Are you finding it increasingly challenging to locate whiskeys that meet your tastes without blowing out your budget? As you can imagine (or, more likely, experience), if you enjoy high-end malts, they can get a bit costly to drink daily. Well, never fear – we’ve compiled a selection of quality whiskeys, collectively referred to as “daily drams” or “daily drinkers,” that will satisfy your discriminating palate while still allowing you to, you know, pay your mortgage!
These quaffs cost less than $30/bottle, which works out to about $4 or less per standard three-ounce pour (about eight per 750ml bottle). Of course, that cost may vary depending on whether you’re a light or heavy pourer (I lean toward the heavy side)! As you can imagine, if you’re drinking from a bottle that runs $80 to $100 (or more), your “daily” tab can easily run $30 or more! But if you want a great quality sipper that won’t break the bank, you can’t go wrong with one of these!
Carlyle Blended Scotch
Carlyle is a high-malt blended Scotch sold nearly exclusively at Total Wine and More. At $20 for a 1.75L bottle, it might be easy to pass up as “too cheap,” but it’s my all-time favorite blended whiskey. The blend is a deeply held secret, but I know that one of its components is The Dalmore 12 – which has an unmistakable impact on the flavor. The Dalmore’s notable sherry-cask influence manifests as intense raisin, clove, and savory spices. It’s not only the best “value” Scotch I’ve sampled, it’s damn good in its own right!
Chivas Regal 12 Blended Scotch
Chivas Regal is an old brand that is a perennial favorite of Scotch drinkers. Building its reputation prior to the explosion of single-malt Scotch, it’s a brand that’s available nearly everywhere – from grocery stores to neighborhood Mexican restaurants. It’s been my go-to restaurant dram due to its flavor, value, and availability. At around $30/bottle (or less), it’s a high-malt blend that’s both affordable and high enough in quality to satisfy most palates. The component whiskies, all aged 12 years or more, include Strathisla single malt and Strathclyde single grain. It offers a classic Speyside flavor profile, notably orchard fruits, honey, winter spice, and a creamy maltiness.
Glen Kirk 8 Single-Malt Scotch
There aren’t many single-malt whiskies in this price range, but Glen Kirk’s eight-year-old is a solid choice as a daily dram. Despite its youthfulness, it has a pleasantly grassy aroma with notes of fresh barley grain, bay leaf, cooking herbs, and creamed oatmeal. On the finish, a hint of peat leads to more maltiness and a distant kiss of oak. At 40% ABV, it’s an easy-to-sip dram perfectly matched to a night of watching TV and eating popcorn!
The Sexton Single-Malt Irish Whiskey
Hovering right at the $30 mark, The Sextion is a NAS (non-age-statement) single-malt Irish whiskey aged in oloroso sherry casks. You’ll first notice the super cool bottle – a sleek black hexagon replete with gold lettering and a top-hatted skull! But look aside, the golden liquid inside is even more impressive (if you like sherry-aged whiskey). The aromas of rich dried fruits mingle with dark chocolate, orchard fruits, sherry spice, and prune Danish. The sherry-forward flavors and slightly sweet initial mouthfeel give way mid-swallow to the fruitier elements, with sherry and malty cereal notes emerging in the finish. An afterglow of roasted nuts lingers.
Sacred Stave American Single-Malt Whiskey
Last but certainly not least, we have an American single-malt whiskey from SanTan Distillery, the spirits side of Arizona’s SanTan Brewing Company. American single-malt is an up-and-coming genre of malt whiskey made in the USA, and SanTan is at the forefront of that movement. Although the distillery produces several types of whiskey under the Sacred Stave moniker, this is a 100% malt whiskey matured in American and French oak barrels and finished in selected red wine casks. This is a rich and full-bodied whiskey with an intense caramel and spice nose, with hints of carrot cake, dried fruits, roasted pecans, and barrel spice. At 45% ABV, it’s a tad warm on the palate, easily subdued with a dash of quality water. The flavor profile follows the nose, with added notes of tobacco shop, cedar shavings, chocolate-covered orange slices, vanilla chews, and old leather. At $30 a bottle, it’s a great introduction to ASMs.
Those of you who follow my writing know I’m not much of a bourbon drinker, preferring malt whisky to “corn likker” any day. That said, many of you do like bourbon, and I’d be remiss not to mention at least a couple of quality and affordable bourbons. Bulleit has made quite a name for itself over the years, and it’s one of the few bourbons I will drink. Selling for somewhere in the low $20s for a 750ml, it’s certainly affordable, but it’s also good. It has a complex profile with a smoky-sweet-savory-spice aroma. It exudes notes of leather, vanilla, and dried black cherry on the palate, with a dusty maple sugar sweetness in the background. A long, sexy finish hints at black pepper, cinnamon, and allspice. I contend it’s the mashbill’s fairly high 28% rye, taming the sometimes cloying bourbon cherry-syrup sweetness while contributing the spice.
Old Forester 86 Bourbon
Old Forester is another brand that defies its price point, punching far above its class. It’s surprisingly complex and another of the very few bourbons I’ll drink. This 86-proof bourbon opens with moderate spice from its high-rye mash bill, with notes of vanilla, caramel, tart cherry, and distant smoke. A slightly oily mouthfeel leads to notes of dark chocolate-covered banana chips, dried tart cherries, strong rye spice, and light molasses. The finish is long and warm, with hints of peaches and apricots fading to burnt brown sugar, more rye, and a drying wave of herbs and black pepper. I’ve seen it sell as low as $16 for a 750ml bottle.
There is a world of quality whiskies at the lower end of the price spectrum if you’re willing to keep an open mind. We tend to overlook these options in favor of the more upscale options many of us prefer. However, variety is the spice of life, and when budgetary constraints are critical, we sometimes need to keep an open mind. Hopefully, this will motivate you to try something new and even experiment on your own!