If you’re here with us, chances are you’ve spent way too long in the liquor aisle or in a liquor store trying to decide on the best bottle of whiskey to add to your cabinet. The options are abundant and they all seem to offer the same thing – sweet, leathery notes with candied, chocolate, or more bitter finishes; but there is certainly a difference between a good brand of whiskey and one you’re best steering clear of.
Maybe most surprising is that, while you can easily spend up to $100 on whiskey or even $200 for a really great bottle of whiskey, you don’t have to. Some distilleries have mastered the art of affordable whiskey to provide relatively great bottles of whiskey for less than $50.
When you find yourself perplexed by the abundance of different whiskey options – which is even more intimidating when shopping online – consider any of these five whiskies for a taste and experience comparative to those more expensive bottles.
From the peaceful region of Speyside, Scotland comes this creation of the Knockdhu distillery, aged for 12 years before bottling. The anCnoc 12-year-old whiskey is a light amber color that has earned multiple awards and many accolades at the New York and San Francisco World Spirits competitions. With seven gold medals under its belt, it’s no wonder the 12-year anCnoc is a popular libation among whiskey drinkers.
The aged distillate substitutes smoky notes for something sweeter. Its aroma is one of honeysuckle and fresh flowers undercut by barley and cereals. Each pour of the golden whiskey comes with flavors of winter spices, chocolate crème, hints of herbs, and mocha. It’s a pleasant libation finished off with a combined force of oak and barley.
Knockdhu’s anCnoc 12 is a great start for newcomers to the whiskey scene, not just for its reasonable price but also due to its medium, tolerable, semi-sweet flavoring.
Where plenty of distillates tend to hover around the 40% ABV, Maker’s Mark ups the ante with its cask strength whiskey. At just under 57%, every sip of this caramel-colored libation is going to come with a bit more of a bit than other bottles.
It’s a well-known name distilled in the small town of Loretto, KY and though a full bottle of 750ml will run you just over $50, you can find a half-bottle at more than half the cost. You’ll want to saver every sip of Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, which is bottled from oak casks for a strong oak nose.
Each sip is accentuated by a hint of cinnamon while an aroma of vanilla and lit charcoal wafts up from the glass. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength boasts a spiced flavor with a robust mixture of vanilla and smoke. It’s a smooth, caramel liquid that concludes with a long finish with a lack of bitterness for a more pleasing experience.
If you enjoy Maker’s Mark’s more traditional flavors, the Cask Strength bottle offers that flavor profile with an emphasis on oak, spice, and vanilla.
The Scottish Lowlands are home to only six malt whiskey distilleries, half-a-dozen expert establishments that have made perfecting whiskey their main focus. Among them is Auchentoshan, a Single Malt whiskey distillery responsible for this American Oak classic.
Bringing in flavors from the west, Auchentoshan ages this golden libation in first fill American oak casks, which guarantees a pure, oak aroma that wafts up the bottle’s long neck. Founded in the early 19th century, Auchentoshan has had plenty of experience with whiskey to ensure that the American Oak is a great blend of pleasing flavors and a long finish for expert and beginner whiskey drinkers.
The nose is a blend of toffee chunks and milk chocolate topped off with the citrus sweetness of oranges and lemons. Beneath it all, the aroma of fresh-cut grass sneaks its way in. This low-cost whiskey comes with a pleasing, buttery smoothness with touches of vanilla and citrus peels.
To appeal to those looking for hint of spice and a more robust flavor profile, American Oak develops into a oak spice and golden barley aftertaste finished off with toffee and grapefruit.
From the Highlands of Scotland comes this 15-year-old whiskey from the Dalwhinnie Distillery. The light color of this aged distillate is telling of its 43% ABV and its lighter flavor, which is more about the sweetness than the smokier notes of other whiskies.
In 2016, Dalwhinnie 15 earned the Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition while the distillery it came from was recognized by Trip Advisor with a Certificate of Excellence. The pride felt for everything distilled within this Scottish distillery is evident in every flavorful sip and aromatic note.
The nose is clean with touches of pears, the subtle sweetness of toffee, and a floral aspect that lingers behind everything else. Every sip starts off with a burst of fruitiness accentuated by a rich syrup pudding and sponge cake. Lingering behind is a welcomed balance of fruit and spice with fading flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Don’t let the flowery name misdirect you, there’s nothing floral about this American whiskey. Four Roses is distilled at the Kirin Brewery Company, a Japanese-owned company with roots dug in Kentucky, a state known for its love for bourbon.
Four Roses Single Barrel amber-colored whiskey was recognized as Whisky Magazine’s 2008 Best Bourbon Whiskey No Age and earned the Double Gold during the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Earning it its praise is a rich nose of fruit and subtle hints of spiced chocolate. The sweeter notes round off its pleasing aroma and can be found all throughout the Single Barrel’s flavor profile. Morello cherries, cocoa, vanilla, prunes, and small touches of spice rush over your tongue with each sip.
Topping the entire experience off is a finish of oak, chocolate, and the buttery smoothness of butterscotch.