There are literally thousands of different whiskeys on the market today, so how do you discover the good ones without breaking the bank? We’ve set out on a mission to find the best affordable whiskey, getting advice from a couple of whiskey experts on the best under the radar whiskeys to try.
Now, we know “affordable” is quite a subjective term. But these are the unsung heroes of the whiskey market, the ones worth trying when you want a great whiskey but don’t want to pay an arm and a leg. They also provide a good starting point for beginners who want to establish their whiskey collection without going overboard.
There’s no need to splurge on a rare, limited-edition or boutique whiskey. Give these hidden gems a try and, who knows, you just may find a new favorite.
Daniel Christensen, better known as The Whisky Viking, recommends single grain whiskey as one of the best reasonably priced whiskeys that aren’t widely known. According to Daniel, single grain whiskey is all the rage, offering a much more affordable option than single malts while being just as good. Single grain whiskey usually comes from corn, wheat or a blend of both. This is unlike single malt whiskey which comes entirely from malted grain.
Daniel recommends single grain whiskey from Port Dundas, a Scottish distillery that closed its doors in 2010. Douglas Laing had previously bottled some of Port Dundas’ barrels. And they are now available for sale online with 13-year-old single grain whiskeys retailing from around the $40 mark. Why not get a great whiskey at a great price while also paying tribute to a sadly defunct Glasgow distillery?
Bonafide connoisseurs are quite fond of cask matured blends, including sherry, port or chardonnay casks. Whiskey takes its color and additional flavor from the wall of the cask it’s barrelled in, soaking up aromas from previous contents of the barrel. This creates complex, interesting flavor profiles in cheaper whiskeys.
Whiskey enthusiasts at WhiskyArch say Glen Moray sherry, port or chardonnay cask matured whiskey are good choices. Barrelled in Speyside, the heart of Scotland’s distillery region, WhiskyArch says all three of these blends are delicious and perfectly priced at $20-$30 a bottle. “Great dram all around, and for the price, it's almost a steal!” they say.
The Whisky Viking agrees, recommending sherry cask matured editions from Tamdhu as the go-to under the radar choice. He says the cask strength edition is a real cracker at around $80 a bottle, and that even the standard 10-year-old edition (bottled at 40 percent) is a great dram for the $45 price tag.
Islay whiskey has a distinct smoky, peaty flavor. This is a type of scotch whiskey that originates from the west coast of Scotland. Pungent on the palate, it’s an acquired taste and generally not well received by whiskey newbies. However, both the Whiskey Viking and WhiskyArch agree that Islay is in the running for the title of best affordable whiskey.
The Whisky Viking recommends anything from the Bunnahabhain Distillery for lighter whiskeys that are only mildly peated, especially anything that’s been matured in wine, port or sherry casks.
Alternatively, WhiskyArch suggests Finlaggan Old Reserve. While they do admit it’s a bit of a wildcard, it’s still nice and affordable at around $30 per bottle. As an Islay, they say you’ll either love it or hate it, but either way, you’ll remember it.
More often than none, folks take a bit of time to navigate their tastes around whiskeys. So, the options above offer a nice starting point, just in case you don’t know where to begin. At the very least, they can fine-tune the palate and help you build an appreciation for different whiskey tastes.
However, WhiskyArch recommends beginners start out with Smooth Ambler Old Scout. Basically, this a bourbon they call “the perfect introductory whiskey.” Old Scout goes for around $35 a bottle. And, it really showcases the central and unique characteristics of a classic bourbon whiskey. However, they also suggest beginners go for Old Grand-Dad Bonded. This is for the simple fact that “it’s bonded, it’s cheap and it’s delicious.”
Keen to branch out beyond whiskey? You can also check out our recommendations for the best scotch, best bourbon and best rums to try in 2018. But first, do you agree with our affordable whiskey recommendations? What do you consider the best affordable whiskey to be? Is there an under the radar whiskey you think we should try?