10 delicious whiskies around the $50 mark and that we feel are equally at home in the whisky glasses of beginners and old dogs alike and represent a particularly good value right now.
Here are 10 whiskies that should get approval from your very own Minister for War and Finance without (literally) leaving a bad taste in your mouth (we hope - results may vary, consult your local whisky specialist if problems persist).
BenRiach 10 - Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Today we are looking at the core flagship bottling from The BenRiach distillery. This is as close to a distillery signature as can be found, considering the massive amount of variation that can be found in their releases. This whisky has been aged for 10 years+ in a mix of ex-bourbon and sherry cask (leaning more heavily on the ex-bourbon cask from the nose and palate).
Nose: Fresh gingerbread, cinnamon sugar, lemon and orange peels.
Palate: Rich malt forward presentation with a decent hit of brown sugar and creme brulee (the custard and the toffee coating). Gets spicy/peppery over time.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Not sure if its due to the price sensitivity of our American friends or something else but bourbon seems to see diminishing returns on price increases faster than any other category – this means many good bourbons can be had for under $100 and in this case an excellent one for closer to $50.
This expression is the regular Woodford Reserve (aged in heavily charred oak barrels) that has been finished for another nine months in a heavily toasted, more lightly charred barrel.
Nose: Toasted marshmallow, maple syrup, toasted brioche, buttered corn cob.
Palate: The oak really shines here, with a spiced dark fruit presence and a rich, more generous mouth feel than the ABV would suggest. Tobacco leaf, burnt toffee, white pepper sits nicely alongside the spicy dark fruit and typical vanilla/toffee bourbon flavours.
Black Bottle - Blended Scotch Whisky
A blended whisky that has seen many incarnations since its inception in the late 1800's by the Graham family, who were tea blenders. Hard to track down what is in the bottle these days and how it’s been aged and for how long definitely Bunnahabhain in the mix though), but for the price definitely worth a try. Not to be confused with the brandy made locally.
Nose: Has a vague ‘Islay like’ medicinal scent, mixed with dark toffee, damp wood, smoke (like a steam train boiler. Oily, thick and sooty).
Palate: Stewed Granny Smith apples, sea spray (brine), rich black tea, honey and applewood smoke, smoky charcoal.
The Naked Grouse - Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
It was almost impossible to not see this whisky when it was (re?)introduced in this current incarnation as a blended malt (not to be confused with the older blended grain/malt version).
A blend of Glenturret, Highland Park and Macallan (possibly others also) malts, matured in first-fill and refill American and European oak cask, before being finished in first-fill Oloroso Sherry butts for a further six months.
Nose: Cherry reduction, malt, stone fruit (peach) and custard.
Palate: Creme brulee, sherry soaked raisins, cherry pie filling.
Jack Daniel's Gentleman Jack - Tennessee Whiskey
Fascinating whiskey this one. The 'Gentleman' is introduced by virtue of taking normal sugar maple charcoal filtered and aged Jack Daniel's (No.7) whiskey and running it through the sugar maple charcoal filtering process again, once matured.
Nose: Some slight lemon/Greek vanilla yoghurt under the typical vanillin highs and promises of spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper).
Palate: Pretty much as expected, it’s like Old No.7 JD with the 'rough' edges smoothed over (read even less spirit/ethanol presence). Caramel coated popcorn, brown sugar, vanilla and typical oak pepper and cinnamon.
Loch Lomond 12 - Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Loch Lomond is like the swiss army knife of distilleries in that it can produce malt, grain and blends all from the one distillery. Loch Lomond has ‘popped up’ on Australian radars with their more widespread availability thanks to a deal with the Coles group which has led to them showing up (in their very cool looking bottles) in Vintage Cellars, First Choice, Liquorland etc.
The Loch Lomond is a 12 year old single malt that has been matured using three types of cask: bourbon, refill and ‘recharged’, and is bottled at 46%.
Nose: Apple pie with melting vanilla ice cream on top (think buttery short crust, vanilla and rich apples). A hint of pears in the mix too.
Palate: Takes a bit of time to 'open up'. Definitely rewards patience, which brings brown sugar, apples, spiced stewed pears and maybe some slightly unripe pineapple/mango? Tends back towards vanilla over time. Suggestion of burnt heather?
Teeling Single Grain - Single Grain Irish Whiskey
Grain whiskies like blends are often overlooked or dismissed out of hand by whisk(e)y drinkers which is a real shame as there are good examples of both to be found.
Case in point, the Teeling Single Grain which is triple distilled Irish grain (mostly maize) whiskey, aged in Cab Sav barrels from California.
Nose: Delicate (as expected in an Irish whiskey - especially a grain whiskey) fresh lavender/honeysuckle with red apples, grapes (the red ones that are slightly tart and sweet), unrefined sugar and shortbread.
Palate: Toasted crumpet with slightly too much (i.e. the correct amount of) butter and golden syrup on top. Butter tends more biscuity and less dairy towards shortbread over time.
Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 - Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Missing from our stores and shelves for several years but happily re-introduced in 2016-17 here in Australia, this is the House of Walkers take on a blended malt, with a 15 year old age statement, no less. If someone asks me to justify blends, this is the first blend I turn to. For the price I cannot think of a more well-rounded and balanced whisky (and by far the best bang for buck Johnnie Walker). And yes this made the 'around $100' roundup as well, you aren't going crazy (or maybe you are?).
Nose: Rich malt, dark coffee and chocolate notes, mixed through a waft of clean dry wood smoke (like old dry logs in a fireplace).
Palate: The Palate follows the nose showing a rewarding almost 'juicy' amount of malt flakes/cereal body with lightly roasted coffee, and dark chocolate (not the super dark kind). Honey and walnut rise to the fore after repeated sips. Smoke still present but more of a sideshow than a 'main' attraction.
Blanton's Single Barrel Private Reserve - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Blanton's is everything we look for in a mid-level (price wise) American Bourbon whiskey. Distilled in Frankfort Kentucky at The Buffalo Trace Distillery for Blantons, and aged typically for around 6-8 years and bottled as single barrel releases, the quality of each of the Blanton's bottlings we have tried has been consistently good. The fact that Blanton's are all single barrel releases and the quality remains this high speaks volume to the care put into the range, as well as the quality of the underlying spirit and ethos of the distillery. Like the Johnnie Walker Green this one also made our 'around $100' shortlist.
Nose: Enticing notes of buttered crumpets, marmalade and a dusting of cinnamon sugar and smooshed banana.
Palate: This is a goldilocks Bourbon. Balanced amounts of toffee, citrus peel, and typical American oak flavours like cinnamon, honey and cloves with a 'not too heavy, not too light' texture.
Compass Box Great King Street The Artist's Blend - Blended Scotch Whisky
Compass Box was founded in the year 2000 by John Glaser, an ex-Diageo marketing manager, with an eye on reviving the flagging interest in blended Scotch. Now quite famous for drawing the ire of the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association), for pushing for transparency in Scotch in general and making some amazing blended whiskies.
Compass Box Great King Street The Artist's Blend is a fairly straightforward blend of Lowland grain whisky from Cameronbridge, Clynelish Malt whisky, Linkwood malt whisky and a 'Highland' malt blend (itself comprised of a blend of Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuaine malts).
Nose: Light raisings, honey, fresh apricot, crunchy nut cornflakes and boiled lolly (the high sweet smell).
Palate: Quite waxy, lots of fruit characters (green apple, apricot and sultanas), with some light spice (cinnamon and white pepper) and honey.
TWL Top 10
"twl/Top 10 $50"
User Top Rated
"over 10 reviews" "from $40 to $75" "sort by rating descending"