Jul 202010

Though we all love those 18 year old malts…cask strength monsters…and bold pricey Ardbegs…it is fairly reasonable to assume that it is a little byond most of us to kick the hell out of one of those bottles on a daily basis.  Ahem…not that we’d be daily sippers or anything though, right? 

So, while we await a bottle of the mysterious McCutcheon’s to become a reality on our bar (come on, folks…what’s the reference here?), we must settle for something a little less refined.  My aristocracy has bounds. 

That bottle, that daily dram, for me is Highland Park 12. 

Not very original, I know, but originality for the sake of originality is something I have foregone since high school (maybe university).  This is simply the most palate-pleasing whisky for all moods and cravings. 

The important things to consider are 1) price and 2) drinkability.

So what are your ‘go-to’ bottles?

  30 Responses to “Got a ‘go-to’ dram (or drink of another sort)?”

  1. Robert sticks with his 3L Grants.

  2. First attempt from iPhone…here goes!

    I have a few go-to bottles I like to keep on hand, aiming to strike a sensible balance between cost and quality.

    1 – laphroaig quarter cask – this is a great prayed whisky bottled at a healthy 46% (48%? Curt?). At $45 this is an outstanding value.

    2 – Aberlour 10 – at $35, this is another good buy. It doesn’t have the same punch as the Laphroaig…the focus here being sherry.

    3 – the aforementioned Highland Park 12. Very nice balanced whisky that can suit many a mood and situation.

    Between these three I have covered off on a pretty wide variety of tastes and can thus buffer (or at least soften the damage on) the good stuff.

  3. It’s an interesting question for a rummie, since there are so many lower to middle end ones that are actually quite good. If I had to pick three:

    1. English Harbour five year. This is quite simply one of the best mixers of the Cane ever distilled, and everyone in the club thinks so.

    2. Captain Morgan Private Stock. I suspect that even though it doesn’t say so, it’s spiced, but it’s also a phenomenally smooth almost-sipper, and I mean to get another bottle soon.

    3. A bit more pricey (~$60) but the elite of the midrange affordables is without a doubt the Zaya 12 year old, about which not enough good things can be said. The club picked it twice so far, and I have a bottle tucked away in the pantry for those who don’t deserve the Coruba.

    • Wholeheartedly agree on the EH5, you’re getting a helluva upgrade over basic rum for just a few dollars more. The Zaya is nice but @ $60 you’re starting to creep into the less-frequent use price range.

      Can’t comment on the Captain Morgans, perhaps this is a good choice for a gathering down the road?

  4. Although I’m a big fan of the 18 year olds ( Highland Park , Springbank, Talisker, Macallan ect…..) I would recommend for best bang for the buck the 12 year old Glendronach( $62.00 ) and the even better 15 year old ($78.00 ) Glendronach . Compares well to the 18 year Macallan for quality . As for the 60 year old McCutcheon’s who can afford this fictional malt . Second choice would be the Bushmills 16 year old at $ 60 this is the same price as the 12 year old Highland park .


    I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.

    • Hahaha.

      HP18 is amazing. That $108 price tag is somewhat of a deterant for a daily though.

      I have a bottle of Glendronach 12 that…underwhelmed me. I’ve heard previous incarnations (when it was still bottled at 43%) were better. But, yes…you’re the second to mention that the 15 is great.

      Any fan of Bushmills is a friend of mine. Broke out a cask strength single cask offering last month for the gang. Rum cask matured.

  5. My every day sippers are whatever I’m lucky enough to have in my cabinet at the time!!

    THat being saud there are a few I prefer:

    1. Highland Park 12, can’t say enough about this, great value!
    2. Aberlour 10 at 30ish bucks a bottle doesn’t dent the bank account and tastes pretty damn good
    3. Bushmills Black Bush, my wife bought me a litre bottle in the states for about 30 bucks!!!! Triple distilled and mighty tasty!

  6. I’m poor so I don’t really have a go-to dram except for the leftovers from liqourature night and once n s while sixer of AGD. however if I did have money I would have a bottle of the Strathisla 12 which you can get for under 50 bucks.

  7. My go-to is almost always LaPhroaig 10 year. I’m poor so bottles in the $40-60 range are out of reach right now. When I can’t afford anything much over $20, I usually grab a bottle of Glenlivet. But… someday I’ll amass an impressive collection! ^-^

  8. I am not much for scotch and prefer rum or bourbon. If I were to pick a scotch I’d probably go with the Balvenie doublewood. When it comes to rum I think Pampero and Mt. Gay extra old top the list…

    Now with bourbon…Buffalo Trace is great; especially for the price (might be the best dollar value and drinks like a more expensive bourbon). I also really like Basil Hayden’s. But the top of the list is Van Winkle 12yr. It can be rough to find it, though, so I generally have to buy 2 or 3 bottles when I do…

    • Griff, great to hear from a bourbon enthusiast. We only recently introduced a bourbon at the last gathering I hosted (Hitchhiker’s Guide) and the reaction was mixed. Bottle of choice was Buffalo Trace – fresh mint for juleps or just straight up. Despite all the good things I had read about Buffalo Trace, the group’s overall response was lukewarm. I think the dissonance can be partially attributed to the fact that none of us really knew what we we getting into with bourbon. Was Buffalo Trace a good “entry level” selection, or are there others better suited to the beginner’s palate? Any suggestions on how one might cultivate an appreciation for bourbon?

      • Clint,
        First, I am going to hazard a guess that you guys are in the UK, right? Because I suspect that might seriously impact the cost of bottles that are rather inexpensive in the US; Buffalo Trace is $22 (less than $20 on sale). I consider it to be a phenom of a bourbon at this price. It isn’t going to be a drink you remember for years to come, but it is quite smooth and (I think) a very drinkable Bourbon that is far superior to any other I have tried in the $20-25 range. While I consider it to be an “entry level” on price, it might not “highlight” the unique taste of bourbon (vs scotch).

        Hands down, Van Winkle is the best of the best…but seeing as it is tough to get in the states, I think it might be near impossible overseas! However there are a few I would suggest.
        1) Booker’s – This is Beam’s top product. Can be pricey, and is quite hot at barrel strength (125+ proof). Water and/or ice is a must, but it has a fantastic “bourbon” flavor (vanilla/toffee sweetness) and is worth a try.
        2) Basil Hayden’s – Also from the Beam family, this is a very reserved and light bourbon. It has a high rye content in the mash, and many think this adds hints of spice and peppermint to it…While I don’t agree, I do love that it is never “over the top”.

        ***both of the above run $40-50 in California, so they aren’t entry level on price, but I think they are if you’re trying for a range of characteristics.

        I’ll take a look at my bar tonight and try and come up with a couple of solid “entries” for you.

        • Griff, we are actually in Canada, so the price is fairly reasonable for Buffalo Trace, the Van Winkle I think I saw the other day for a little over $100, so it’s quite a bit more than we’d normally spend on bourbon. Is it worth paying around 3x the price of Buffalo Trace for it?

          As for the Zacapa you mentioned, I have been scouring the city trying to find it, but alas no success. I’ve heard that the closest bottle is a 2 1/2 hour drive away, so it’s up to our resident rummy to go get it if he really wants it 🙂

          • Pat,
            You should find out which bottle the Van Winkle is. In Kentucky (my sister lives there; actually Buffalo Trace is a client of her’s!) it is slightly cheaper, but out in California here is the breakdown:
            10yr (90 proof) – $30
            10yr (107 proof) – $35-40
            12yr – $50-60
            15yr – $80
            20yr – $130
            23yr – $200+
            **13yr rye – $75-90

            ** Van Winkle is known for using wheat in his mash rather than the traditional grains; still a bourbon, though, because it is more than 51% corn.

            I have purchased all except the rye. While I consider all of them to be at the top of the scale if I consider the price then here is my suggestion.

            1) 12yr – easily worth 2x its price, this is my favorite whiskey of ALL TIME. Special enough to save for select occasions, yet still “affordable” (so to speak) to pour on a weeknight.

            2) 10yr (both) – at less than $35 I consider these to be the best “everyday” bourbon one can find. I actually prefer the 90 proof and don’t think the 107 is worth an extra $10 if you have the option.

            3) 15yr – Not quite at the level of the 20 or the 23 it is still a remarkable drink. I would put it on par with an 18-20 year old scotch. You wouldn’t think so, but the extra three years adds a lot of unique character to it.

            4) 20yr – Not the 23yr, but it is SOOOOO close. I think anyone that appreciates a good whiskey should splurge on the 23yr at some point in their life (I managed to justify it at 29…), but when you consider cost the 23 and 20 are so close that I can’t see the point in the extra $100.

            5) 23yr – Flat out the single best spirit I have ever tasted. No contest. But you are paying a lot to enjoy it, even if a comparable scotch would cost 3x as much!

            My recommendation: As long as the $100 isn’t for a 10yr I would seriously consider giving it a go.

  9. Clint,
    I am also amazed that no one has mentioned Zacapa 23yr rum! While I too am a fan of Zaya (although it was subtly better before they moved production to Trinidad), Zacapa is better in every way Zaya is good. In fact it won so many awards that I believe it has been retired by most competitions (and now is the “standard”). Tends to run about $45 here, but is up there with some of the best spirits I have ever had.

    ***While it says it is “23yr” it is produced using the solera process, so I believe the final product is a range.

    • I’ve been looking for the Zacapa 23 for some time, but thus far, no luck in getting a bottle here in Calgary. Not much point talking about a rum I haven’t tasted yet, let alone seen.

      That said, I’m not entirely a fan of the solera rums: I fully concede this is solely my experience with the two top end variations I’ve tried (Ron Mathusalem and Santa Teresa 1796), and my preference for more full bodied, darker rums.

      • Keep your eye out for the Zacapa; it is so much better than most of the competition that its tough to describe. I like the Ron Mathusalem BUT, I do find that it is a little hotter than I prefer. I think of that one as the “top shelf mixer” rum.

        So you guys are in Calgary? My mistake on being overseas, although it might be about the same when it comes to finding high end Bourbon. I have had a lot of luck ordering online for some of the hard to find items (all the Van Winkle for starters!).

        You asked what I now realize is an impossible question (good entry bourbons)… I am hopelessly tainted by my purchases! There is a really good website that I always check before picking up new bottles (it is all user reviews; short but informative) called bourbonenthusiast.com that I highly recommend. My main suggestion would be to try at least one “wheated” bourbon…(love ’em!).

  10. Hey Griff, I’m pretty sure the label said “Pappy Van Winkle” so that would make it either the 15, 20, or 23 year old. I’ll check on the way home. Based on my guess it looks to be a very reasonable price then, maybe I’ll grab a bottle!

  11. I know the exchange rate for US/CAN is marginal (.97/1), but how do stores generally price merchandise? If the label has a detailed picture of an old man then it is 15yr or older (unless this bottle is a few years old). The 12yr has a creme label (and it says “Lot B”, but this is the only 12yr).

    I highly recommend giving it a go; anyone that enjoys a good whiskey (Rye, Canadian, or Bourbon) will (at worst) think this is a well crafted libation. Cheers!

  12. Sure. I’m always willing to offer my thoughts when solicited. If you ever have any questions you can email me at sgriffith80@gmail.com.

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