There’s something about whiskey drinkers that make them seem… well, cool.
And if that drinker is well-educated about his chosen liquor, it makes them seem cooler. Well, here’s a Whiskey price guide to make you become a whiskey wizard.
What is Whiskey?
Whiskey is an alcoholic drink made from fermented grain mash. The commonly-used grains are barley, corn, wheat, and rye. They may also be malted, especially in the case of barley. Once the fermented grain mash is ready, the product is distilled until it reaches the desired ABV. The resulting liquid needs to age inside wooden barrels prior to bottling, and this can take anywhere from two to twenty years.
No artificial products must be added anywhere in the distillation, meaning those that are flavored with chocolate, cinnamon, or others, will not be classified as whiskey.
The word comes from the Gaelic word uisge, meaning water. They derived the term from the Latin phrase aqua vitae — uisge beatha — which translates to “water of life.”
The earliest-recorded production was either in Ireland and Scotland between the 12th and 15th centuries (in fact, the oldest Irish whiskey distillery, Old Bushmills Distillery, is still operational today). It was initially used for medicinal purposes, most commonly as an internal anesthetic or external antibiotics, and production was limited to apothecaries and pharmacies until the late 1500s.
Whiskey spread all over the world and gained extreme popularity with the help of Irish and Scottish immigrants.
Today, this spirit is being distilled all over the world, including Ireland, Scotland, the United States, Japan, and Canada.
Is It Whisky or Whiskey?
You may have wondered why some brands use the word “whiskey” without the letter E.
Both spellings are accepted depending on the region they’re from. In the United States and Ireland, whiskey with an E is preferred.
In other countries, including Scotland, Canada, and Japan, whisky without the E is the norm.
In general, whiskeys taste smoky, grainy, and oaky, with a spicy kick. You’d also be able to detect notes of vanilla and caramel in this liquor. Of course, there are nuances in flavor depending on the brand, variety, and region the product comes from. Specific regulations are also followed when it comes to whiskey production to ensure quality.
Whiskey brands can be broken down into these major types: scotch, bourbon, rye, and English.
Just like the name suggests, scotch is typically made in Scotland. This type uses malted barley and must age in oak barrels before being poured into bottles for no less than three years.
Scotch’s signature taste is an overall smoky flavor. This type of whiskey is divided into varying regions, with each having its signature malts and unique characteristics depending on where it’s from.
Bowmore Scotch from Islay is produced in a 300-year-old distillery. This 25-year-old scotch is aged in Spanish sherry casks.
Bourbon can only be made within the United States, but it is commonly produced in Kentucky. This variation also follows strict regulations such as it has to be made with 51 percent corn, distilled to no more than 160 in proof, and barrelled at no higher than 125 in proof. It must also age in new charred oak barrels for at least two years and poured into bottles at no less than 80 proof.
Bourbon is generally sweeter and fuller in flavor than the other products because of the corn.
Woodford Reserve is a straight Kentucky bourbon whiskey by definition. It is a top-shelf sipping bourbon that’s won many awards in international spirits tasting competitions.
The rye whiskey suffered the most after Prohibition as it was never truly reestablished when the period ended. But thanks to the resurgence of American bourbon, rye whiskey is slowly picking up traction and is being used more often by bartenders.
Rye lends its spicy, peppery flavor to the liquor.
Unlike the other variants, there are no geographical limitations as to where you can make bottles of rye, but most of the world’s stock is produced in North America. Based on the US Federal Laws, rye has to be made with 51 percent rye or malted rye. It must age for at least two years in charred casks before being poured into bottles.
Canada is more liberal as they often use different malts and blended grains — it’s not uncommon for this type to have 20 or so varying ingredients.
Wild Turkey’s Russell’s Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey is a blend of rye and corn and bottled at 104 proof. Dark chocolate, baking spices, and charred oak lend their flavors to this stunning, one-of-a-kind whiskey.
Distillers operated in the United Kingdom, more specifically in London, Liverpool, and Bristol, until the late 19th century. English whiskey came back to business in 2013. This cessation was due to low demand for this category.
Although England is more famous for its gins, there are currently at least eight active distilleries producing single malts in the country. The London Distillery Company began producing the first single malt English whiskey in 2013 since its closing in 1903.
Best Brands Information Prices
|Brand||Country||Average Price Range in Retailers||Type||Ranked|
|Fireball||Canada||Around $15||Canadian whisky||Budget|
|Jameson||Ireland||Around $22||Irish Whiskey||Standard|
|Jack Daniel’s||USA||Around $22||American whiskey||Standard|
|Blanton’s||USA||Around $55||Bourbon Whiskey||Premium|
|TX||USA||Around $30||Blended Whiskey |
|Crown Royal||Canada||Around $30||Canadian whisky||Standard|
|Virginia Black||USA||Around $33||American Whiskey||Standard|
|Johnnie Walker||Scotland||Around $23||Blended Scotch||Standard|
|Buchanan’s||UK||Around $30||Blended Scotch||Standard|
|Macallan||Scotland||Around $45||Single Malt Scotch||Premium|
|Pendleton||Canada||Around $22||Canadian whisky||Standard|
|Jim Beam||USA||Around $13||Bourbon Whiskey||Budget|
|Bird Dog||USA||Around $16||Bourbon Whiskey||Budget|
|Black Velvet||Canada||Around $8||Canadian whisky||Budget|
|Makers Mark||USA||Around $24||Bourbon Whiskey||Standard|
|Wild Turkey||USA||Around $20||Bourbon Whiskey||Standard|
|Kavalan||Taiwan||Around $96||Single Malt Whiskey||Premium|
|Bulleit||USA||Around $25||Bourbon Whiskey||Standard|
Scotch Whiskey & Its Regions
A wide selection of scotch is available throughout the country, with unique characteristics and flavor profiles specific to the region they’re from. Their identities are strictly regulated and protected by law. Here are the different types of scotch available in the market:
Campbeltown is a small western coastal town producing the following: Springbank, Glengyle, and Glen Scotia. The whiskey in this region has a fruity and smoky flavor profile.
The Highlands is the largest region with over 30 operational distilleries. This area uses 38 different malts and shares the same sweet yet spicy flavor on all their whiskeys.
Single malt whiskeys distilled in the Lowlands are softer, more subdued drinks. They are grassier in flavor without a lot of smoke. This area has 18 operational distilleries as of 2018, including Annandale, Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, Daftmill, Girvan, Glasgow, and Glenkinchie.
The island of Islay produces spirits that have a dark, meaty flavor, with hints of seaweed and sea salt. Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg are made in this region.
Some historical records say that 14th-century Irish monks may have been the first to distill the drink in this region.
It’s said that the Islands have not yet been confirmed as an independent whiskey-producing region by the Scotch Whiskey Regulations. This area is the group of islands surrounding the country, excluding Islay (which is a region on its own). This region produces a style of whiskey that tends to be smokier in flavor than its counterparts.
Speyside produces single malt Scotch and is located in the northeastern part of the country. There are approximately 50 distilleries in this region alone, and it’s said that half of Scotland’s whiskey production comes from Speyside alone. The single malts in this region have complex flavors that include smoky, fruity, and sweet.
Whiskey Bottle Label: What You Should Know
Aside from having the brand name, the labels in whiskey bottles list down everything you need to know about the spirit you’re about to consume.
The labels in bottles will indicate how long the whiskey’s been aged. Its age is the period the liquor has sat inside the wooden barrels. It’s also important to remember that older whiskies are not automatically better than the younger ones.
Whiskies that are aged in warmer regions age a lot faster than whiskies aged in cooler areas.
The label will indicate which country produced and distributed your whiskey bottles, whether in Scotland, the USA, or Japan.
Alcohol content will either be indicated as ABV (alcohol by volume) or proof. This is to indicate how much alcohol is inside whiskey bottles. The proof is twice the ABV (for example, a 40 percent ABV equates to 80 proof).
Single Malt or Blended
Single malts are produced in a single distillery using a single malt.
Blended means that your whiskey was produced using blends of different malts and grains that may or may not have come from multiple areas.
Single barrel means that all the whiskey inside your bottle came from one barrel.
Tennessee whiskey has to be made within the state. It goes through a unique maple charcoal filtration style, and what this process does is mellow down its usual taste and gives it a slightly burnt flavor.
Factors That Affect Prices
You might be wondering why some whiskey brands like Macallan have a heavier price tag than, say, Johnnie Walker, when all whiskies come from the same grain options. Here is a list of factors that could affect the whiskey brands’ price range.
Since whiskey is now more popular than ever, there has been a rise in demand regarding oak casks and wooden barrels. These are already limited, to begin with, and even more difficult to come about since resources are finite.
Some companies produce tons of whiskey, and each batch will require a wooden barrel for aging. Some whiskey variants, like Scotch, require well-aged vintage barrels, which can be very hard to obtain — thus, heftier prices.
Older whiskies are not necessarily better or higher in quality than younger ones, but age plays a major factor in prices. While whiskies aged in warmer climates will age faster than those aged in cooler regions, vintage whiskies that are aged longer before bottling tend to be more special and rare.
Imagine whiskey that’s been in its barrel for 20 years. In 20 years, you could’ve made six batches of whiskeys that are aged three years each, and it could’ve made you a lot of money. But you won’t be able to deny that that 20-year-old vintage whiskey is more special, rarer, and would definitely have higher prices per bottle.
Some brands use rarer, more exotic ingredients than others, which are harder to obtain and can impact the whiskey’s overall price point.
Single Malt Whiskey
Single malt whiskey simply means that a single malt was used in the production of the whiskey. This factor may impact the overall price, but it doesn’t mean that it’s better than blended malt.
Blends can come from any blend of premium single malts and would still retain their premium-grade ingredients.
Single Barrel Whiskies
Technically, a single barrel should mean that each drop of whiskey inside the bottle comes from one barrel, which impacts prices because of limitations (such as losing ample amounts of spirits because of evaporation). Some brands have been found combining various barrels, differing ages, and several batches in order to achieve the right consistency.
They would refer to the whiskies’ “single cask” classification as the final cask the whiskey matures in prior to bottling.
What is the cheapest whiskey?
Some of the cheapest whiskeys in the market that are of great quality for their price are Kentucky bourbons.
Jim Beam, the number one selling bourbon brand in the world, offers quite the authentic bourbon taste, feel, and experience compared to all other brands with the same price point. A 750ml bottle is roughly $15 in price.
Does whiskey price go up with age?
Yes, whiskey prices do go up with age. Limited editions of vintage whiskeys are extremely rare and have even become a form of investment. Some people would even consider these bottles as expensive gifts. A Macallan 60-year-old whiskey sold for a whopping $1.9 million US dollars. 
Whiskies have quite the loyal cult following, and if you think you’re ready to hop on board, hopefully, this guide was able to help you out when it comes to navigating the whiskey market.
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds!