The Gift of Scotch
December 21, 2009 1:45 PM   Subscribe

What is a good Scotch for ~$200?

My co-worker is retiring after 30+ years of service. About $200 has been collected in order to buy him a nice bottle of scotch.

I know he likes scotch and I have seen him drink Glenlivet and Glenfiddich in the past. I also know that he likes Oban. I am looking for a ~$200 bottle in the Vancouver, British Columbia market.
posted by vansly to Food & Drink (37 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Highland Park
posted by Abiezer at 1:47 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Johnny Walker Blue, perhaps.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:49 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Should add it's the 18-year-old that routinely wins the plaudits; should fall well within your budget too but can't care up an exact Canadian price.
posted by Abiezer at 1:51 PM on December 21, 2009

You can get a bottle of Laphroaig 25 for around $300 give or take a few... If heaven has a taste, then this is it.

If not, I would get him two bottles -- $200 is kind of an awkward price for scotch. Normally, bottles range from $50-$100, and then, above $300. Here's a couple of my favourites for ~< $100: Laphroaig 15, Tallisker 15, McCallan 18. Go to a fancy-pants liquor store, and ask an attendant if anyone likes scotch. They would probably be very happy to help you. Especially if you're going to drop 200 bucks.
posted by chicago2penn at 1:58 PM on December 21, 2009

Oh man - I like Greg Nog's idea. $150 bottle of scotch and a nice snifter. Mmmm. Now that is what I call a nice first night of retirement.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:02 PM on December 21, 2009

Highland Park is the best Scotch in the world. Anyone who says differently is mistaken. Their 18 year is roughly $70 - $100. Their 30 year is more than $200, though.
posted by xmutex at 2:04 PM on December 21, 2009

Laphroaig is excellent, but for someone who enjoys Glenfiddich it could be over-flavoured.
I'd second The Macallan. A bottle of the 21-year-old should fit your budget.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:07 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thirding The Macallan.
posted by Bardolph at 2:16 PM on December 21, 2009

Nth'ing laphroaig! If you like that islay taste, then lagavulin is also fantastic!
posted by TheBones at 2:27 PM on December 21, 2009

You can get snifters engraved with a message, too. There are tons of places online that can do it for as little as $20 (snifter + engraving).
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:33 PM on December 21, 2009

The question is is he drinking the Glenvivit and Glenfiddich because he really likes their taste, or because they are the only single-malts readily available at most bars and restaurants. If you think its the later, and you think he is adventurous, the Islay scotches mentioned above, the Laphroig and Bruichladdich, would be good choices. Port Ellen also makes a couple of good Islay scotches in that price range.

However, if you think it’s the former, then I would stay away from the Islays and go with a Highland scotch like the The Macallan or the Highlander. Islays are very peaty, and many people think they taste distressingly like iodine. They are sort of the blue cheese of scotch.
posted by rtimmel at 2:37 PM on December 21, 2009

Hgihland Park not Highlander. Sorry
posted by rtimmel at 2:37 PM on December 21, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the suggestions so far. I currently have a question in to his wife to see what is around the house. One unfortunate thing about my location is that I am in Vancouver. While we have a few stores with a good selection of Scotches, we also have the highest liquor taxes in Canada. I may have to head to Seattle for a few days and hit up Duty Free on the way home.
posted by vansly at 2:40 PM on December 21, 2009

Ask him. Not directly, mind you. Casually drop by his office/cube and ask him to recommend some good scotch for a friend. As rtimmel noted, he might be drinking what's available or reasonably priced, not necessarily what he would love.
posted by chairface at 2:47 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Most scotch starts to deteriorate at about 20 years. Don't get hypnotized by age.

My favorite is Lagavulin - quite smoky, but not one-note and overpowering like at least the younger versions of Laphroaig. At around $60, you can get him a 6-pack.

Better yet, get a 6-pack of the Distiller's Edition, which has six varied, top-quality single malts.
posted by KRS at 2:47 PM on December 21, 2009

AND Duty Free won't (very likely) have the kinds of Scotches you're looking for! At best, you can get a ginourmous bottle of Pinch for only slightly less than what you'd pay in a store. My experience with Duty Free at the Canadian border (I live in Seattle) is very disappointing. Seattle doesn't do much better either - although liquour prices are *slightly* lower here. If you find one you like, you can search the State Liquor Control Board's site here to see if you can find a store that has what you want.
posted by dbmcd at 2:55 PM on December 21, 2009

If he's drinking Glenlivit and Glenfiddich he's not really what you'd call a connoisseur yet. How about six fifty-dollar bottles that are representative of various regions and/or styles. A worthy sampler might include Macallan, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Balvenie, Tallisker, and perhaps a high-end blend. Then he can sit down with friends for a blind tasting and decide for himself what suits him. I promise there will be a pleasant surprise or two.
posted by dinger at 3:00 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Definitely the Islay Scotch--you could check out Jim Murray's Whisky Bible for more advice--it has detailed descriptions of most Scotch whiskies. Bunnahabhain is excellent as well.
posted by tyris33 at 3:00 PM on December 21, 2009

Nthing Highland Park. Oban has a rich caramelly peaty flavour, and H.P. is like that, to the power of AWESOME. Sooo good.
posted by Spinneret at 3:29 PM on December 21, 2009

Highland Park 18 makes a great gift.
posted by JV at 3:38 PM on December 21, 2009

Do you know what region your colleague prefers drinking fom?

There are five or so - I am most familiar with Speyside malts and have recently been getting more into spirits from Islay and Skye.

People here are recommending their favorites, and that's fine, but if your guy drinks a lot of scotch, then you need to know that preferences differ quite a bit and some people feel a lot more strongly about some regions than others. Possibly an issue for your guy, since you've listed 2 Speysides and a Highland. If you pull out something unusual from a region he likes, that'd be memorable, though something unusual from any region should do the job.

In terms of regional difference, you can relate it to drinking wine if you like. For instance, think of Islay and Skye malts as being the equivalent of a big Cab Sauv. Great for people that really appreciate the art of how the drink is put together, but not something for new starters. They're very heavy on the peat and seaweed and to the uninitiated it can be like being kicked in the face with a muddy boot.

Speysides are a lot more malty and tend to be smoother and kinder to the palate (though this is a gross generalisation, as I am talking more about regional characteristics than what you're guaranteed to get).

Whiskies vary greatly even within a single distillery. Different batches will have different characteristics. This is most noticeable when you drink bottles that are taken from a single barrel as opposed to a single batch.

If you want to get him something different, I would suggest looking at a few Japanese whiskies also. If he's okay with a blend, then I'd highly recommend the Hibiki 17yo. It's Speyside-ish in that it's very light on peat and quite smooth.

As for my recommendations:

Speyside: Glenfarclas 30 yo - this is my all-time favorite, which will probably mean nothing to most, but it's almost like drinking Christmas pudding. This will run you close to the $300 mark however. The 15yo is a good substitute. Not quite as deep, but still very very drinkable.

Islay: Ardbeg 'nearly there' - it's a 9 year old, but having sampled a fair amount of it, I prefer it to the more standard 10yo

As I said, I am not as familiar with other regions, but have had good experiences with Edradour (think it was a 10 or a 12 if memory serves) - this is a highland.

decent Japanese whiskies you might be able to find:

Hibiki 17yo (blended, but tastes wonderfully smooth)
Yamazaki 12yo
posted by CardinalRichelieuHandPuppet at 3:51 PM on December 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

I love Metafilter for questions like these. Thanks so much for asking this.

Nthing Highland Park. Like a tiny drop of heaven in a glass (Though I have never tasted Laphroig older than 10 yr. That's next on my Heaven Tasting list).

ps - Abiezer, I'm sure you meant "scare up", but saying "...I can't seem to care up the 'X'..." is about to become my new favorite way of telling someone I don't feel like doing something.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:01 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would not recommend anything peaty (Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg) for someone who likes Glenlivet and Glenfiddich. I also wouldn't recommend Talisker, as it tastes strongly of soap to myself and a few others.

I'd nth what other said that you'll find more around $200-$250 than you will at $300. But at $200 I would recommend JW Blue or Balvenie Port Wood 21yr.

But I think Dinger might be on to something. Get him a selection of bottles. You could throw some Islay malts in there to introduce him gently to their peaty goodness.

I'd recommend:
1) Balvenie Doublewood ~$60USD
2) JW Green ~$50USD
3) Laphroaig 15yr ~$65USD
4) Glenmorangie $18yr ~$100USD
5) A nice snifter.
posted by MonsieurBon at 4:09 PM on December 21, 2009

I like Greg Nog's idea. $150 bottle of scotch and a nice snifter.

Or, if you end up going with a $100 bottle, spend the change on an engraved hip flask.

(I'm inclined towards Highland Park 18, because it offers something familiar and unfamiliar compared to every single malt lover's standard drams: the Islay fanatics are given some honeyed sweetness, the Speyside advocates get exposed to that hint of salt and peat.)
posted by holgate at 4:09 PM on December 21, 2009

Er, don't know how I came up with $300 instead of $200, so ignore that part of my comment.
posted by MonsieurBon at 4:11 PM on December 21, 2009

Highland Park 18 is $139.95 in Ontario. And I saw it for cheap at the duty-free in L.A. a few weeks ago (they had a variety of ages).
posted by SNACKeR at 4:47 PM on December 21, 2009

Not a scotch drinker, but surrounded by folks who are. The requests at duty free on my way home were sufficient to get free luggage from the store. We bought:

Johnny Walker Blue
Hibiki 17yo
Highland Park 21

The Highland Park was very well received, as was the Hibiki.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:52 PM on December 21, 2009

Response by poster: Okay, more information from his wife. Apparently he likes "smoother" stuff like Dalwinnie, Craggenmore, and Glenkinchie. So that's a Highland, a Speyside and a Lowland. If that helps with any other specific recommendations, great.
posted by vansly at 4:56 PM on December 21, 2009

There is exactly one Scotch available in stock in the $175-$225 range in the Greater Vancouver area: Rosebank 18-year-old:

Everything else is either outside the Lower Mainland, or priced higher or lower. You'd need to special order, and you can't special order anything from them in quantities of less than a case (I've tried).

Highland Park 18-year-old runs $149.95 and is widely available. That seems to be the recommendation. Get him a nice glass, too.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 5:05 PM on December 21, 2009

I will jump on the Macallan bandwagon.

But, please. also consider Glenroths.
posted by Drasher at 6:01 PM on December 21, 2009

No specific recommendation, and I'm looking intently at the answers. But I would suggest getting one really nice bottle instead of several less expensive ones. A gift like this should be something that he would never (or very rarely) go out and get himself. As a regular Scotch drinker, he could go through a selection of $50-$100 bottles on his own if he wanted, but he might never buy himself that expensive bottle. Go big or go home, that's my suggestion.
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:03 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a Speyside man and highly recommend anything by Glenmorangie or Macallan, particularly given the other ones his wife mentioned he likes. The various offerings from these two are smooth and accessible and in my opinion have more going on than the three mentioned, particularly the various Glenmorangies. In regard to Laphraoig, Lagavulin, and pals, the world is divided into people who adore Islay malts and those who think they taste like smoked band-aids dredged from a swamp. If your friend likes his whiskies smooth and prefers the ones you mentioned, it may be safer to assume he's in the latter camp.

I like the sampler idea so that if you happen to strike out with one, he's still got more to choose from. I'd keep it to no more than three if you do that. You can find quality stuff at ~$70. Another option is to upgrade something he already likes. You know he likes Oban. He's probably drinking the standard 14 year old. They make an 18 year old for about $150 that leaves room for a couple of glasses to go with.

if you do get him any glasses, consider getting him something from the family of shapes that tasters use, not a snifter or a thick lowball glass. The wine people design different glasses to do different things for different wines and swear it affects the experience. They've done the same thing for spirits like whisky, cognac, and others. I'm not sure my palate is refined enough to tell the difference yet, but it's a way to do something special for a whisky drinker. Get him two so he can have a drink with a buddy.
posted by Askr at 9:26 PM on December 21, 2009

The Scotch whisky flavour map may be of use here.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:37 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Depending on the timing, you could get him a membership in the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I'm not a huge scotch fan, but my husband is, so I got him this last year for xmas. He did say their cask-strength bottlings are not exactly "smooth" though; the membership is more about getting invitations to local tastings (which are a really wonderful event for scotch lovers!) and dinners, and being able to order from their own single malts.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 7:37 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would do a scotch-specific glass, not a lowball.

As for the bottle itself, I would be wary about picking an expensive bottle in this range without knowing exactly what he likes. Since you apparently have his wife on your side, I would get her to find out what his dream bottle of scotch would be. Then go with that.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:03 AM on December 22, 2009

macallan. springbank.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2009

My favourite at the moment are the Islay whiskys, in particular Caol Ila (a 12-yr-old bottle of which I have just finished off with a couple of friends!). It's very drinkable, and quite a bit milder in flavour than most of the other Islays. Bunnahabhain, also an Islay, is also delicious, and relatively mild. In comparison, the Laphroaig is very strongly flavoured. To me, this one tastes salty, and almost seaweedy - I love it! To be honest, I don't think you can go too wrong with any of them.
posted by jonesor at 6:25 PM on December 22, 2009

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