Bargain Blended Whiskies For Single Malt Lovers
Single malt whisky from Scotland is arguably the finest whisky in the world, but, with rising prices the past few decades, many have become luxury beverages. I’d love to drink Highland Park 18 every day, but it’s around $200+ a bottle in Canada. Even very good 10 and 12 year old single malt whiskies that I used to buy for $30-40, like Laphroaig and The Macallan, have ballooned to $70-80, or more. It’s difficult to find a very good single malt for under $50. Which is why I now drink mostly blended scotch whisky, just like a real Scotsman (well, I am half Nicoll – from the MacNicol/Nicholson clan). Last time I checked, Famous Grouse Blended whisky was the largest selling brand of whisky, period, in Scotland. Blended whiskies make up around 90% of all scotch sold in the world.
Blended scotch whiskies are a blend of one or more single malt scotch whiskies with one or more single grain scotch whiskies from different distilleries. Single malt is 100% barley from a single distillery, whereas single grain can be made from any or all of corn, wheat, barley, or rye, but must come from a single distillery.
Here are four of my “go to” blended scotches that can hold their own against many single malts:
Grant’s Family Reserve Sherry Cask ($33.49 at ANBL; $30.25 at SAQ)
I love this affordable alternative to expensive sherry cask malts like Macallan. They blend around 25 single malts (including Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie and Ailsa Bay) and grain whiskies and age in Oloroso sherry casks to make this smooth whisky, with dried fruit and sweet oak, enjoyable on its own or in cocktails.
Teacher’s Highland Cream ($25.99 at ANBL; $28.20 at LCBO)
Known for having more of a peaty note than most of the old school blends, due to the peaty Highland whisky from Ardmore being a large part of the blend, this is a very rich textured whisky for a blend. It also has some citrus fruit and a long, pleasant finish. Teacher’s would fool many people into thinking it was a peaty Highland or Islay whisky.
Dewars White Label ($25.99 at ANBL; $28.20 at LCBO)
Created in 1899, this is a classic blend. John Dewar & Sons own 5 Single Malt distilleries and thus have a lot of high quality Scotch for blending. Aberfeldy (Highlands) is well known and the largest component, but they also own Royal Brackla (Highlands), Craigellachie (Speyside), Aultmore (Speyside) and Macduff (HIghland). They also use whisky from distilleries they don’t own. The White Label is a smooth, slightly sweet and floral whisky.
Famous Grouse ($29.99 at ANBL; $29.95 at LCBO)
The Macallan and Highland Park are key parts of this well balanced whisky, which has a nice trade off of fruit and woody caramel notes, due to lots of Sherry cask influence. It’s a great everyday whisky for making Manhattans and Whisky Sours.