm only listing single malts that I've consumed within the past three years. I'm of the camp that believes batches, small or large, change in character over time no matter how talented the blenders may be.
  • Amerocentric Pricing - Current as of January 2019, and based on Wine-searcher Pro. European prices are calculated without VAT, but do include an average shipping rate for one bottle within a moderate-sized US order.
  • Subjectivity - Again, these whiskies will not appeal to everyone. Each of us has our own palate preferences.
  • Ethical-ish - I have purchased, or am currently price-shopping, all of these whiskies. My stomach does a weird wiggle-grumble each time I heap praise on a whisky I haven't purchased. Thus this rule is being applied so I can digest food properly this week.

THE WHISKY

  1. Ardmore 12 year old Port Wood Finish - USA: not for sale; Europe: $65-$75
    Just finished my bottle. Watch this space!
  2. Arran 10 year old - USA: $45-$55; Europe: $45-60
    The 10-to-15 year range is my favorite spot for Arran whiskies. They haven't messed with their 10yo since it arrived.
  3. Arran 14 year old - USA: $60-$80; Europe: $55-70
    Old label, new label. Whichever. Great stuff.
  4. Ben Nevis 10 year old - USA: >crazy; Europe: $65-$75
    Ben Nevis has arrived, and now this thing has become scarce. It's very good.
  5. Benromach 10 year old - USA: $45-$60; Europe: $45-60
    This distillery is run by, like, one grandma, one sentient rubber band and two schnauzers (per the marketing material), yet the whisky is excellent. Not enough love for this particular 10yo.
  6. Benromach 10 year old 100 Proof / Imperial Proof - USA: $70 and up; Europe $65-$75
    It's as good as the two-year-old hype. Possibly better.
  7. Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie Scottish Barley - USA: $45-$60; Europe: $55-$75
    This was such a surprise to me because I'm not a fan of Bruichladdich's unpeated whisky. WARNING: Serious batch variation.
  8. Bunnahabhain 12 year old - USA: $45-$65; Europe: $55-$65
    This has become an excellent whisky. I had it at two blind tastings in 2018 and LOVED it both times. Review of the current edition to post this year.
  9. Caol Ila 12 year old - USA: $55-$75; Europe: $55-$65
    One of those whiskies I hate to like because it's factory-made. But then again, so are all the great Midleton pot still whiskies and MGP ryes.
  10. Clynelish 14 year old - USA: $50-$70; Europe: $50-$65
    It still works, and is "better" than most of the indie Clynelishes I've had.
  11. Craigellachie 13 year old - USA: $40-$65; Europe: $50-$70
    Probably not a popular choice. It's a difficult whisky, but I've grown to enjoy it,
  12. Glenfiddich 15 year old Distillery Edition - USA: not for sale; Europe: $55-$70
    The most muscular thing Glenfiddich makes. And the best.
  13. Glen Garioch 12 year old - USA: $55-$70; Europe: $50-$65
    As I mentioned in my recent review, this is as good as I'd remembered. I just bought another bottle. 
  14. Glen Scotia 15 year old - USA: $60-$70; Europe: $65-$80
    The best thing the new regime has bottled. And I think it can get better.
  15. Hazelburn 10 year old - USA: $60-$70; Europe: $55-$65
    Another shocker. I wasn't a fan of the previous regular Hazelburns, but the Springbank folks found the right recipe this time.
  16. Highland Park 12 year old - USA: $40-$60; Europe: $45-$65
    Old reliable. WARNING: I haven't tried the new Leif Erikson's Boat's Starboard Dog's Wet Arsehole edition.
  17. Lagavulin 16 year old - USA: $65 and up; Europe: $60 and up
    Old Faithful still rumbles.
  18. Laphroaig 10 year old - USA: $35-$55; Europe: $45-$65
    Speaking of which.
  19. Laphroaig 10 year old Cask Strength - USA: $60-$80; Europe: scarce
    After a couple of lame batches the behemoth has returned.
  20. Longrow Peated - USA: $55-$70; Europe: $55-$70
    Springbank is a good distillery.
  21. Kilkerran 12 year old - USA: $60-$80; Europe: $50-$65
    Not as superlative as some of the WIPs, but still very good. It's much more fun/complex/drinkable than the first batch of 8yo cask strength stuff.
  22. Port Charlotte 10 year old, new edition - USA: $60-$70; Europe: $65-$80
    Watch this space!
  23. Port Charlotte Islay Barley, previous edition - USA: $60-$80; Europe: $75 and up
    I haven't tried the new one in the mortar-shaped bottle, but I adore the older one in the classic Bruchladdich bottle. Hope to post a review of it this year.
  24. Springbank 10 year old - USA: $55-$75; Europe: $55-$70
    Probably the Best whisky on this list, whatever "Best" means.
  25. Tobermory 10 year old - USA: $50-$65; Europe: $50-$70
    Another one that's probably not the most popular choice. Oh well. It's on the list.

NOTES:

  • Several of these whiskies deserve an updated review. I will labor to do so.
  • Some whiskies like Ledaig 10, Kilchoman Machir Bay, Oban 14, Talisker 10 and Balvenie 12, which would have been on this list in previous years, are currently under review.
  • Some whiskies, like Springbank 12yo Cask Strength, missed the list because the reality of finding them for less than $80 is vanishing.
  • Less than a third of these whiskies can be found for under $50. Yet the average age of the 26 whiskies is around 10.5 years old. Yes, Glenlivet 12 is cheaper, but have you had Glenlivet 12 recently?

5 comments:

  1. Excellent list. I am hoarding my last unopened bottle of Glen Garioch 12 as it has become NLA from our liquor board here, I hope that does not mean it is no longer being produced. I tried a couple of bottles of Craigellachie before deciding it was not for me. I have yet to get my hands on a Glen Scotia, and am boycotting Highland Park (sadly) because of their recent marketing strategy and pricing. The rest I am familiar with and would agree with your choice to be represented here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! That is some serious commitment to Craigellachie, good on ya. I've seen some folks ditch it after one glass. I can fully understand your HP boycott. Their branding is bananas, their ranges and prices make little sense -- just like their portfolio partner Macallan. It's too bad Garioch 12 was dropped by the liquor board. Distributor issue? I've seen Benromach dropped from two states, including Ohio.

      Delete
  2. What about Talisker 10?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be honest, I haven't had Talisker 10 in the last three years so it doesn't fit The Rules. When I last had a bottle 4-ish years ago it was fine, probably would have made this list, but wasn't the singular experience it used to be. Anyway, I hope to do a comparison of Talisker 10 over the years, and it's one of the five malts listed in the Notes section that I'll try soon.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, all is forgiven!

      Delete