£30-40, £40-50, Highland, Island, Islay, Speyside

What Whisky this Christmas? Part II – Scrummy Yummy

For the second of our festive shopping posts we have upped the game a bit. These malts are all leaders in the field but still amazing value at under £50. The problem you might have is giving them away…

Scrummy Yummy – Amazing value drams for less than £50

Highland Whisky

anCnoc Peter Arkle 2nd Release

picture: whisky-online.com
picture: whisky-online.com

A limited edition piece of whisky history this, surprising to find that there is in fact still some of these rare bottles available out there. This whisky is part of a set with packaging designed by the Scottish Illustrator Peter Arkle. You could say it’s a gimmick (it’s a gimmick) but open a bottle and you will find that inside the stuff is as nice as the drawings on the outside.

This was a surprise find for aWfW at the Glasgow Whisky Festival last year and enjoyed so much we went back for seconds. Just shy of the £50 price tag at some retailers, it has a good fruity and Christmassy feel to it. If you are a fan of Glenmorangie (a standard in any whisky collection) this will set you salivating for more.

Glengoyne 15 Year Old

picture: thewhiskyexchange.com
picture: thewhiskyexchange.com

Speak to any Glasweigan and they have all seemed to have visited Glengoyne at some point. It’s like a pilgrimage for the inhabitants of the dear green place and you can see why. Affordable delicious whisky in a beautiful setting at their distillery, heaven anyone? We hear if you are so inclined you can buy your own barrel of the stuff which gets you a formal member’s jacket, a bit like the golf Masters green jacket we suppose but maybe the philandering isn’t needed.

Rich, sweet and toffee tasting this has all the classic hallmarks of a good Highland whisky. It’s seen some of its years in a first-fill sherry cask making it extremely smooth for the age statement on the bottle. Pretty good for £50, visit the distillery and they will give you a fiver off.

Island Whisky

Scapa 16 Year Old

picture: masterofmalt.com
picture: masterofmalt.com

When drawing up this list we decided to have only one island whisky, so it was an extremely tough competition to pick out  a favourite. Ultimately after loving but leaving Arran, Jura and Talisker out we’ve settled on the Viking Orkney Islands. Trying to stand up for the lesser known, aWfW has opted for the smaller of the islands two distilleries despite Highland Park’s selection of fantastic whisky.

The Scapa 16 has been a firm favourite with us since it’s 2009 re-brand with its coastal strength, hints of sea spray and honey tones. You can’t argue that getting a whisky made in the 1990’s for less than £50 is a damn good deal and we are so glad the distillery was saved from certain closure almost ten years ago.

Speyside Whisky

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

picture: scotchnoob.com
picture: scotchnoob.com

The biggest of all the whisky regions we’ve narrowed down all that beautiful Speyside whisky into two famous distilleries who have put in a twist. First up its Balvenie with their innovative Caribbean rum cask finish 14 year old. Fruity and unsurprisingly like rum, this dram has a great smooth finish to it. Usually seen in shops at around £45 if you like the old sailor jerry (not the new stuff!) you’ll love this.

Balvenie make so many good whiskies that if this rum version doesn’t sound that appealing check out their double wood. This great little number has been propping up whisky collections since the year dot and we don’t expect it to go anywhere soon.

Abelour a’Bunadh Batch 46

picture: timeswhiskyclub.com
picture: timeswhiskyclub.com

Another limited run, the first batch of this stuff went on sale when Eric Cantona was still playing football, the Spice Girls topped the charts and a sheep in Scotland made history. Now in its 46th version you would guess they would know what they were doing and you’d be right.

The cheaper end of our selection this will come in at around £40 and features, as always a heavy sherry finish. Be warned this will put hairs on your chest due to its cask strength and you may wish to water it down a tad before launching straight in.

Islay Whisky

Laphroaig Quarter Cask

picture: laphroaig.com
picture: laphroaig.com

Lap-frog, L-A-POG, Laph-egg however you fail to name it correctly this modern classic from Laphroaig is enough to satisfy any peat enthusiast. Heat and sweet with the all familiar tones on TCP of the distillery make it a dram to remember. Un-aged but we heard from the those in the know that it spends five years in a cask before spending some time in a mini quarter sized cask hence the name.

The marketers have a nice wee story about the history of the quarter cask being used to avoid paying tax duties by whisky smugglers because they were easy to hide. True or not it’s great to drink and a bargain at £40. Sometimes seen on special offers at this time of the year keep your eyes peeled for a knock down bargain price.

Ardbeg Uigeadail

picture: masterofmalt.com
picture: masterofmalt.com

Named after the loch from which the distillery draws its water this incarnation is a powerful dram not for the faint hearted. Strong smoke tones ladled with malt flavours anyone who like heavy ale may also appreciate something like this.

As most of the delicacies in life are it can be an acquired taste but we don’t think that anyone who is seriously into their whisky will turn their nose up at this for £50. A sure fire winner of a gift this is our top recommendation for those who can’t even decide between the list of seven we have given you.

<£30, Island, Shopping, Speyside

What to buy this Christmas? – Bargain Buys

The nights are drawing in; you’re having to scrape your car every morning before skidding your way to work and all you really want to do is sit in front of a log fire with a good dram.

Never fear, Christmas is almost here with its many days of food and drink! Whether you are looking to buy a cheap bottle for that uncle you haven’t seen since last year or are looking for a scrummy malt to enjoy on a mince pie belly we have put together a series of Christmas shopping list of aWfW favourites. First up is our Bargain Buys and these are all much better presents than getting sports socks 2 for a £1 from the guy outside your local Aldi.

Bargain Bin – Great deals on bottles for around £25

Glenrothes 8 Year Old

photo from: masterofmalt.com
photo from: masterofmalt.com

It’s that age old argument you have with someone in a whisky pub every time you order a cheap dram. Age ≠ Quality. True the 25-year-old Glenfarclas is famous for its rich and silky texture but not all young whisky is to be cast aside like a disappointing pair of socks of Christmas morning that say ‘super dad’.

No longer available the 8 year old Highland Park by MacPhails’ Collection was one of such these gems. But never fear, the lads Gordon and MacP have realised another edition in their collection, this time the 8 year old Glenrothes. We tasted this last week and cannot believe the price for such an accomplished whisky. If you like fresh and fruity drams that still have the pepper heat (think Macallan, Glenlivet or Auchentoshan) this will be right up your street. Coming in at around £25-£28 this is super value from a distillery whose whisky is in high regard from famous blenders.

Ledaig Single Malt

photo from : masterofmalt.com
photo from : masterofmalt.com

Maligned in some whisky circles, the small Isle of Mull distillery still punches above it weight on the world whisky market. Recently bought over by the African drinks firm Distell as part of a £160m deal, Tobermory distillery still makes a decent range of whisky that will suit the pocket of even the shrewdest of shoppers.

Ledaig has recently been rebranded and rebalanced as the Ledaig 10 year old (£35), but there is also the standard Ledaig about at £20 a bottle.

A light and fresh dram, this malt is peated but not so much to make your eyes water. If your into your Islay whiskies this may leave you disappointed but if the thought of a peat bog in your mouth puts you off have a go at this instead of one of the more well-known ‘peaty whiskies’.

Old Pulteney 12 Year Old

Picture from oldpulteney.com
Picture from oldpulteney.com

A story of rags to riches this wick distillery hit the headlines in 2012 when it won award after award for its outstanding 21 year old. It was never had such luck in 1922 when the townsfolk of Wick voted to close the distillery doors after banning the sale of alcohol, a ban that lasted over 25 years, no mean feat in Scotland.

Despite being launched into the super stardom of whisky lovers last year the 12 year old version still sells for less than £30, last week we even saw a bottle at the bargain price of £24. Great to see that some distillers don’t just jump their prices for every ‘medal sticker’ they can stitch to the packet. This dram has the fantastic balance you never expected to see outside the 90 or so minutes of ‘Man on Wire’.

One question though is it pronounced Pul-ten-ey or Pult-ney? We’ve had whisky fans the world over tell the aWfW team off for pronouncing it both ways. We better ask Brian:

£60-80, Island

Highland Park 18yo

Colour: Dark Rum

Nose: A real mixture of vanilla pods and highland toffee bars. Not too overly light however as there is a slight heat and spice to the nose as there is a strong wood smell as well. A slight wiff of toffee apples continues the sweet theme.

Taste: Smooth velvety in the mouth. Very sweet for a highland park and a definite sherry influence in this dram. Just like the nose there is something reminiscent of toffee, but this time a granddads favourite – Werther’s original. It does lack some depth of other ages of HP which is slightly disappointing for such a well thought of distillery.

Finish: Very Very smooth but quite oily after-taste almost fishy – caviar canapés maybe. Sweetness big again here with the taste of rich dark treacle sticky toffee pudding.

Price: A reasonable £60 for the age statement but disappointing flavours. That said if you like sweeter whiskies you will probably love this.

£30-40, Island

Ledaig 10 Year Old

Ledaig 10 Year Old
Ledaig 10 Year Old

Colour: Light Straw

Nose: A volcanic island with strong sulphuric fumes mixed with a salty tinge from the crashing waves on a sandy beach. A sudden downpour gives the aroma of a light rain shower protected by a plastic smell similar to a cheap pac-a-mac. Opening its pocket to find the final layer of aniseed balls.

Taste: Like a cheese board with real thick oatcakes and strong danish blue. Accompanied by apple slices served on a metallic plate. It has a spicy, quite prickly palate.

Finish: Prickly fire that is quick to disappear. Slightly inky aftertaste like a burst pen, this leaves an unsavoury dry palate.

Price: Can be picked up for a very reasonable £32