Getting bargain shoppers to agree on the best affordable scotch might not be an easy task. There are certainly some inexpensive scotch whiskey out there, but how do we define which one is best? Does the best affordable scotch have to be single malt or can it be blended? Does it necessarily have to be smooth, or would you prefer to sacrifice some smoothness for special flavor and character? And how cheap does the best affordable scotch have to be to be considered at the top of the list? Of the few bargain-priced, scotch whiskeys I’ve tried I have never really found a very good blended malt that is smooth and flavorful. On the other hand, I’ve tried some affordable single malt scotch that is very smooth, but does have a whole lot of substance and taste. Lismore is a good, affordable single-malt scotch that comes to mind. Unless a single malt scotch is unusually smooth, I decided I’d rather pay a little more for something with some interesting scotch-like flavors. Since the more affordable scotch’s are not aged very long, they are hard to find. Time to check my favorite region for Scotch and see what is available.
Islay Single Malts
For character, flavor and excitement, Islay single malts are the best in my opinion. Unfortunately, they are also usually among the most expensive. I’ll never forget sitting in a restaurant with my wife on our 10th anniversary sampling scotches and choosing one with the weird name, Lagavulin. I thought it was amazing. Very scotchy and peaty. I also enjoyed what I thought was saltiness. When I went home I confirmed that what I was tasting was indeed salt and it’s from the barrels which are aged near the Atlantic ocean. With Islay single malts, you are literally sipping a bit of salt from the ocean. How neat is that? I later bought a bottle of the very expensive Lagavulin which costs about $90 today. I really learned to love it, but if only it was a little more affordable.
Best Affordable Single Malt in an Islay
Don’t think for a minute that MacGavins is anything close to being as good as Laphroaig or Lagavulin, but for the price it is quite good and even satisfies a little bit of the craving for the salty characteristics of an Islay single malt. MacGavins is not aged – or at least it doesn’t say how long on the bottle. The 1.75 Liter pictured above cost about $35.00. Even if it is not a premium Islay Single Malt, MacGavins is one of the best affordable single malt scotch whiskeys you can buy.
The MacGavins is very dry in the nose and really pretty smooth for a whiskey that doesn’t claim to be aged. I tasted some brown sugar, caramel and even a little pear. Also, there is definitely some noticeable saltiness – and that it is a good thing. The whiskey isn’t as dark, intense or peaty as either Laphroaig or Lagavulin, but it is certainly tastier than some of the cheap single malt scotch whiskeys I’ve had from other regions. MacGavins is a keeper for an every day, good drinking, Islay single malt scotch. Either Lismore or McGavins are the best affordable single malt scotch that I’ve tried. Take your pick.