Beating the High Price of Scotch Whisky

06 Oct 2009

Original Blogger tags: Scotch Whisky

You may have found yourself wondering how it is that I’m casually reviewing these scotches — after all, the Lagavulin 16 goes for $45 to $70 a bottle, the Caol Ila from $35-60, and you’ll be seeing several more reviews including Talisker, Bunnahabhain, Highland Park, four Glenmorangie bottlings, Scapa, and perhaps some others. Did I buy all those bottles for the reviews?

The answer is no. I do have some whole bottles — some of them I’ve had for five years or more, and some I bought in the past year or so. I certainly wouldn’t be able to buy more than a bottle or two in a typical month’s budget. But here is is a tip — you can often find smaller bottles in gift sets, and these sets are often heavily discounted. This is a great way to taste multiple kinds of whisky without paying out for a whole bottle. And if you do want to buy a whole bottle — shop around! Prices vary widely.

The Lagavulin, the Caol Illa, and Talisker are all from this Isles of Scotland box set of 200 ml bottles, which will make three or four glasses each. It cost me only a fraction of the price the site listed, and I found it at Stadium Market. They also have a boxed set of Glenmorangie bottlings, in 100 ml bottles, and I’ll be reviewing them together. 100 ml is only a couple of glasses, but it’s enough to get a good taste, and costs less than a single bottle of any of the four varieties. In fact, if you find that you like all the bottles in a boxed set, there’s nothing saying you can’t come back and buy another set — figure out how to get the most bang for the buck for what matters to you, whether that is variety or quantity.

I will be keeping my eye out for more tasting-size bottles. I wish more distilleries would release their malts in the 200 ml size. I’d happily buy a half-dozen of these at a pop in order to taste a variety, and probably buy then buy one full bottle of the one I liked best.

It’s interesting how very individual tastes are. The saying goes “there’s no accounting for taste.” This phrase is sometimes used to insult someone’s poor taste, but I think what it really means is that it is impossible to account for, or justify or explain your taste preferences in a way that someone else is likely to find convincing; you’re entitled to like what you like, and dislike what you dislike, and it may be ultimately inexplicable.

I was considering this while I was deciding what number rating to give the Lagavulin 16. Do I think I know better than the critics who give this a much higher rating? No. Grace and I agree that it is an amazing drink, fascinating, savory, intriguing — but we also agree that while we’d love to explore it at a tasting, it is not the one we’d prefer to drink with modest regularity for dessert or before bed. She was also expounding on pairings. The Lagavulin would stand up to pairing with a cigar — but I don’t smoke. If you’re looking for something to accompany a cigar, the Lagavulin might do it for you. On the other hand, we love Maya Gold chocolate, and I think the Caol Ila would probably taste very fine with a square of that chocolate. So consider the ratings to be “to my palate,” and not necessarily yours.

Did I mention that Stadium market also makes fantastic pizza and egg salad roll-up sandwiches, and stocks great chocolates? I have not had great luck with their featured wines — they have uniformly been somewhat disappointing for the price — but if they would stock Red Bull Cola, my life would be complete. But perhaps it is best that they don’t!

Update: I stopped by Stadium Market today, and they had small “trio” boxed sets of 50 ml sample bottles of 3 Balvenie bottlings, including a 21-year-old port cask aged whisky that I’m looking forward to tasting. They also had a nice little set of 3 different ages of Glenfiddich. So we we will be tasting those in the near future too! And what’s that hiding in the photo? Could that be a blended Irish Whisky? Hmmm…

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