The most expensive single malt ever sold went for an eye-watering $628,205. That’s a lot of money. For that, I’d want every sip to taste like angels dancing on my tongue. And given that it was a rare Macallan ‘M’, it probably will – or did.
In actual fact, its mammoth price tag can also be attributed to its large crystal decanter, standing 28 inches tall and carrying an inebriating 6 litres of the golden nectar. Fear not, however, regular-sized bottles of the ‘M’ are available as well – if you can find one; there are just 1,750 in the world – selling for a steal at $4,500.
Luckily, such are the complexities of whisky distillation, from Scotch to bourbon to Irish, a single malt or blend can be found to match all predilections for a fraction of the price – you don’t need to break the bank to find a taste and flavour that suits you.
Here, gents, are 10 of the best world whiskies under £50, as chosen by Alex Huskinson, shop manager of The Whisky Exchange in London Bridge…
1. PAUL JOHN BRILLIANCE 46% – £38.45
Indian Single Malt
Fantastic stuff all the way from Goa. Soft, elegant and fruity with lovely exotic spice character. This will really surprise in a blind tasting.
2. COMPASS BOX SPICE TREE 46% – £40.95
Blended Malt Scotch
From artisan blending house Compass Box, there are no surprises with a name like this. Wonderful clove and ginger spice expertly balanced with toffee flavours and a toasty oak finish.
3. FOUR ROSES SMALL BATCH 45% – £26.95
An amazing-value bourbon, and deliciously drinkable stuff from the fantastic Four Roses distillery. A magnificent balance of drying spice and vanilla sweetness, with floral and smoky tones that add complexity.
4. NIKKA TAKETSURU PURE MALT 43% – £44.95
Japanese Blended Malt
A blend of Yoichi and Miyagikyo malts from Nikka, named after the father of Japanese whisky Masataka Taketsuru, this is a masterclass in balance. Combining rich fruit, a hint of earthy character and soft spice, with a great oily mouthfeel, this is a complex beast.
5. TEELING SMALL BATCH 46% – £32.25
Irish Blended Whiskey
A real statement of intent from this new Irish distillery, a blend with a higher-than-normal malt content, this has been finished in rum casks to give it extra soft spice. Lovely mouth-coating stuff with grassy and fruity notes.
6. PORT ASKAIG 12 Year Old 45.8% – £44.45
Islay Single Malt Scotch
An undeclared single malt from Islay, this is a really drinkable dram. Combining a honeyed attack with citrus notes, brine and a warm peaty finish, you end up just wanting more. Elegant and moreish.
7. ARRAN 14 Year Old 46% – £41.95
Island Single Malt Scotch
Arran turns 20 this year and has consistently produced great single malt whisky. This is the standard-issue bottling and has Arran’s trademark white stone-fruit character with a lovely creamy mouthfeel and biscuity finish, with a hint of salt.
8. ABERLOUR A’BUNADH 59.6% – £39.45
Speyside Single Malt Scotch
A real powerhouse of a whisky. 100% sherry casks give this whisky a red apple and raisin character, and the full strength means it takes no prisoners. This is not a shy and retiring whisky, but for sherry heads it is a must-have.
9. KILCHOMAN MACHIR BAY 46% – £39.45
Islay Single Malt Scotch
Fabulous stuff from the new kids on the Islay block. Kilchoman is a true farmhouse distillery that opened in 2005. This is a young whisky, but amazingly well balanced. A combination of bourbon and sherry casks mean you have chocolate and cloves mixing with creamy vanilla and the powerful peat and salt coming from the spirit.
10. BALBLAIR 2003 46% – £40.95
Highland Single Malt Scotch
A great spring/summer whisky. Light and delicate, but surprisingly complex. Notes of apples and crushed malt, with lemon citrus and poached pears. This has not been chill filtered so the mouthfeel is nice and full.