BANG!
Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Even when it comes to the mad behaviour of a certified malt
maniac, some endeavors are more foolish than some others.
The first version of this BFYB List contained precisely calculated
'BFYB' scores (the result of a complex formula) for all the single
malts I've tried. I'll explain why this was foolish (even by my
standards) in the history of the BFYB List below.

Laphroaig 10 years old cask strength - a very good, affordable whisky
Dalmore 12 years old (old bottling)

The Ardbeg 'Lord of the Isles' shown at the right is a very nice dram, but at over 150 Euro's a bottle it's hardly what I'd call a sound investment. That money will buy you three bottles ofthe amazing Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength - which is, quite frankly, a better whisky in my book.

Or how about a bottle of the top-of-the-line Johnnie Walker Blue Label that I already mentioned earlier.
If you're really lucky you may find a bottle for circa 150 Euro's. That's just plain lunacy, as far as I'm concerned - especially because some liquorists still offer the superb Lagavulin 16yo for less than 50 Euro's. This means I can drink at least three bottles of Lagavulin 16yo for the price of a single bottle of Blue Label. Hardly a hard choice, is it? No, I didn't think so either...

But then again, it isn't quite so easy when you're actually standing in front of the shelves of your liquorist with your money burning in your pocket. In an attempt to rationalize my purchasing process I played around with my calculator for a couple of hours, trying to find some kind of 'formula' to calculate precisely how much 'bang' I could expect in return for my 'bucks'.

Although the price range of single malts stretches from less than 20 to over 100,000 Euro's, it's not neccessary to pay more than 50 Euro's for a great malt. That is the street price of the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength here in Europe. Fine whiskies like the Talisker 10yo, Ardbeg 10yo, Balvenie 12yo, Higland Park 12yo and Glenfarclas '105' can be obtained at an even lower price. I sometimes pay more than 50 Euro's for a bottle, but that's usually for a very special occasion. Under 'normal' circumstances I'd have to pay an average price of  + 40 Euro's for a good malt. Paying twice as much probably won't double my fun and the odds get worse at higher prices.

So, let's say I'm prepared to pay 40 Euro's for a (0.7 litre) bottle of good single malt whisky. Using this as
my 'Fair Price Anchor', I can take the initial quality score of a single malt, and add or subtract 1 point for
every Euro price difference. Next, I take a look at the alcohol percentage. I'm a big fan of cask strength
malts. For one thing, you can simply dilute them in various stages. That way, you can enjoy different
'incarnations' or 'moods' of a malt before it reaches the 'standard' 40% ABV. Some whiskies (like the Saint
Magdalene 1979 UDRM) even seem to change completely depending on the amount of water you add.
Besides; you simply get more alcohol for your money. That's why every 3% of extra alcohol adds one point to the BfyB score.

The final element in the equation used to be the size of the bottle. Before litre bottlings started to go out of fashion, they generally offered better value than normal bottles because they contain over 40% more whisky than a 700 ml bottle and 30% more than a 0.75 litre bottle. For those of you with the same consumption pattern as me: that means 20 stiff drams per bottle instead of just 15! At the same time, the price difference is sometimes less than 10%. That's music to any malt maniac's ears. Unfortunately, litre bottlings are becoming rare these days, making the distinction useless. What's more, only official bottlings (OB's) are available in litre bottlings, giving them an unfair advantage over independent bottlings (IB's). That's why I decided I had to remove this element from the equation. So, these days I can calculate exactly how much 'bang' I got for my 'buck' using this formula;

Longmorn 15 years old (old bottling)

(X ~ Y) +/- [(Z-40)/3] = BB

As you can see I haven't squandered my youth by paying attention in math class.
Here's what the formula means to represent;
 
X = The 'fair price' in Euro's (in my case 40 Euro's)
Y = The actual 'street price' for the malt (in Euro's)
Z = The actual alcohol percentage (ABV) of the bottle
BB = The 'Bang-For-Your-Buck' score

Sounds complicated, you say? Not at all. Let me give you an example...
 
When we look at the Longmorn 15yo, the friendly price of 30 Euro's (in July 2001) adds a cool (40-30=) 10 points
to the original 81 'quality' points, pushing it to a cool 91 value points. It is bottled at 45%, so that means two more
points for power. As a result, the final 'BFYB' score is 93 points; not too shabby, I would say... Another example; a
litre of Dalmore 12yo costs only 32 Euro's in 2001 (43% bottling), so the initial score of 80 points translates into
(80+8+1=) 89 value points. Let's do one more - an expensive one this time. The Macallan 18yo went for +/- 75
Euro's in 2001. That means we need to subtract (75-40=) 35 points from the original score of 89 points, putting
it at 54 BFYB points. The fact that this 'Mac' is bottled at 43% pushes the score up by one point, but it's clear that
55 BFYB points isn't a very good 'value' score.

Applying these calculations produces a list that looks quite different from my Hit List.
Actually, this new 'Bang-For-Your-Buck' list resembles the actual content of my shelves a lot closer.
However, after I finished the list I realized it may have been the ultimate exercise in futility. First of all, there are considerable price differences between different shops and countries. The Dalmore 12 may set you back 32 Euro's here in Holland, but it's probably cheaper in France and more expensive in India or Taiwan. And that's not the only problem; the 'fair price' you're willing to pay (in my case 40 Euro's) is directly related to your discretionary income. Some people may consider 40 Euro's a lot of money while others have no problem spending 200 or 300 Euro's on a bottle of single malt whisky.

That means that the formula is only useful for fellow Dutchmen with an identical consumption pattern.
Effectively, everybody will have to figure out his or her own personal 'Bang-For-Your-Buck' formula. And that's not all - shortly after I published the first 'BFYB List' I became aware of a disturbing phenomenon. That phenomenon is called 'batch variation' and it means that official bottlings can show considerable differences between consecutive batches.
 
I didn't include independent bottlings in the original list because I felt it would be pointless to list bottlings that were released in very small numbers - you wouldn't be able to find them anyway. Well, as it turns out the same is true for specific batches of official bottlings. The BFYB value of the 'White Horse' Lagavulin 16yo from the early 1990's was phenomenal, but the more expensive 'Port Ellen' bottling that's available these days doesn't offer quite as much 'value'. After some careful consideration, I decided I had to to drastically chance my approach. Building a 'definitive' BFYB-List that will still be useful in five years time is simply impossible.

So, while this website has been growing larger and larger, this 'Bang-For-Your-Buck' List kept getting shorter and shorter. This has nothing to do with the availability of affordable single malts; keeping a full list with the 'BFYB' scores of all malts I've tried became difficult when I passed the 100 malts mark and virtually impossible after I passed the 500 malts mark. So, over the years I've seperated the chaff from the grain, first by removing all independent bottlings from the list (simply because there are only a few hundred bottles of that particular expression available), then the bottlings that were released over 5 years ago. I finally reduced the content to the twelve bottles listed above, but for your entertainment I've included the version of the list from the early noughties. The list below shows the BFYB score first, followed by the malt, the calculation and a brief description.

Ye Olde 'Bang-For-Your-Buck-List' (+/- 2000 AD)
Attention: Prices and ratings were valid valid for batches available in Holland during 2000.
Check the
Universal Currency Converter for conversion into your own currency.

***  Best Value for Money

97   Laphroaig 10yo
96   Talisker 10yo
96   Lagavulin 16yo
96   Glenfarclas 105
96   Highland Park 12yo
95   Macallan 12yo
95   Dalmore 12yo
94   Glenmorangie 10yo
93   Dufftown 10yo
93   Glen Ord 12yo
92   Longmorn 15yo
92   Balvenie 12yo DW
91   Balvenie 10yo
91   Glenlivet 12yo
90   Bunnahabhain 12yo
90   Glenfarclas 10yo

(86pts/35C/43.0%/1.00) - At 35 Euro's per litre, this is the quintessential BFYB malt.
(92pts/38C/45.8%/0.70) - Guaranteed to deliver a peppery punch at less than 40 C.
(95pts/40C/43.0%/0.70) - My beloved gentle peat monster still reigns on the Hit List.
(80pts/36C/60.0%/1.00) - Insane value at 60% ABV; cornerstone of any malt bar.
(85pts/35C/43.0%/1.00) - Another affordable malt that feels at home in any collection.
(86pts/37C/43.0%/1.00) - Still one of the best (affordable) sherried malts, but slipping.
(80pts/31C/43.0%/1.00) - Not a 'stellar' score at 80 points, but the perfect daily dram.
(81pts/33C/43.0%/1.00) - You can't go far wrong if you're in the mood for a light malt.
(76pts/24C/43.0%/0.70) - I've always had a soft spot for this highly affordable dram.
(80pts/27C/40.0%/0.70) - An enjoyable malt with just that extra bit of 'Highland' spunk.
(82pts/37C/45.0%/1.00) - A full flavoured Highlander; 37 Euro's buys a litre at 45% ABV.
(85pts/33C/40.0%/0.70) - An ultra-smooth Speysider with just enough sherry influence.
(81pts/30C/40.0%/0.70) - 3 Euro's cheaper than the 12yo, but I prefer the Doublewood.
(76pts/25C/40.0%/0.70) - Another cornerstone of any drinks cabinet; the reference malt.
(81pts/31C/40.0%/0.70) - Not a peat monster like its Islay neighbors, but a great dram.
(79pts/29C/40.0%/0.70) - This isn't quite as sherried as the Macallan 12 - great balance.

In my defense: I'm Dutch...
I can't really complain about the availability of single malts here in Holland, but because malt whiskies can't be sold in supermarkets, liquorists don't have to worry about competition too much. So, prices are usually a tad higher than in France or Germany. That means that around the year 2001 your average 70cl bottle of your average 10yo or 12yo single malt whisky would typically cost you around 40 Euro's. That's quite  reasonable, but not quite as cheap as in France, Germany or Italy. Older malts are much more expensive here in Holland by comparison. For example, in 2001 a bottle of Macallan 30yo had a pricetag of +/- 300 Euro's. As far as I'm concerned, that puts it far outside the realm of reason.
(Please note that nowadays these prices look much more reasonable...)

**  Reasonable

89   Cragganmore 12yo
89   Connemara NAS
88   Tomatin 10yo
88   Ardbeg 10yo
86   Glen Scotia 14yo
86   Glen Grant NAS
86   Inchgower 12yo
86   Oban 14yo
85   Glen Grant 10yo
85   Ardbeg 17yo
85   Glen Garioch 15yo
85   Tamdhu NAS
85   An Cnoc 12yo
84   Bruichladdich 10yo
83   Tamnavulin 10yo
82   Glengoyne 12yo
81   Dalwhinnie 15yo
80   Cardhu 12yo

(81pts/32C/40.0%/0.70) - Fairly light and subtle in style, but with a lot of heart.
(76pts/27C/40.0%/0.70) - An excellent Irish alternative for the Islay peat monsters.
(75pts/27C/40.0%/0.70) - Not a 'high profile' malt, but amazing value at just 27 Euro's.
(86pts/40C/46.0%/0.70) - Not the cheapest Islay malt around, but what a beauty!
(84pts/38C/40.0%/0.70) - The friendlier priced Springer alternative from Campbeltown.
(65pts/19C/40.0%/0.70) - Only 65 points, but at 19 Euro's it beats most premium blends.
(76pts/31C/43.0%/0.70) - Hardly a remarkable dram, but reasonably friendly priced.
(77pts/32C/43.0%/0.70) - One of Diageo's 'Classic Malts' - not my personal favourite.
(70pts/25C/40.0%/0.70) - Better than the NAS version, but hardly worth 6 more Euro's.
(92pts/47C/40.0%/0.70) - An amazing smooth Islay malt from the shores of 'Kildalton'
(78pts/39C/43.0%/1.00) - A fairly average malt that makes it this far in a litre bottling.
(72pts/27C/40.0%/0.70) - Here's another malt I have a soft spot for - just a nice bottle.
(73pts/28C/40.0%/0.70) - Fairly good dramming at 28 Euro's a bottle. A blend beater...
(75pts/31C/40.0%/0.70) - Maybe my least favourite Islay malt, but still decent value.
(71pts/28C/40.0%/0.70) - One of the best summertime malts you'll find below 30 Euro's.
(73pts/32C/43.0%/0.70) - Maybe just a tad too light for my tastes, but good value.
(72pts/32C/43.0%/0.70) - Another malt that's a little lighter than I would have preferred.
(72pts/32C/40.0%/0.70) - No high flyer, but blends twice as expensive can't beat it.

*  Unattractive

79   Miltonduff 12yo
79   Royal Lochnagar 12yo
79   Glenmorangie Port WF
78   Benriach 10yo
78   Benromach 12yo
78   Speyburn 10yo
77   Glenmorangie Madeira
77   Glen Elgin NAS
77   Glenkinchie 10yo
77   Auchentoshan 10yo
76   Glen Deveron 12yo
76   Strathisla 12yo
76   Littlemill 8yo
75   Balblair 16yo
74   Inchmurrin 10yo
74   Arran NAS
73   Laphroaig 15yo
73   Glenlivet 21yo
73   Glenfiddich NAS
72   Balvenie 21yo Port
71   Glenturret 12yo
71   Springbank NAS CV

(74pts/36C/43.0%/0.70) - I know I'm a penny-pincher, but 36 Euro's seems a bit much.
(74pts/35C/40.0%/0.70) - I guess it's nice to try a fairly 'obscure' malt once or twice.
(85pts/47C/43.0%/0.70) - This is a malt I love, but I can't afford too many bottles.
(71pts/34C/43.0%/0.70) - A score in the lower 70's doesn't warrant a price of 34 Euro's.
(75pts/37C/40.0%/0.70) - 37 Euro's is a tad rich for an 'average' single malt in my book.
(69pts/31C/40.0%/0.70) - Hardly expensive, but still too high a price for a 60's malt.
(83pts/47C/43.0%/0.70) - I love this one just slightly less than the Port Wood Finish.
(70pts/35C/43.0%/0.75) - Simply not a very attractive price/performance ratio.
(66pts/30C/43.0%/0.70) - But I should probably add that this is a very personal opinion.
(68pts/31C/40.0%/0.70) - Once I must confess to prejudice towards young Lowlanders.
(63pts/27C/40.0%/0.70) - A friendly price, but the Tamdhu is a far better alternative.
(74pts/39C/43.0%/0.70) - Certainly not a bad malt, but arrogantly priced at 39 Euro's.
(65pts/29C/40.0%/0.70) - Another young Lowlander bites the dust - hardly worth it...
(75pts/40C/40.0%/0.70) - With such an average score a more average price seems fair.
(66pts/32C/40.0%/0.70) - Just not good and/or cheap enough to make my heart flutter.
(63pts/30C/43.0%/0.70) - But I imagine the quality will go up as the stocks mature.
(88pts/56C/43.0%/0.70) - A WONDERFUL malt, but a tad pricy for those of limited means.
(83pts/51C/43.0%/0.70) - This is a recommendable whisky, but the 12 offers better value.
(60pts/27C/40.0%/0.70) - Still not my favourite malt, but they seem to be improving now.
(87pts/60C/40.0%/0.70) - An excellent dram for special moments, too bad about the price.
(69pts/38C/40.0%/0.70) - What were they thinking, charging 38 C for sub-standard stuff?
(75pts/46C/46.0%/0.70) - Not a bad malt, just an average one - overpriced at 46 Euro's.

-  Unreasonable

69   Tormore 12yo
67   Deanston 12yo
67   Lochside 10yo
67   Glenmorangie Sherry
67   Tobermory NAS
66   Edradour 10yo
66   Isle of Jura 10yo
66   Loch Lomond NAS
64   Tullibardine 10yo
64   Drumguish 3yo
63   Macallan 18yo
53   Glenmorangie 18yo
48   Bowmore Darkest
08   Loch Dhu 10yo

(67pts/39C/43.0%/0.70) - But I should probably add that I have a personal aversion.
(57pts/30C/40.0%/0.70) - Before I tried it I didn't understand why Deanston is so rare.
(68pts/41C/40.0%/0.70) - Here my problem with overly 'oily' notes reduced enjoyment.
(73pts/47C/43.0%/0.70) - By far my least favourite of 'Morangie's special wood finishes.
(55pts/28C/40.0%/0.70) - Once again the oily elements keep me from enjoying this one.
(70pts/44C/40.0%/0.70) - And I've heard that some other batches were really bad.
(59pts/34C/43.0%/0.70) - Yet another 'oily' malt that doesn't quite deliver the goods.
(51pts/25C/40.0%/0.70) - A single malt that reaches my Shit List without the help of oil.
(61pts/37C/40.0%/0.70) - Oily and a bit 'herbal' (eugalyptus, fennel?) which I don't like.
(40pts/16C/40.0%/0.70) - Even at a measly 16 Euro's this single malt offers bad value.
(90pts/68C/43.0%/0.70) - A great malt, but at 68 Euro's I can get two good ones instead.
(82pts/70C/43.0%/0.70) - Nice enough, but certainly not worth twice the price of the 12.
(65pts/58C/43.0%/0.70) - Are they daft? This malt is simply WRONG! Not even worth 25 C.
(11pts/43C/40.0%/0.70) - The biggest disaster in recent malt history. WORST MALT EVER!

Before I came up with the 'lean and mean' list above, the BFYB-List used to be a lot longer.
However, circa two years after I started this site, I noticed a growing discrepancy between my Hit List and the bottles on my shelves - in other words; I didn't really put my money where my mouth was.

So there you have it.
Because these 'value' ratings are based on my personal 'likability' ratings, they are coloured by my preferences.
But I just don't see how you can determine the 'value' of a malt without taking the pleasure it provides into account.
And pleasure is, as we all know, a personal and subjective experience. An alternative approach to the system I've used would include a fictuous standard malt with a 'fair' rating and a 'fair' price - for instance 80 points and 40 Euro's. From there, you can calculate a fair price for each rating on your scale and determine your own 'value' range.
 
I hope the information on this page will help you to spend your malt money as sensible as possible.
Check out the Shit List for tips on how to spend your money unsensibly - or the Hot List if you want to know which whiskies are 'hot' now.
 

Another change compared to earlier versions of this Bang For Your Buck List concerns the 'stylistic' selection criteria.
In the past I've tried to collect three whiskies in four different styles (3 fairly light & accessible 'summertime' drams, 3 bigger,
rounder & maltier whiskies, 3 clearly 'sherried' malts and 3 peaty whiskies. In recent years prices for whisky - especially of the
Scotch variety) have grown more expensive, so I've loosened my criteria. I personally feel these are all good whiskies. What's
more; they're affordable enough for you not to start crying your eyes out if you happen to disagree with my personal taste ;-)
 
So, if the Beginner's Guide has inspired you to try a few drams (or even organise a tasting session with some friends), here
are a few whiskies that won't break the bank. For the price of one JW Blue you could, for example, get yourself four bottles
of the Tamdhu, the Aberlour 10yo, the Balvenie 12yo and (if you're feeling really brave) the Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength.

Cragganmore-DE-1
Balvenie Doublewood

The 'cask strength' and 'peated' varieties both scored well in the upper 80's in my book, but both are priced over 50 Euro's in most stores, so that puts them just out of 'BFYB' territory. With a street price of circa 40 Euro's this standard expression provides an excellent alternative for many Scotch 'brands' that have been sliding down a slippery slope in recent years while prices have been growing steadily in the opposite direction. Fortunately, there's a nice alternative from India now...

Amrut NAS 'Indian Single Malt Whisky' (46%, OB, India)
 
When the Indian 'Amrut' distillery entered the Malt Maniacs Awards for the very first time in 2008 they made a big impression.
All three expressions of Amrut I've recently tried (this regular expression bottled at 46% ABV, a cask strength version and a
peated bottling) performed very well against a backdrop of rising prices & dropping quality of many Scotch single malt whiskies.

value-whisky-01
value-whisky-02

Greenore 8yo (40%, OB, Ireland)
 

The Greenore is the 'ugly duckling' of the twelve whiskies on this list with a score 72 points and a street
price of almost 30 Euro's. That's a LOT more than the circa 20 Euro's it cost a few years ago, but still...

Considering that this is (A) Irish, (B) a grain whiskey and (C) just eight years old, that score of 'only' 72 points is mightily
impressive. This is the first young grain whisk(e)y that I actually liked, beating comparable Scottish products like the
'Blackbarrel' with a stick. Even though the price has gone up considerably recently; you won't find many single malts in
this price segment and this still beats any blend I know of under 30 Euro's. Maybe not perfectly suitable for everyday
dramming, but given its fairly unique credentials (Irish AND single grain) it's a nice addition for the whisky collection of
everybody who, like me, likes to expose his guests to different styles and types of whisk(e)y now and then.

Tamdhu 'No Age Statement' (40%, OB)
 

This 'standard' version of Tamdhu has been available for well over a decade now, and it is one of the very
few single malt whiskies that has managed to maintain a very friendly price; 25 Euro's is very reasonable IMHO. 

There are not that many single malts available in this price range (except for the occasional 'bastard malt') and Tamdhu hasn't let me down so far. The score of 75 points (for a batch that was released circa 2007) may not seem particularly impressive at first sight, but keep in mind that different malts perform differently under different circumstances. In the summertime I tend to pass by the heavier sherried and peated malts and go for a lighter, cleaner malt. The Tamdhu is a
clean, refreshing malt that doesn't require the attention that 'bigger' whiskies demand.
This is a light, unassuming summertime dram with a very reasonable price.

Balvenie 12yo 'Doublewood' (43%, OB)
 

The Balvenie 12yo 'Doublewood' is an old favourite of mine. Even though the latest batch I tried
wasn't quite as excellent as earlier batches which scored 85 or 86 points, it's still a very fine dram.

With a priced of circa 35 Euro's it's not the cheapest malt around, but I feel it offers great value in this class.
The 10 years old 'Founders Reserve' from Balvenie distillery used to be even more affordable but lacked the rich
fruity notes and extra complexity that's imparted by the extensive sherry finish of the Doublewood. In this case,
I feel it was worth the few extra Euro's - but I'm not entirely sure the 10yo expression is still available anyway.

Aberlour 10yo (43%, OB)
 

While the prices of most other official bottlings of Scotch single malts has been rising steadily over the
last few years, the price of this 'standard' Aberlour expression has remained fairly constant at circa 25 Euro's.

In recent years single malts with a generous dose of sherry influence have become rare. Macallan used to be my main purveyor of sherried single malts, but in recent years they managed to price themselves well outside the realm of reason while the quality of their whisky showed an opposing trend. The same happened with Glenfarclas; their '105' isn't nearly as good as it once was while the price has almost doubled within just a few years. The Aberlour 10 isn't an all-out sherry monster like the more upmarket 'A'bunadh' at cask strength, but if sherry is your thing here's an affordable, versatile sipping whisky.

Aberlour
Benriach

Benriach 13yo 'Maderensis Fumosus' (46%, OB, Madeira Finish)
 

Now that heavily sherried whiskies have become rare (especially in this price segment), it's a good thing that many
distillers seem to have mastered the art of 'finishing' in recent years - or at least they've grown much better at it.

The new owners of Benriach distillery have managed to revive the dormant brand with a string of exciting finishes since they
took over in 2004. I think Benriach was also the first Speyside distillery to produce heavily peated whisky in quite some time.
With a price of 51 Euro's (at La Maison du Whisky in 2009) this bottling is slightly more expensive than most others on this
BFYB list, but in my humble opinion it's more than worth it - especially since you get a finished AND a heavily peated whisky.

Highland-Park-12-B

Highland Park 12yo (40%, OB)
 

This was one of the first whiskies on the BFYB list in the 1990's, before it disappeared from the
list in the early noughties due to rising prices and falling 'quality' - or at least a changing profile.

I'm very happy to report that the Highland Park 12 years old is back on this list - at least for now.
It's not that the quality has suddenly increased dramatically (it's still a few points below the glory days of the late 1990's), but its relative position has improved now that rising prices have pushed many alternatives off the list in recent years. The aftershocks of the credit crisis of 2008 will be felt on the shelves of liquorists around the world in years to come, but (for now) Highland Park has found a new quality/price balance.

Ardmore-Traditional

Cragganmore 'Distillers Edition' (40%, OB)
 

I've never been particularly crazy about the 'regular' Cragganmore OB (it's just a little
too mainstream for me), but a second maturation in port pipes makes a big difference.

Glenmorangie pioneered the technique of 'finishing' whiskies in a second cask in the 1990's, but the quality of these
bottlings would vary considerably from year to year. Diageo followed a few years later and have managed to produce
a remarkably consistent range of double matured single malts. The 'distillers editions' of Talisker and Lagavulin happen
to be among my personal favourites, but in those cases they had a very solid 'base' to build upon. As a result, the high
scores are not too surprising. In the case of Cragganmore, the difference a second cask makes is quite astonishing.

Ardmore NAS 'Traditional Casks' (46%, OB)
 

This is a fairly heavily peated whisky (still quite unusual in Speyside), finished in small 'quarter casks'.
The nose is light, fresh and grainy - sweetish with a faint hint of peat in the background that grows stronger over time. Something faintly oily, spices and malty notes too - as well as some organics, something faintly fruity and anthracite.

In the nose it's not a peat monster, but the taste is much smokier than the nose suggests. Fairly sharp and not as complex. In fact, the palate is a little unsatisfactory, despite the touch of liquorice or salmiak in the finish. That being said, it's a recommendable dram in my book - and a nice way for relative novices to experience a little peat.

Connemara-01

The peated Connemara from Ireland's Cooley distillery made quite an impression when it was released around the
year 2000 and as far as I'm concerned they managed to improve it even further in recent years. I have to admit that
I like the 'cask strength' version even better, but this 'standard' expression arguably offers better value.

Connemara NAS (40%, OB, Ireland)
 

The earliest versions of this BFYB list only contained whiskies from Scotland, but prices have grown
considerably in recent years. That means that whiskies and whiskeys from other countries are now
able to compete with the single malt whiskies from Scotland that once dominated the whisky scene.

Lagavulin-16-B

Lagavulin 16yo (43%, OB)
 

This is was the single malt that ignited the holy fire in me over a decade ago. The 'Port Ellen' bottlings
of recent years are not quite as exquisite as the 'White Horse' bottlings from the 1990's (all of them
scored well into the 90's), but they still make this list. The Lagavulin 16yo may have lost some depth
& complexity over the years, but the peat is balanced out by just the right amount of fruits and tannins.
However, changes in production may trickle down into the future...

Like some other distilleries, Lagavulin switched to maturation in 100% bourbon casks in the late 1990's.
If they continue to carry a 16yo expression in their portfolio, we schould see a change in profile starting around the year 2015 - maybe even sooner. It's to be expected that the profile will move to the more 'bourbony' style of the 12yo Cask Strength version that was first released in 2002. It's a very fine dram, but much more in the clean 'Caol Ila' style.

Laphroaig-10-CSB

Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength (55.7%, OB)
 

Last but certainly not least is the amazing Laphroaig 10yo C/S. Both the old 'green stripe' and the more recent
'red stripe' version are brilliant. Although there are differences, both earned a whopping 94 points in my book.

The price of more than 50 Euro's puts it outside my initial 'value' price range but in this case I think it's worth every penny.
This bottling even beats some of the amazing Douglas Laing Ardbegs from the early 1970's. If you decide to try just one bottle
from this list, make sure it's this one. Well, provided you're not allergic to peat, that is... This is a peat monster par excellence,
combining the depth and complexity of the Laphroaig 15yo OB with the raw power of the 'Phroaig 10yo. This offers the best
of both worlds, as far as I'm concerned... It's so good that I simply don't dare to open one of the eight bottles I have in my
reserve stock - top notch material.
 
As I've pointed out before, this BFYB list has evolved quite a bit over the years. The current list focuses on a dozen bottlings,
but during the 1990's it contained all the official bottlings I had tried so far. Maintaining that list became too cumbersome after
I had tried more than a hundred malts and prices kept changing, but you might still be able to benefit from my experience.
Below I'll explain how I came up with a 'magic formula'that helped me a lot in making sensible shopping decisions.

I eventually came to my senses and produced a much 'leaner & meaner' BFYB List.
It contains a handful of good whiskies that I've sampled relatively recently and that can be
easily obtained at reasonable prices. (Of course I can't guarantee that the bottle you'll pick up
is from the same 'batch' that I've tried myself.) It's hardly fair to compare 'mundane' blends to
single malts, but there are actually still some decent blends available that offer good value for
money at +/- 15 Euro's; with Teacher's Highland Cream being the first one that springs to mind.

However, looking at 'premium' blends I'd say that single malts win the value match hands down.
Take the Johnnie Walker Blue Label, for example. That's a good whisky, but it only scored 75 points in my book.
That's nothing to be ashamed of, but most of the twelve whiskies listed below earned a significantly higher score.
What's more, each of them can be obtained for much less than the 150 Euro's they want for a bottle of Johnnie
Walker Blue Label. No hard choice, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, you could buy four or even five bottles from
the 'Bang For Your Buck List' below for the price of one bottle of JW Blue. Not only will you receive much more
'bang' for your 'buck', you'll also be able to experience a far wider range of different whisky styles.
 
So, if you want to impress your friends with how much money you can spend the JW Blue will do just fine,
but if you REALLY want to give them an interesting evening you might want to serve some single malts instead.

Currency

We are famous for our penny-pinching abilities. Many of the malts at the top
of the Hit List will cost you a pretty penny, especially the older & rarer bottles.
Being as Dutch as I am, I want to pay as little as possible for my liquid fixes.
With more and more Scotch malt whisky producers pushing for higher prices
and demand from Asia and South America growing, the future looms gloomy...

The basis of my personal malt whisky rating system is quite simple...
I just try to translate the amount of fun my nose and tongue are having with
a single malt into a digit on a 1-to-100 scale . The whisky that I like the best
simply gets the highest score and makes it to the top of my Hit List in this
mAlmanac. So why aren't my shelves filled with bottles of Yamazaki 1979,
Laphroaig 31yo and Glenfarclas 1969? I'll tell you why - because I'm Dutch!

Older whiskies are usually more expensive to begin with
when they are shipped from the warehouse, partly because
of the evaporation of the 'angels share' and the long period
of storage. Most taxes and tariffs are calculated based on the
list price. That means that you'll simply pay more taxes on
those bottles. This means that most bottles in my drinking
collection are (relatively) younger and cheaper single malts.

Browse the mAlmanac - the malt whisky almanac
Whisky Hot List - The latest releases
Whisky Hit List - My personal favourite single malts
Whisky Shit List - My least favourite malt whiskies
Whisky Bang For Your Buck List - The single malts that offer good value

 

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