Earlier this year we had an article on whiskies that won’t break your bank.
We observed that over a third of the total advertised drams on offer in the 2020 Dramfest Catalogue were priced below $100 retail. Note: we didn’t count the ones hidden underneath the tables!
It was interesting that a lot of these “cheaper” offerings were from established mainstream distilleries, were not from start-up operations trying to make a name.
At Dramfest we also put ourselves out to doing some personal research into the quality of some of the less costly whiskies. We checked them against their more highly-priced cousins and remarked pretty favourably on their quality.
There are a lot of whisky books that encourage you to try this whisky or that other one.
Sadly many of whiskies they recommend are not available in New Zealand. And the ones that you can buy can often be too expensive for what they are.
And that started us thinking – why don’t we do some more investigation into the whiskies that may not have seemed “elite” enough to own up to drinking?
The issue of Availability
There are a large number of whiskies available in NZ that deserve to be noticed but that are not at all expensive. So why not create a list f some of the ones we’ve found as a starter-for-ten guide for others to try?
Stepping out of our comfort zone has been an enriching experience. Letting your taste buds do the walking may make your whisky world become a fuller colour palette.
One dram well-worth trying is the Loch Lomond 12 year-old. This won a Platinum at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year. It also has garnered two Golds and a Silver from other competitions, plus a Gold spirits business award. That is no mean feat for a 12 year-old!
The Loch Lomond distillery also has an outstanding Single Grain, on show at Dramfest. Another award-winning dram at San Francisco, it also won the world whisky awards best Scotch grain and a Gold at the Berlin International Spirits Competition 2017. the Inchmurrin range of whiskies is another product of Loch Lomond distillery.
I went out and purchased three bottlings of West Cork Irish whiskey.
Because they were new to the market, I knew nothing about them other than the labels looked pretty cool and the price was right.
They were very nice indeed.
With a little assistance I’ve emptied two different bottles already. Now I only have the blend left – at a whopping 62%, it’s the highest abv blend I have tasted and, much to my surprise, very smooth.
On a whim – because it was distilled in Wellington, South Africa, – I decided to try the Bains single grain. From the Sedgwick Distillery, this dram is double matured in ex bourbon barrels for five years. Again, it is a super smooth drop with loads of vanilla. This entry level grain was awarded the world’s Best Grain Whisky at the 2018 World Whisky Awards. Bains also produce a 15 year-old and three 18 year-olds, currently only available through travel retail.
Our list includes some really impressive blends. They have broken the traditional mould for exploring flavour, most made deliberately to be mellow and served over ice.
The first of these is Cutty Sark Prohibition. This is a healthy 50% abv, and described as full flavoured and complex. You might well think you’re having a single malt.
Next up is the West Cork blend. At 62%, the flavour is loads of grapefruit, mouth feel and very smooth.
The Skibbereen Eagle blend took me by surprise. It is reasonably cheap and from the same distillers as West Cork but has a completely different flavour profile. It is sweet, with caramel, toffee notes with green fruit, chocolate and cocoa.
Antiquity Blue is a cheap Indian blend at 42.8%. This was awarded “Silver Best in Class” in the Spirits Tasting competition by the International Wine and Spirit Competition WSWA in 2012. At its price point it gives many other blended Scotches a run for their money.
So here, in no particular order, are our picks of reasonably priced (NZ$40 to $105) bottlings that are usually available in New Zealand. For convenience the list has been divided into whisky types.
Single Malt, Scottish, Irish and world
Glenlivet 12 year old
West Cork Irish sherry finish
West Cork Irish Port Wood finish
Tomatin 12 Year old
Benriach 12 year old sherry wood finish
Glenlivet Nadurra oloroso cask strength
Loch Lomond 12 year old
Arran Bothy Quarter Cask
Glen Grant 10 year old
Glen Grant The Major’s Reserve
Paul John Classic Indian Whisky
Glendronach 8 Year old The Hielan
Bunnahabhain 12 year old
Glen Scotia Double Cask
Inchmurrin Madeira Wood Finish
Single Grain Whisky
Bains Single grain South African Whisky
Teeling Single grain Irish
Loch Lomond Single Grain
Blended Malt Whisky
Wemyss Treacle Chest Blended malt
Wemyss The Hive
Wemyss Family Collection Flaming Feast
Wemyss Family Collection Blooming Gorse
Wemyss Spice King Batch Strength
Blended Whisky (Malt and Grain)
Cutty Sark Prohibition 50%
West Cork Blended cask strength 62%
Skibbereen Eagle Irish
Antiquity Blue Indian