The 5 Best Value Whiskeys: Our Top Picks
An ideal $30 bottle for bourbon, rye, Scotch, Irish and Canadian whisky drinkers
Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.
What separates the Ultimate Spirits Challenge from other drinks awards?
Value. As in, the USC, which launched in 2010 and had a thirteenth consecutive year of record submissions (with entries from more than 50 nations), actually designates some high-scoring entries as “Great Values,” meaning these spirits not only earned high marks during the blind tastings but also represent something the average consumer could actually afford.
The trick here is that just because Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel scored a 96/100 and has an MSRP of $39.99 doesn’t mean you’re ever gonna find it for that price. So for the five whisk(e)y picks below, which include the tasting notes from the Ultimate Spirits judges, we made sure to pick bottles that you could probably find in a good local liquor store today (hence, the Drizly links). As well, while the USC seems to cap Great Value at around $50-$60, we went for $30(ish), using prices we found in New York. If you want the full list of top-tier, great value whiskeys, go here.
Scotch: Grand Old Parr 12 Years Old
Also designated as a Finalist (one of the top-scoring tiers), this blended Scotch, even at just 40% ABV, was considered “pleasant and briny at first on the palate with charred grain, caramel, and savory herbs marrying well before a honey-tinged finish.”
Bourbon: Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2014
We’ve profiled the value of Evan Williams before. This release features “aromas of maple baked peaches with a hint of vanilla … sweet but not cloying. The soft texture adds to the overall indulgence of the flavors, gushing with caramel, fire-roasted sweet corn, creamy coffee, and baking spices.” (If ordering from a local store, check to bottle year, as the Vintage 2014 was the specified winner here).
Irish Whiskey: The Busker Triple Cask Triple Smooth
Smooth, indeed. This blended Irish whiskey is “incredibly layered [with a] complex nose with aromas of cardamom, vanilla beans, allspice and nutmeg…the palate displays a silky texture with a touch of wood tannin dryness that creates a pleasant and complex profile.”
Rye (American): Roulette 4 Years Old Straight Rye
Sourced from Indiana and featuring a classic 95% rye/5% barley mashbill, this young-ish rye has a “touch of clove, vanilla and dried cherries [which] offer some sweet aromatics intertwined with the spicy grain notes. Robust flavors show off the spiciness of toasted rye, supported with notes of cherry and almond pastry, salted sugar cookie, and a coffee-toffee finish.”
Canadian: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Crown Royal actually had four of their offerings on the “Great Value” list. This blended whisky is “a dignified Canadian Rye with pronounced notes of crushed apple, dried apple chips, fresh cherry, cherry wood, toasted oak, pine resin, Douglas fir. Beautiful accents of clove, allspice, and nutmeg season the initial stone fruit profile.”
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