<£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:

£30-40, Speyside

Balvenie Signature


Colour: Straw

Nose: Orange peel and that not too smoky flavour you get from blown out candles. Also has an unusual resemblance to fresh laundry to it. Not too harsh on the nose.

Taste: Prickly but in a good way, a smoky black tea served up in a country garden alongside a fruit cocktail. Tastes of lavender and meadows sit alongside pineapple and cherry. Sweet and morish.

Finish: Whiney and clingy. Disappointing given the great flavour on the palate. Has a strong after-taste of tea without milk in.

Price: £34 for this good dram, worth the value for the taste alone somewhat let down by the clingy after-taste in the finish

£30-40, Blends

Johnnie Walker Double Black

jw double black
Colour: Dark Toffee

Nose: A cleaning lady let loose in your local library – lots of TCP in there with the oakness of bookshelf and the smell of old books, you know the ones you find at the back of a cupboard. Also a bit of spice – peppery.

Taste: Bit like chewing on a piece of moss to begin with but develops beautifully into a prickly affair loaded with peat. There is a bit of leather in there as well as a very subtle taste of salty fish or seafood.

Finish: Extremely smooth for the initial peatiness – something rare to find in anything but the best Islay malts. Quite an uncomfortable cling to the mouth however and a strong aftertaste of brandy flavours.

Price: £32 not bad for a smooth peat dram but there are some very good malts out there that can be picked up for a similar price. Certainly worth a try, maybe a half bottle?

£30-40, Speyside

Tomintoul 12 Year Old – Oloroso Sherry Cask


Colour: Golden Sherry

Nose: A holiday feast of aromas, strong marzipan covers the steaming Christmas pudding aroma. Sitting alongside is a glass of Port with the surprising addition of banana fritters.

Taste: A selection of sweet delights carried by Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs Childcathcer. strong aniseed balls and Black Jacks open with the warming taste of treacle tarts and brazil nuts tingle the edges.

Finish: Strength and smoothness of a good sherry, slightly smoky but not overpowering. All round a very decent dram.

Price: An extremely affordable £31, very good if you can find it under £30.

£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.

£40-50, Blends

Sheep Dip – Amoroso Oloroso 1999


Colour: Golden Sherry

Nose: A trip to the allotments to savour the fresh sugar-snap peas. Sitting on an overcast day eating sugar coated strawberries and drinking a hot chocolate, afterwards making a pot of bramble jam.

Taste: An after Sunday lunch treat, a sweet rhubarb and custard trifle infused with Grannies best gin. Followed by the sherry in Mothers Day fruit chocolate liquers. Pretty mellow all round and smooth for its age.

Finish: Spicy undertones but dissapoints with its lack of warmth, after taste is a regrettable vegtable oil and all round mellow yellow.

Value: a mid-range £47

£80-100, Islay

Ardbog – Feis Ile 2013 Bottling


Colour: Dark Gold

Nose: Take you straight to Islay with smoking embers on Port Ellen beach with a huge peated wiff. A slight tinge of wet paint sits in behind the fire filled smoke.

Taste: Again extremely peated (although not as much as other Ardbeg) which packs heat which is warming like a good Scottish sunny day sighting by the sea. Surprisingly has slowly developing sweetness but not sugary – more Coke Zero than the red can – that take off the harsh edge of the peat.

Finish: The finish is long lingering and very warming. Pretty dry almost wine like but is very enjoyable on a sunny day.

Price: Originally £80, but quick to sell out so expect to pay at least £100 from traders and auctions. When the very nice – and similar – Ardbeg Uigeadail can be sourced for £50 the extra price is questionable. Nevertheless for a one off very enjoyable.