The 20 Best Whiskies For Around $200!

Our resident Malt Monster, Heath Lawrence, takes us through our favourite whiskies available in Australia for around $200!

For most of us, $200 is no small amount of money to spend on a bottle of the good stuff. But if you know what's good (and what you like), there are plenty of great options out there for whisky that is well worth the money in this price range! Here are a few of our favourites that quite easily make the cut!

GlenDronach 18 Allardice - Single Malt Scotch Whisky

GlenDronach 18 Year Old Allardice Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The GlenDronach (Glen-dron-ack) is the 'little' Highland distillery that could (when it comes to delivering sherry bombs) and would feature very highly in most sherry bomb whisky drinkers’ hearts by our reckoning. Having enjoyed much success and acclaim since its resurrection and direction under Billy Walker and its subsequent acquisition by Brown-Forman, The GlenDronach appears to be going from strength to strength under the guidance of its current Master Blender Rachael Barrie.

The GlenDronach 18 Allardice is named for the founder of the distillery, James Allardice and is aged for 18 years exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 46% ABV.  First released in 2009. Mid 2018 bottling tasted (current Australian stock as of time of writing).

Nose: Pretty much the gold standard for a modern sherried whisky 'done right'. Juicy sultanas, butter cake, dark dark chocolate, strong cappuccino, dark dried cherries.

Palate: Cinnamon and five spice, plump rich dark sultanas, a decent amount of rich wood tannins, sour dark cherries and honey.  Finish brings rum notes and blackberry jam.

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Bunnahabhain 18 - Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Bunnahabhain 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Made on Islay as a predominantly unpeated spirit, Bunnahabhain (Boon-a-halv-in) has established a rabid following in some sectors of the whisky community. One of the key differences (at least by the distilleries reckoning) is the fresh spring water source they use which has no peat content.  One of the most fun distillery names to listen to and to say!

The 18 year old Bunnahabhain is matured in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks (ratio undisclosed) for 18 years, from a mix of peated and unpeated malt, resulting in a super low (for Islay) PPM of less than 5PPM (as low as 1-2 PPM).  Bottled at 46.3% with no colouring added of chill filtration.

Nose: Salted caramel, sticky date pudding. Some spice in the form of cinnamon and nutmeg. Old flaky cigar tobacco leaf.

Palate: Extremely dense and almost oily. Salt reminiscent of a good Talisker layered over a really ripe Christmas plum pudding. Slightly drier on the finish, with the spice of the plum pudding hanging around for a reasonable amount of time. Moreish AF.

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Spring Bay Bourbon Cask - Australian Single Malt Whisky

Spring Bay Bourbon Cask Australian Single Malt Whisky

A relative newcomer on the Australian whisky scene, Spring Bay was established in 2015 but is already making a name for itself with some cracking releases.  Situated on the picturesque east coast of Tasmania (to be fair what part of Tasmania isn't stunning?) right next to the ocean, and using a 1200 litre Knapp Lewer still, we like to think the combination of Tasmanian barley, the terroir and the care that owner distillers Cam and Suzy put into crafting the spirit are what makes this whisky unique.

The bourbon cask matured expression (Batch 1) we are trying today has been bottled at 46%, 700ml and has no colouring added and has not been chill filtered. Matured in smaller 20L Makers Mark casks.

Nose: The bourbon cask influence imparts notes of vanilla and light toffee with some gentle cinnamon and pepper, which is joined by a delicate nectarine/peach flesh scent and a hint of mint.

Palate: The fruit notes take the fore in the palate, cut by a sublime hint of salt (like salted peaches), joined by a delicate honey flavour, then opening up to show some nutmeg, cinnamon and white pepper before becoming more caramelised toffee apple.

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Glenmorangie Signet - Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Glenmorangie Signet Single Malt Scotch Whisky

One of the most well-known and storied Highland distilleries, Glenmorangie (Glen-moran-gee) are renowned for producing some of the most iconic expressions with the Glenmorangie 10 being cited frequently as an industry standard.

The Glenmorangie Signet is a unique expression from Glenmorangie, featuring malt spirit produced using two uncommon variations of malted barley (for a Scotch at least) being malted chocolate barley (more commonly found in darker beers) and Cadboll barley (said to impart a creaminess into the spirit and from a single estate).  The spirit has then been matured in a combination of Oloroso and virgin American Oak. Also has one of the coolest (and heaviest) stoppers I've seen.

Nose: Cadbury chocolate coated sultanas, pancakes smothered in butter and gold syrup. Sugar coated dried orange peel, gentle barley and spiced pears.

Palate: Dusty tobacco leaves, cocoa powder, roasted coffee beans, dry dusty malt, Jaffas, Old Fashioned (sugar syrup, orange zest and bitters). Some more subtle fruit influence, prunes and salted peaches.

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Bakery Hill Classic Cask Strength (500ml) - Australian Single Malt Whisky

Bakery Hill Classic Cask Strength Australian Single Malt Whisky

One thing we carry on about a lot here at The Whisky List - particularly in regards to Australian whisky, is consistency. For whatever reason, a lot of Australian distilleries struggle to put out two back to back bottlings that maintain consistency, quality and price. Whether it's due to lack of supply, or a not entirely reasonable belief that single cask is king or some other factor, we can only guess. Bakery Hill in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne definitely buck this trend, in the best of ways. Having conducted multiple quality assurance audits over the years it’s clear that David and Andrew Bakers rigorous adherence to process and passion for making good, affordable, consistent Australian bourbon barrel matured whisky is definitely working.

Nose: Quite similar to its non cask strength sibling, with freshly cut Granny Smith apple, honeycomb, lavender, freshly boiled bagels(!) and a hint of cinnamon sugar and cardamom.  More honeycomb this time around.

Palate: The honeycomb and malt are the stars of the show this time around backed up by apples and cinnamon promised in the nose. Finish is decently long and slightly drying with the final flavours left behind being of warm oak spice and a deep rich malted biscuit.

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Bruichladdich Octomore 8.1 Cask Strength - Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Bruichladdich Octomore 8.1 Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Bruichladdich (brook-laddee) are champions of terroir and have released some of the most unusual cask types to date.  Hailing from Islay they have an extremely passionate fanbase thanks to their focus on production, terroir, experimentation and a spirit which seems to be perfectly happy unpeated, peated and crazy peated.

The Octomore Masterclass 08.1 as it is officially known (Octo 8.1 to us) was distilled in 2009 using all Scottish barley peated at 167PPM.  Matured in 100% first fill American oak casks (a mix of Buffalo Trace, Jack Daniels, Heaven Hill and Jim Beam apparently) and bottled at 59.3% this is not a whisky for the faint of heart or people who are not keen on peated, smoky whisky.

Nose: Pretty much as expected, a mix of fresh hot mix tar and peat smoke (no band-aid / hospital smell).  Marshmallows, Chinese five spice, sea foam/salt.  Damp cigars.

Palate: Honeycomb (the inside of a Violet Crumble) mixed with lemon zest, oily, buttery rich mouth feel, all overlaid with a sooty campfire smoke, tar and dark wood ash, Salt and caramel show in the finish, which is drier than expected.

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Fleurieu - Australian Single Malt Whisky

Fleurieu Message In a Bottle Australian Single Malt Whisky

Fleurieu (fleur-ee-o) Distillery are based in Goolwa on the beautiful Fleurieu peninsula on the Great Australian Bight, approx 75 minutes SSE of Adelaide.  Owned and operated by the eminently talented husband and wife team of Gareth and Angela, Fleurieu is quickly growing in popularity with consistent, delicious, regular releases.

Today we are looking at one of the more recent releases, Message in a Bottle - which shows a lot of the 'house-style' characteristics we have come to know and love from Fleurieu.  460 bottles made, bottled at 700ml, 52.9%.  Matured in Port Casks.

Nose: A dark brooding and tempting nose awaits. A mix of glace fruits (citrus peels and cherries mainly), cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla cupcake frosting, muscatel grapes and some soaked seaweed sheets thrown in for good measure.

Palate: Palate displays good balance and integration with everything coming together in the right proportion and combination to deliver a rewarding juicy mouthfeel with a creamy, waxy delivery of solid mature barley, the tiniest hint of salted caramel (much less than other Fleurieu’s we’ve tried), combined with Christmas cake spice and a tot of old tawny port (but not enough to overshadow or mar the malt) followed by the reassuring tang of properly aged (and looked after) oak.

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Kavalan Solist Port Cask Matured Cask Strength - Taiwanese Single Malt Whisky

Kavalan Solist Port Cask Taiwanese Single Malt Whisky

Kavalan and it's rise to international acclaim and renown is an intriguing and inspiring story of what can be achieved with a razor sharp focus and a lot of money.  Based in Yilan County, Taiwan, Kavalan is one of the growing number of 'New World' distilleries that have taken the Scottish method for making single malt whisky and run with it.  Thanks to its sub-tropical location and the weather this brings, Kavalan has some of the most intense climates for maturing whisky, resulting in speedy and greedy maturation times and angels (loosing up to 15% volume of a barrel a year to evaporation).

The Kavalan Solist Port Cask Matured Cask Strength we are trying today, is like all Solist releases, a single cask.  This particular expression was bottled at 59.4% and is available across quite a few Australian online and bricks and mortar bottle shops.

Nose: Port 'influence' super obvious in the nose which smells like a bottle of grandad's/grandma's best bottle mixed with brown sugar, mulled wine spice and Spicy Fruit Roll biscuits.

Palate: The palate fully follows through on the nose, with a spiced port presentation, enhanced with a rich dark chocolate bitterness, a savoury macadamia oil aspect and a sweet and sour sauce finish that is decently long.

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Michter's U.S. 1 Barrel Strength Rye - American Straight Rye Whisky

Michter's Barrel Strength American Rye Whiskey

Michter's have two distilleries in Kentucky the home of Kentucky bourbon and make a variety of different Rye and Bourbon's utilising various cask wood treatments, mash bills and a technique called 'heat cycling' (basically heating and cooling the barrels artificially to encourage the spirit to enter and exit the wood more often to increase wood influence, and speed up maturation).

Michter's U.S. 1 Barrel Strength Rye is bottled as a single cask at cask strength which varies from barrel to barrel meaning ABV and yield varies from one release to the next.  Distilled from a mash bill containing a minimum of 51% rye and barrelled at 103 proof (51.5% ABV - much lower than a typical American whiskey, rye or otherwise) in virgin American white oak.  This particular bottling at 54%.

Nose: Dark ripe cherry (almost artificial cherry cola-ish), glycerol (Marshmallow), saw dust, McVitties wheat biscuit and butterscotch.

Palate: Rich treacle/burnt brown sugar upfront with spices like nutmeg and white pepper growing more intense with repeated sips. Pleasing warmth, chewy body and sweetness  give way to a dry wood finish.

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Overeem Sherry Cask Matured - Australian Single Malt Whisky

Overeem Sherry Cask Australian Single Malt Whisky

Overeem is still to this date one of the most expensive drams I have ever had.  Mainly because the 60% older sibling version of this whisky is what turned me from a normal person to a rabid whisky maniac.  Some thousand odd bottles later (and many more times that drams), we come full circle to look at the juice produced originally out of a garage in Hobart by a man and his daughter.  Founded by Casey Overeem in the early days of Australian craft whisky distilling and run by Casey and his daughter Jane until retirement and subsequent folding into the Lark distilling facility, Overeem are one the worst kept secrets of the Tasmanian whisky scene.

Age of this particular expression unknown but most releases are around the 5 year old mark.

Nose: Hints of eucalyptus cough drops (the 1c kind that where coated in white powder I assume/hope was sugar), fruit and nut chocolate, honey and chocolate sponge cake.

Palate: The palate follows the nose to a tee with a mix of nut flavours, chocolate (which gets dark and more bitter the longer you leave/sip it) and a eucalyptus oil and honey waxiness, texture and flavour to round it out.  Pure Aussie joy.

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Craigellachie 17 - Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Craigellachie 17 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Craigellachie (crag-eleck-ie) is a relatively unknown Speyside distillery owned by John Dewars & Sons and is typically used in Dewar's blends.  Prior to 2014, official releases of Craigellachie as a single malt were not common, which if this and the 13 are anything to go by is a tragedy.  Using 'old school' worm tub condensers (which tend to allow more heavy, sulphurous volatiles through into the spirit receiver) and located in Aberlour, Banffshire, Craigellachie means 'rocky hill' which Scotland certainly seems to have no shortage of.

Craigellachie 17 (alongside 3 other single malt expressions) showed up in 2014 (and we are still thankful today!) in cool retro packaging and straight into our whisky cabinet.  Released at 46% ABV (other details surprisingly hard to come by, but the whisky does a pretty good job of speaking for itself).

Nose: Pineapple, guava, vanilla ice cream, clover honey, honey dew melon and the lightest whiff of fresh pine smoke.

Palate: Waxier and smokier than expected from the nose (but by no means a seriously smoky whisky) with the most pineapple I've found in a whisky so far, followed by a (weirdly) complementary BBQ meatiness (pretty much like a Brazilian BBQ/Churrasco main and desert).  Custard tart with nutmeg on the finish with a nice vanilla spice and oak tinge rounding out everything nicely.

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Tomatin 18 Oloroso Sherry Cask - Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Tomatin 18 Year Old Oloroso Sherry Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Whisky has been produced on the current distillery as far back as the 16th century apparently, but only legally and officially since 1897 when the Tomatin Spey Distillery Co Ltd sprang into existence. Tomatin distillery is located in the Tomatin village, in the Highlands region which is roughly 30 minutes south of Inverness.

It is estimated 80% of Tomatin's 5 million litre per year output is used in blends so it is exciting to have an official bottling of such high calibre to try today.  The Tomatin 18 Oloroso Sherry Cask is bottled at 46% and is a first fill Oloroso Sherry cask finish whisky (presumably a mix of ex bourbon barrel and oloroso cask maturation prior).

Nose: An enticing mix of fresh and dried fruits (apples, oranges, lemons and grapes) mixed with rich sweet sherry, cloves and cinnamon (like a sherry sangria!)

Palate: Honey and malt take the for here, wonderfully balanced by a backbone of Christmas cake, milk chocolate and gingerbread spice.  Spice and wood lend the finish a long, dry and warm oak character.

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Belgrove 100% Rye Cask Strength (500ml) - Australian Rye Whisky

Belgrive 100% Rye Australian Whisky

Ahh what can we say about Belgrove?  Besides being one of our favourite places to visit in one of favourite places on earth, and owned and operated by our favourite farmer/distiller/sculptor/mad scientist, Peter Bignell.  Located in Kempton (yes the same Kempton as Old Kempton) just under an hour north of Hobart, this is pretty much Disneyland for anyone who loves what whisky and spirits can be.

Belgrove's Rye whisky was one of the first (and still one of the few worldwide) 100% paddock to bottle 100% Rye grain whiskies.  Paddock to bottle means all stages of production from the growing of the rye to the mashing, fermenting, distilling, maturation and bottling are carried out right on the farm/distillery.  Released in small batches, they can be hard to get a hold of but thankfully the word is spreading, and they can be had from several online and bricks and mortar retailers or from the distillery door itself.  Who knew strawberries could lead to this?

Nose: So much going on, from creamy vanilla cupcake frosting, to sultanas, lavender, banana, passionfruit, freshly baked sourdough and a hint of sawdust.

Palate: The grain and spicy white pepper of the rye take the lead here, with a spicy light agave syrup sweetness and nougat creaminess and nuttiness.  Finish tends drier and the warming spice builds in the back of the mouth with repeated sips (which are recommended).

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Glenfarclas 25 - Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Glenfarclas are a family owned distillery located in Ballindalloch, Scotland. Widely known and prized for their sherried whiskies and gentle but flavourful, malt driven spirit, Glenfarclas have a huge and deserved cult following.

In this age of non-age statement whiskies, Glenfarclas seem to be bucking the trend by consistently releasing several age stated whiskies (the merits of which are debatable, but an impressive feat nonetheless), at what are comparatively low prices  The Glenfarclas 25 we are looking at today is a prime example, released at 43% ABV after 25 years in 100% Oloroso sherry casks.

Nose: Nose is pure, clean, classic sherried Scotch bliss. No hint of sulphur (often found in older sherried whiskies) and quite lively considering the age.

Palate: Rich and complex (even at 43%), with an immaculate, but tangy Christmas cake, gingerbread and light milk chocolate body.  Finish is long and rich with the fruit and oak coming more to the fore.  What I imagine a lot of older 70s and 80s sherried whiskies would have been like.

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GlenAllachie 18 - Single Malt Scotch Whisky

GlenAllachie 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

An unassuming workhorse distillery founded in 1967 with spirit primarily used in blends such as White Heather and Clan Campbell (A Chivas Brothers cask strength blend), GlenAllachie is the new hotness as Billy Walker (formerly of The GlenDronach, The BenRiach et al) acquired the distillery in 2017 and has used his considerable experience as a blender to release a new range of single malts.

Our pick of the initial batch is the GlenAllachie 18, which is a mix of 18 year old whiskies matured in American oak, Oloroso and PX casks, bottled at 46%.

Nose: Clover honey and heather (reminiscent of Highland Park), orange peel, pepper, nutmeg and sappy green bananas.

Palate: Barley is the star of the show.  Some dark cherry influence, sultanas, crushed salted peanuts and dark semi dried figs. Lighter sweetness in soft heather smoke and vanilla icing.  Finish shows some lime zest and lemon grass.

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Balvenie 15 Single Barrel Sherry Cask - Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel Sherry Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The Balvenie are one of the few holdouts from an older time where most of the aspects of whisky making are still carried out onsite, with an onsite malting floor, coppersmith and cooperage giving complete creative and quality control to the production team.  The Balvenie are still family owned and operated to this day by William Grant and Sons and their visitor experience is widely regarded as one of the best in Scotland. Can't wait to see for myself!

The Balvenie 15 Single Barrel Sherry Cask expression was first released in 2014 and newer batches have been released as older ones quickly and inevitably sell out.  The current batch available locally is from cask number 4193 and has been bottled at 47.8%.  The maturation was a full 15 years in European oak Sherry butt.  Each release is drawn from a single cask.

Nose: To be written - got carried away and loved it but didn't write anything down :(

Palate: Ditto :( :(

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Glencadam 18 - Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Glencadam 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

If there is a trend emerging in our favourite Scotch whisky selections, it would surely be the appreciation of unsung single malts that are overlooked or unwittingly consumed as part of a blend.  Glencadam certainly fit this trend, with an under the radar single malt presence which pales in comparison to the Ballantine's blended whisky it historically featured in.

Nose: Tropical.  Pineapple, banana and passionfruit meet an almost rye whiskey white pepper and cigar tobacco leaf.

Palate: Hints of white chocolate mix with red berries, nutmeg and some of the banana from the nose - kind of like an awesome muffin.  Pepper and tobacco end up on the finish with some tart raspberry.

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Caol Ila 18 - Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Caol Ila 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Caol Ila (cull-eela) - oh Caol Ila. A very poorly hidden secret here at The Whisky List is that I am a tiny bit enamoured of Diageo's Islay workhorse distillery. Producing in the order of 7 million litres of spirit a year its still amazing to me that there are so few official bottlings. With only a tiny proportion of the hype of most of the Islay distilleries this silent giant produces a spirit which seems to shine no matter how long its been aged, what strength its been bottled at or whether its even peated or not!

The Caol Ila 18 is present at 43% and was made from a mix of refill casks (favouring ex-Bourbon we would wager).

Nose: The smoke is here in spades but is a more gentle, salty, floral smouldering, lingering intensity say vs a young and feisty Laphroaig. Typical (and much enjoyed) notes of Caol Ila lemon zest, minerality and brine/seaweed.

Palate: Much more forward than the nose was suggesting, delivering lemon zest, smoked trout, salted caramel and a Springbank minerality in a decently oily way.  The smoke builds over repeated tastings but never becomes overbearing, with the heathery smoke, ash, tar and burnt seaweed flavours slowly infiltrating the back palate and the finish.