In a market consumed by exotic caskings, extended aging, and upscale bottlings, there’s a quiet revolution brewing at the bottom of the market. Driven by downward price competition both within the industry and externally from Irish, Japanese, and American whiskeys, Scotch producers are increasingly offering quality expressions at bargain-bin prices.
Although itcan be difficult to imagine luxury below $30, choices are surprisingly broad. Obvious options include multi-award-winners Chivas Regal 12 and Buchanan’s DeLuxe 12, each circa $25. With their high malt content, these 12-year-old blends exhibit character, complexity, and refinement. The Chivas boasts notes of toffee and orchard fruits backed by a rich malty creaminess, while the Buchanan’s features sweet citrus, chocolate, and black tea notes with hints of sherried nuttiness and distant smoke. Both are widely available at grocery and liquor outlets.
Bargain blends may have increasing availability, but what about malts? Relative newcomer Angus Dundee has cornered that market, most notably with their labels Hamiliton’s and Glen Kirk at the forefront. Produced at their Tomintoul and Glencadam distilleries, they bottle classically styled budget whiskies, nearly all sub-$30. Their shining star is Glen Kirk 8, a Speyside single malt that scored a 93 from Wine Enthusiast. Clean malty notes backed by winter spices, fresh barley, and oak make it an impressive value at just under $22.
Not to be outdone, several major distilleries including The Glenlivet, Lismore, Tomatin, and Glen Moray have joined the fray with respectable “everyday dram” single malts at lower price points. But Islay front runner Laphroaig owns the title “King of the Bottom” with their continuous gold-winning core expression Laphroaig 10. Considered the ideal love-it-or-hate-it intro to Islay, it exudes seaside notes with soft peaty smoke and a gently medicinal leather intensity offset by baked fruit and toffee sweetness. At just under $30, its paltry price ensures epic bargain status.
Scotch’s world domination may be slowly eroding—and this is delicious news.