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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

London Distillery LV 1767 Edition

Note: This was first attempt to limit my increasingly rare tasting notes to 280 characters so I can also tweet full review rather than link for all my millenial readers....

London Distillery LV 1767 Edition

54.3% ABV, 100% Rye and aged for 1400 days

Nose: Black cherry, plum, Cadbury Fruit and Nut with biscuit

Taste: Sweet, chocolate, coffee and more fruit

Finish: Peppermint and oak bitterness. Slight grain note indicative of youth

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  • Monday, 02 April 2012 20:40

    What I can get for $20, $40 and $100 in Texas

    Written by
    I am all about value in relation to whisky.  I worry about expensive whiskies "not being worth it" and I probably worry even more about low cost whiskies not getting the respect they deserve simply because they commit the sin of being either ubiquitous or cheap.  My career has taught me the value of value.  It's valuable.  So on a whim, I decided to write down what I could buy in Specs (my local liquor store / off license) for under $20, under $40 and under $100.  It was an interesting experiment, and I accept just a random sample, but still quite telling.  I chose only whiskies that I knew and ideally had already reviewed.

    Under $20 included Ballantines Finest, Forty Creek Barrel Select, Ridgemont Reserve 1792, Buffalo Trace, Grants Family Reserve, Cutty Sark and Tullamore Dew.  Makers Mark just missed out at $22.   An interesting selection and a couple of things stand out.  Firstly not one scotch single malt.  The closest was Glen Moray at $29.  However there is nothing wrong with the Grants or Ballantines blended scotch, both of which I rated as 3 stars and they were both significantly cheaper than the much vaunted (and in my opinion even more over rated) Johnnie Walker Black at $29.  Ireland was only represented by Tullamore Dew, both Bushmills and Jameson were priced out of this category (just).  The clear winner is (to me anyway) the Canadian Forty Creek Barrel Select which I love and have gushed about enough already.  Strong representation by USA as well in this category, I am not so wild about Buffalo Trace bourbon, but I know others like it, and I recently tried the Ridgemont Reserve 1792 and I was impressed.  That is a great bourbon for under $20.

    Under $40 was where we started to see some scotch single malts.  Glen Moray as I have previously mentioned, Glenmorangie, Glenrothes Select Reserve, AnCnoc  and Dalmore 12 year olds and even Compass Box Peat Monster which was on offer for $38.  Perhaps the best Irish blend on offer was Black Bush at $35.  Some more US whiskies were also available, the very good Rowans' Creek, as well as Makers Mark, Knob Creek (at just $26) and Baker's 7 year old.  My beloved Ardbeg did not quite make it at $45 for the 10 year old.  There is some good value to be had at this price range; I would have picked either the Glenrothes Select Reserve or the Dalmore 12 year for scotch, Knob Creek or Makers' Mark for bourbon and the Black Bush for Irish.

    Between $40 and $100 was where the single malts (at least the ones under 20 years old) can be found.   Ardbeg 10 as I mentioned before is at one end of scale $45, Tobermory 15 year old was at the other at $96. In between, amongst many others, was Oban 14, Bunnahabhain 18, Balvenie Single Barrel 15, and Lagavulin 16.  Very little North American whiskey is marketed (or at least on the shelf of this store) in this price bracket.   The only whisky I found over 18 years old was the Aberfeldy 21 for a very reasonable $60.  Best value here... for my palate I am going to say the Ardbeg 10 and Aberfeldy 21, however I have to say I like all of these whiskies and it would be hard to go "wrong".

    So perhaps that is the real difference between buying $20 and $100 whisky.  At $20 end of the scale you have to know what you are doing in this price range or you might end up very disappointed. At the $100 bottle where the chances are you won't go too far wrong in terms of an enjoyable dram but then the question becomes are you getting value? 

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    Random Whisky

    Johnnie Walker Black Label

    Let be absolutely clear on one thing, I like blended scotch.  I also like Johnnie Walker blends, admittedly the more expensive Gold and Blue labels, but there is no question of negative bias against this dram.  I want to like this whisky, I really do, if no other reason than the Gold and Blue labels are expensive whiskies to like and a lower cost alternative would be welcome. 

    It has a rich color and a warming nose with malt, oak and a slight smokiness. Not a subtle whisky, the flavors are strong and dialed up...  pepper, oak, smoke and a distinct peatiness in the finish.   Softens a little with water and mouth feel improves for me, becoming softer and creamy, and a little hint of apple, but it seems to lack the delicate touch and nuances that I love about whisky.  Wham, bam, thank you ma'am whisky.  Would work well with ice or soda or other mixers where its power would stand up to something like cola or ginger beer (my personal favorite to mix with whisky and squeeze of fresh lime for a long cool summer drink) and perhaps that why it sells so well globally?  Black Label definitely has a place in the whisky pantheon, just not in my collection.

    Interesting side note: I recently learned that the scotch whisky used in the comparative tasting at the end of the Jameson tours in Middleton and Dublin is Black Label.  That is a very canny selection by Jameson, as that really contrasts with the sweet smooth and non-smoky Jameson blend.   See my notes on Jameson / Middleton Distillery.