For Scotch lovers, finding a good bargain is a key priority, because “bang for your buck” only slightly overlaps with Scotch whisky. This has become more the case over the last decade, as what really happened in the Scotch boom was a steady rise in prices commanded rather than volume shipped. Bourbon drinkers who don’t also shop for Scotch don’t know how good they’ve got it, which likely explains at least some of the croaking about shortages. *
Even so, there are good value buys for not just blended, but also single malt Scotch. If you are on a budget, these are the five best bottles to look for, and by and large their bargain status holds up in Europe and the UK ** as well as the States.
Monkey Shoulder ($32)
This triple malt whisky is a superb value buy, and many Scotch drinkers name it as a go-to whisky, sometimes even their main go-to whisky. This is a Scottish take on the small batch concept, drawing on just 27 ex-bourbon barrels of Kininvie, Balvenie, and Glenfiddich malt for each batch. In bang for your buck terms, it competes strongly with any whiskey of any make at the same price point.
Pig’s Nose ($31)
“Smooth as a pig’s nose,” this is indeed a surprisingly velvety whisky for a 5 year old blend. Pig’s Nose is one of the cases in point for why age isn’t everything when it comes to whisky. The flavors balance all the basics of what makes Scotch whisky good, and the price is very right.
Cutty Sark Prohibition ($30)
This Cutty Sark in the jet black bottle is the Wild Turkey 101 of bargain Scotch whiskies: good flavor and high strength at a reasonable price. Compared to the other whiskies on this list, with abv’s in the lower 40s, Prohibition enjoys a robust 50% abv (100 proof).
Glenfiddich 12 Year Old ($27)
This is Scotch whisky’s classic bargain, a fact that goes a long way to explaining why it was the world’s best-selling single malt up until last year. Consider that this 12 year old single malt is an approachable, imminently easy-drinking whisky, but (for the most part) undercuts all three of the blends listed above on the price tag.
Speyburn 10 Year Old ($27)
The only single malt that comes close to approaching the value of Glenfiddich 12 while remaining widely available is Speyburn 10. The price is generally the same, but whereas The Glenfiddich is very well-known, Speyburn 10 has its own small-but-devoted following as a go-to, bargain single malt.
* Initially the price point for this article was to be $30 or less, as in our past bourbon and rye lists, but contact with reality forced the mark up to $35. All talk of shortages and rising prices to the contrary, bourbon still offers better bargains than Scotch (in the U.S. anyway).
** The Glenlivet 12 Year Old is another classic budget choice, but was replaced outside the U.S. by The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve last year. At £33, Founder’s Reserve is clearly above the stated price point.
Richard Thomas writes for The Whiskey Reviewer, a web magazine covering the world of whisk(e)y and one of the most-read whiskey websites in the world. For more whiskey reviews, news, mixology and drink history, click here.