When it comes to expensive habits, collecting whiskey is right up there with the best of them – and single malts even more so.
Sure, you can go out and splash $200,000 and more on a Lalique decanter filled with Macallan (and who hasn't done something similar in the course of a wild, impetuous youth?), or even bypass the decanter entirely and drop $2 million on a bottle of Macallan Fine & Rare 60 Year Old, as one bidder did at an auction in 2019.
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But the plain fact is that you don't necessarily need to break the bank in order to enjoy a great malt. While you can spend $20,000 or more on Highland Park's 96-point 50-year-old bottling, you can get a malt with the same score for a fraction of that price – the Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask whisky has a global average price of $167, for example.
There have long been bargains to be had when whiskey shopping, no matter what style of whiskey you prefer, although collectability has pushed prices up in recent years. While Scotch has led the price charge, Bourbon has hit some fearsome heights in recent years, and even Irish whiskey – long the best bargains of the spirit world – has started to reach for the sky.
What makes a whiskey expensive is the same as it is wine – small volume, big reputation and big demand – but whiskey also has longevity on its side. A bottle will keep indefinitely with no appreciable fall off in taste, unlike wine. Rarity has been good for whiskey, but the best whiskeys are not beyond the reach of mere mortals, unlike some wines we could mention.
For this series of "best value" stories, we work with a more direct point-to-dollar ratio for a simplified "bang for buck" scale than our standard algorithm for suggesting the best value wines. Simply dividing the score by the price gives a value factor and the higher the factor the better the value – a kind of points-per-dollar scale. The higher the value factor, the more points per dollar. And every wine has a minimum aggregated critic score of 91.
That said, it's important to note a couple of things – while these value factors are low by comparison with some of the wines we've looked at recently, the prices aren't out of the park. The most expensive bottle on the list is $239. It's also important to notice that scores for whiskies tend to be lower; there is none of the score inflation we have seen with wine in recent years. For whiskey drinkers, anything in the 80s is very good and anything in the 90s is pretty exceptional.Best Value Single Malts on Wine-Searcher:
|Wine Name||Value factor|
|The BenRiach Original 10 Year Old, Speyside||1.72|
|Ardbeg An Oa, Islay||1.52|
|Aberlour a'Bunadh, Speyside||0.98|
|Bowmore 18 Year Old, Islay||0.76|
|Kavalan Solist Ex-Bourbon Cask, Taiwan||0.67|
|Springbank 15 Year Old, Campbelltown||0.61|
|Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask, Taiwan||0.57|
|Glenmorangie Signet, Highlands||0.44|
|Glendronach Parliament 21 Year Old, Highlands||0.43|
|Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique Cask, Taiwan||0.39|
The rather obvious elephant in this particular room is the presence of three Taiwanese whiskies sprinkled among the Scotches. Ever since the Kavalan distillery opened in 2005, its bottlings have been wowing whiskey lovers across the world. The critics love them too – the Sherry, Bourbon and wine cask finishes have aggregated scores of 96, 95 and 94, respectively.
Elsewhere, it's business as usual for Scotland, with a nice spread of regions. Speyside does well, as you'd expect, while Glendronach from the northeastern Highlands and Glenmorangie from the northern Highlands demonstrate that Highlands does not just mean Speyside.
The BenRiach in the top spot deserves a special mention, though. With an aggregated score of 93 and a global average price of just $54, it really is quite special – and you can pick it up much cheaper than that in Europe, too. Even in the US you can get it for as little as $43.
The Ardbeg is another bargain – a 94-point malt with a global average price of $62; and yes, you can pick that one up for much less, too.
All these malts represent great value and they all have another thing in common – they all taste great, too. With global average prices running from $57 to $239 and scores ranging from 93 to 96, the only real question left to answer is why aren't you already shopping?