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Best Whisk(e)y For $50ish - What Do You Choose?

When you work in a retail store you spend most of your time stocking and helping customers.  Doing both often gives you a better understanding of whisky than tasting it because you have to be able to select the right product for the right occasion.  Knowing your options is important and with the amount of stocking I do, I'm familiar with every single one of them.  A majority of customers are looking for something accessible, maybe for a gift, and they usually want to keep it around $50ish.  Is there a one-size-fits-all whisky at that price?  For $100 I almost always recommend the 1985 Glenrothes because it's such an awesome malt, but what is really astounding for half the price?

When we opened a bottle of Springbank 10 yesterday I was reminded of how much a love this whisky.  You really get everything - subtle hints of peat, rich malty goodness, dried fruits, oily textures, and a long salty finish.  It's only after you've spent a few weeks tasting average, run-of-the-mill single malts that you truly appreciate what Springbank is offering with their ten year.  I used to think that the Ardbeg 10 was the best deal for around that price, but now I'm not so sure.  While the Islay giant is probably more pleasing to hardcore fans of the style, I think that Springbank is a safer choice, plus the level of complexity in the 10 year is really unparalleled by many older expressions from other distilleries. 

I think maybe Springbank gets overlooked by those shopping by age (which is honestly not a smart thing to do if you're browsing, by the way) rather than by distillery.  I'd rather taste 10 glorious years from Springbank than I would 18 from Macallan, and I like Macallan. 

-David Driscoll

Reader Comments (7)

I have always been a fan of the Ardmore Traditional Cask for good $ value.

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchris

That's a good one too

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

I've always loved the basic Cragganmore 12, fabulous Speyside complexity in nose & flavor, subtle hint of smoke, not too dry, not too sweet.

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDon

Hmm, I'm really going to have to try that Glenrothes. I'm a big fan of Springbank for its complexity too, great choice. If I were to make a recommendation that is yet another step down in price from the Springbank, it would probably be Highland Park 12. I love that one too

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryan R

Springbank 100 proof rules my world at that price, but of course they are discontinuing it...Replacement will be 12 year old Cask Strength Whisky!

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid OG

I'd have a tough time choosing between a Talisker 10, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Cragganmore, Highland Park 12 or 15, or (gasp!) Glenlivet 18. Of course, now that the Ardbeg Uigeadail is $59...
One thing I wish more retailers would do is to promote a whisky a month at a special price to encourage people to try something new--perhaps a bottle they might not otherwise take a "gamble" on. I think this is a great marketing tool because it introduces a new product to a new customer--perhaps even earning a lifelong customer. I know that it would encourage me, at least, to experiment more and get away from my tried and true favorites.

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames

James, we do that as part of our whisky club. You should email me if you're interested

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

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