The Best Whiskies Under $80: The 2018 Alberta Edition

 

It’s 2018. Whisky is expensive. But, there is still hope!

Last year we posted our inaugural “Best Whiskies Under $80” blog and it has been our most popular blog post ever. So, just like for the first one, we contacted whisky shop owners and managers from across Alberta with a simple queston: “What are your favourite whiskies priced at $80 or less?”

Here’s what they said:

Dave Scott/Manager at Keg n Cork Liquor (Edmonton)

Cooper’s Choice Tormore  Sweet & Smoky 46% abv ($73.96)
A tasty little number from Cooper’s Choice. It’s single cask, yet non age statement. The unpeated spirit from Tormore is filled into casks that previously held Laphroaig. That merry mix up is then finished in port casks, and bottled at 46%. The joy of second hand smoke. Wonderful stuff, but quite limited. Can go toe-to-toe with whiskies twice its price, and will still compare favourably.

Finlaggan Cask Strength 58% abv ($66.96)
A ‘secret islay’ bottling, whose distillery of origin is a mystery. Tales abound that the Finlaggan label utilizes spirit from different distilleries for different releases (i.e., sometimes it is Caol Ila, sometimes it comes from other Islay sources). Anyway, what’s in a name? Google that shit if you want to know. Limited availability. Monstrously good value for what it is. Drink it along with a fine cigar.

Tullibardine ‘The Murray’ 56.1% abv ($83.96)
The first distillery release of cask strength Tullibardine in quite some time. Delicious stuff. OK, it’s cheating a bit, more than $80, but, take your $80, and also save the price of a hamburger & fries, and buy this instead. Excellent vanilla, sweet, oaky powerhouse that remains eminently drinkable. 100% bourbon cask matured. Tullibardine is an unsung hero of Scottish whisky, and this malt showcases the heights of what their younger spirit can do.

Sazerac Rye 45% abv ($59.96)
Some people say it’s the classic rye for the Sazerac cocktail (composed of absinthe, cognac, rye, bitters). Others say it “symbolizes the tradition and history of New Orleans”. All that is fair enough, but, well, I drink a bottle every two months without exception and that’s what it means to me. Delicious American Straight Rye, light spice, mild doughy-ness, amazing balance, and a steal of a deal. Mixes well, and drinks very nicely on its own.

Aultmore 12 Year Old 46% abv ($75.96)
If you get tired of this stuff, you are surely dead inside. Grassy, fresh, vibrant, a wisp of fragrant oak. Easily one of the best distillery bottlings of 12 year old single malt available. Punches leagues above its weight class. Also, nearly chuggable, without being insipid.

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Andrew Ferguson & Evan Eckersley/Kensington Wine Market (Calgary)

It may not even be 10 years old but this G&M bottling of Glen Grant shows very well. Fresh, smooth, and definitely punching above its weight class.
You can’t throw a rock at a bourbon shelf (and please don’t) without hitting a whiskey of unknown distillery/hidden provenance. With so many out there they all can seem to run together. The James E. Pepper 1776 Bourbon may sourced from MGP in Indiana and bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky but at 100 proof it is a well-put together with a great backbone and beautiful oak notes.
There is plenty of well-priced Bourbon, but if you want something big, bold and inexpensive Rare Breed is hard to beat. The new label Rare Breed is finally on shelves. It carries predecessor’s rich and spicy style but may actually be a bit more well rounded on top of all that.
When it comes to Indian Whisky many are aware of Amrut. By comparison the Paul John line of Single Malt Whisky from Goa is till relatively unknown. Paul John Bold is made up entirely of peated malt. The peat is sourced from Islay in Scotland and used in the malting of Indian six row barley.
Consider yourself an Islayphile? Looking for peat on a budget? You need to check out this bottle – it may only be 500mL but at nearly 60% ABV it screams bang for buck.
A well-made, official 12 year old bottling at 48% ABV and under 65 bucks? Sign me up!

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Adam Koziak/Manager at Chateau Louis Liquor (Edmonton):

Mitchter’s  American Whiskey ($74): This has the same mash content as the Bourbon but uses Bourbon casks for ageing.  This is a smooth American whiskey that can be drack straight or put into a nice cocktail

Glenfarclas 105 ($80): For a cask strength, this is your best bang for the buck.

Highland Park Magnus ($44): This is a classic HP.  Has some nice smokiness and is a bottle you don’t feel back leaving at a friend’s house that has no good whisky.

Syndicate 58/6  ($73): This is a Sherry Bomb that is blended by RICHARD PATERSON, enough said.

Glendronach 12 year ($70): This one brings me back to my early days of learning about whiskey.  This 12 year old is the reason I drink Single malt today.  This 100% sherry ages wisky

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Graham Usher/Owner of UnWined Fine Wines, Spirits, & Ales (Edmonton)

Tamdhu 10 yr old ($73.81)
Nose – vanilla and sugared Almonds; palate – Christmas spices and toffee; Finish – longer drying with a whiff of peat. Easily one of my favorites now that it is back in the market. Nothing is out of place in this dram.
Scapa Skirren ($73.81)
Nose – floral, almost tropical; palate – maintains that fruity character with pear and melon; Finish – very longer with and maintains its sweetness. More character than it’s predecessor (Scapa 16 yr old) because of the fruity notes.
Old Pulteney ($60.00)
Nose – sea brine and wet barley; palate – creamy honey with that ever-present sea salt; Finish – smooth with a hint of sweetness. I have a great fondness for Old Pulteney as the craft nature of this distillery is evident throughout their entire line.
Hazelburn CV ($62.85)
Nose – not overt in any way, muted fruitiness at best; palate – this is where it shines, a big malty mouthfeel with grassy notes; finish – short to medium with lingering spices and caramel. Best distillery in Scotland in MHO.
Glengoyne 12 yr old ($66.67)
Nose – tropical fruits, especially coconut and sherry; palate – toffee, ginger and most surprisingly shortbread; finish – longer finish with hints of sherry. A distillery known for producing sherry bombs, this one is far more subtle in that department.
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Ryan Engen/Spirits Director for Wine & Beyond (Edmonton & Calgary)

BOWMORE NO 1 ($54.99): Bowmore No. 1 has been a very popular bottle for customers looking to get into Islay malts. Not overly complex like the older age statements but some nice balance and certainly not peat heavy.

DEANSTON VIRGIN OAK ($49.99): Deanston must have obtained some top notch barrels from Kentucky. It tastes older than it seems on the label. A lot of honey and spice. Perhaps a touch of cinnamon.

TAMDHU 10 YR ($69.99): Some of my favourite sherry cask whiskies are getting too expensive for me. Tamdhu is a great alternative for someone that likes this style but doesn’t want to pay Macallan prices.

FETTERCAIRN FIOR ($64.99): I forgot about this one in the back of my cabinet and rediscovered it recently. To me,it’s probably the most complex whisky in this price range. A lot going on here.

HIGHLAND PARK MAGNUS ($39.99): Our most popular new whisky doesn’t dissapoint. It’s hard to find a better value right now.

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David Owens/Owner of Sherbrooke Liquor (Edmonton)

“Here are my top 5 Whisk(e)y selections under $80 all prices include GST and I tried to look further than just Scotland. None of these will break the bank and all can be enjoyed by even the most pretentious!”

Powers Signature release ($68.60)
I first had an opportunity to try this beautiful Whiskey at The Dead Rabbit in NYC. I’m a fan of Irish Whiskey already but I love Powers for it’s unique character, a little spicy and and just the right hint of Oloroso!
Hazelburn 10  ($79.10)
Springbank, one of the last few independent distillers brings us this delicious triple distilled offering that delivers a great balance of fruit, honey and a creamy mouth feel.
Toki ($62.10)
Now this whisky is one of the best bargains by far. I have blind tasted the most ardent Scotch single malt customers with this whisky and surprised the heck out of them! Enjoy it on it’s own or with a little soda and a twist of grapefruit.
77 Whiskey Breuckelen Local Rye and Corn ($77.30)
One of three offerings available in Alberta, (one is a Gin) this whiskey is a wonderful sipper on its own or in a Manhattan. They do everything by scratch at the distillery and source only local NY grains, mostly grown by their farmer, Thor. They have a farmer named Thor; what more do you need?!
Compass Box Oak Cross ($70.30)
Last but not least, this is one where you can gather with some friends and it will encourage you to throw the cork in the fire. I love Compass Box for their transparency. This whisky is 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuaine & 20% Teaninich. Vatted into a highland malt blend with 60% going into first fill American and 40% going into their hybrid French/American Oak casks for a further 6 months. Top notch!
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So, empty your piggy banks, take in your bottles and cans, head to one of the shops listed above, and buy the best damn bottle of whisky $80 can buy…in Alberta…in 2018.
Tell them we sent you…they’ll probably treat you worse! haha
Until next time!
Cheers/Slainte Mhath!!
The Edmonton Scotch Club
@EdmScotchClub

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