Bad Whiskies - Nice Stories (IMO)

So, here is my first topic on this new forum. As my nickname suggests, I like whiskies and preferably single malt. It is a long story how I got into the whisky, so I skip that for now.

The problem with liking whiskies is that it happens every year that someone thinks to give you a nice bottle of whisky which is in fact crappy stuff. I can’t fake being happy, so this leads to difficult situations.

My first painful experience was when my girlfriend (now my wife) and myself were just a couple and I turned 25. I got as a birthday present a bottle of Ballantines from my (now) parents in law. I was still living on my own somewhere in a big house in a forest and on a lonely evening I decided after a few glasses of Ballantines that the toilet had to be cleaned. That toilet was cleaned obviously with Ballantines.

The horrible bottles I remember which I got on various occasions where the beforementioned Ballantines, Glen Grant, Johnny Walker Red / Black Label, Famous Grouse, Jack Daniels (who allowed this poison to be sold on the Dutch market should be forced to drink it) & Chivas Regal.

The biggest disaster after Jack Daniels was a bottle of Glen Moray. I recently got a bottle of Glen Moray - single malt - and when you see a proper box, you might think ‘nice’. After the box was opened, the first impression is ‘coloured’ and then the first taste: no much difference to cheap blends.

To me, drinking cheap whisky is fine, but if it pretends to be something and it really isn’t - I’m hugely disappointed.

I encourage you to share your experiences at the lower side of the whisky spectrum.


I too like Whisky and it has to be single malt for the simple reason that “whisky ordinaire” smells and tastes too much like the bottle of Bell’s I polished off on my own when I was 17.
My parents had gone on holiday and taken my sister, I was going on a camping trip with the Scouts that same week. My parents didn’t drink but somehow always won bottles of whisky and brandy in church raffles and the like which was stockpiled over many years in a kitchen cupboard. I took advantage of their absence to go on a proper bender, I’d never drunk before and the hangover lasted the whole week and totally ruined my holiday.
Fast forward to my 50th a couple of years ago and I was in Austin, Texas for a work thing. My boss (a Californian), loves Scottish, Japanese and Australian single-malts and spends big money on them. He took the Team to a nice bar and bought a couple of bottles of Johnny Walker Blue label to celebrate my half-century. I had the good sense to keep my mouth shut and not say I didn’t really like it, a wise move at $500 a bottle I think!

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Johnny Walker has always surprised my in a wrong way. I understand that people buy or give a bottle of Red Label for its price. But when you are in Blue Label territory, there are hundreds if not thousands of Single Malts which are much much better. Even the most simple, not mass produced single malt is miles ahead.

Well, at least Johnny Walker has an expensive upgrade path …

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I don’t know where you live Ardbeg10y but when my boss came over to the UK last year I took him to a bar in Canary Wharf London, called Boisdales which has over 200 single malts to choose from.

He chose a Macallan 21 and me? I chose an Ardbeg!

The Netherlands. I will visit Boisdales when I visit one of my customers on Canary Wharf. It has been a while ago since I’ve been there though - I’ve been working mostly in Sweden (If you visit Stockholm, go to the Ardbeg Embassy) over the last 5 years. Historically, I’ve done a lot of work for big UK banks like HSBC, Barclays and some Swiss banks having an London office.

For me, Ardbeg is the save but not special option unless someone else recommends something interesting.

Many years ago (1990 I think), I went with a friend on a Himalaya trekking expedition and we went very well prepared, mostly filling our rucksacks with cartons of cigarettes and a few litre bottles of Highland Park Whisky from duty free just before we left. In Kathmandu and up in the mountains we found fags and whisky to be serious hard currency for getting on “fully booked” planes, getting the best room in a hut, and other fringe benefits… However, once our supplies were depleted and we found ourselves back in Kathmandu we were invited by the owner of a well known trekking company to visit his home for dinner. He had heard that we liked whisky so he had specially purchased some bottles of the local tipple - Kukri Whisky, distilled locally, with added afterburner effects. Let me just say, it was a lovely evening, except that our host insisted on filling pint glasses full of the whisky, passing the glass to us and then intently nodding and watching, in the hopeful expectation that we would down the glass, smile, and be ready for the next one. As you could imagine there was quiet panic between us, it really did taste like I’d imagine petrol to taste - bad petrol at that!

We really didn’t want to offend our host, so we sipped gingerly and tried to smile through the acrid fumes, each sip feeling like we had just swallowed a lit welding torch as it ran down our throats. And then… salvation! His wife popped her head around the door to the kitchen and asked our host for some help. Immediately we took the opportunity to look for anywhere that we could pour out our glasses. A large banana plant was the obvious candidate, and soon it was enjoying a good watering of local whisky. Our host soon returned, but seeing our now empty glasses, immediately went for the bottle to refill them. Our hearts sank. We were deeply in trouble…

Dinner finished with both me and my friend almost incoherent from having to drink what could euphemistically be termed the local “firewater”. As we fumbled around trying to pull ourselves together to say our thanks and goodbyes, I noticed that the previously statuesque banana plant was now leaning over rather precariously (note - do not water banana plants with local Nepalese whisky). We both jumped into an auto rickshaw which was soon partially redecorated by my now delirious travelling companion. How we made it back to our room, I have no recollection. The moral of the story: If somebody in Nepal invites you for dinner, definitely accept their invitation - generally they will make you feel like royalty, but whatever you do, stay well away from the Kukri whisky!


I spent quite a lit of time climbing in Nepal in the 80s and 90s, and I can vouch for the hospitality of the locals, Richard. I had a similar experience with food, when a local invited us to dinner, and had his sister and mother slaving away in the kitchen. We were completely stuffed on what we later realised were just supposed to be pre-meal nibbles, and nearly exploded after several main courses appeared. We soon learnt that despite their apparent enthusiasm for topping you up, the protocol is to politely but firmly decline, otherwise it just doesn’t stop.
As for the local ‘Whisky’ you have my deepest sympathy, it’s about as rough as it gets. I occasionally found the more traditional Arak to be just about palatable.

My daughter bought me a bottle of Blair Athol 12 for Christmas which was excellent.

Life is too short to drink cheap wine and whisky…

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I spent the best part of a decade writing about spirits and the spirits industry, with whisky (of all types) being a special interest. There is even more snobbery and pretension surrounding whisky than there is wine.

Most people assume that a single malt Scotch is the ultimate whisky and many will dismiss blends, particularly if they’re mainstream, out of hand. A good blend can often blow a single malt out of the water.

I’m a big fan of Sctotch - I love Lagavulin 16, a pungent Islay that’s definitely not for the faint hearted. I like Ardbeg, but much prefer Lagavulin. The Macallan, Aberlour, Talisker 18 and Highland Park are all firm favourites.

But for me, the best whiskies I’ve tasted are mostly Japanese, many of them made by Suntory. Hibiki 17 (a blend) is simply divine, the most glorious spirit I have ever tasted but is so expensive these days that it is a very rare treat.

Hakashu (single malt) and Yamazaki are also superb whiskies, as are Hibiki Harmony, The Chita (single grain) and Nikka From The Barrel.

Interestingly, the world’s three biggest-selling Scotch whiskies are Johnnie Walker Red, Ballantine’s Finest and Chivas Regal 12 (mainstream Scotch whisky is in decline in UK/Europe but Asia is the big growth market - Chivas is huge in India and among the Indian diaspora, being a popular Diwali gift).

All three are perfectly serviceable and are not really meant to be drunk unaccompanied, but with soda, ginger ale, coke, huge amounts of ice etc. And all three houses make wonderful expressions of their brands - Chivas Regal 18 is one of the best blended whiskies I’ve ever tasted, and Ballantine’s 21, JW Black and Blue. So don’t write them off.

Well worth investigating is Lidl’s Ben Bracken range, which represents unbelievable value for money. And fellow discounter Aldi’s Highland Black Scotch Whisky (£12.99) and Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (£17.49) have picked up a lot of plaudits recently, and again represent fantastic VFM.

Grant’s, Bell’s and Teacher’s are all a bit rank, though I’d never clean a toilet with one.


Jim Murray - the Whisky writer - seems to rate Ballantines and Glen Grant (at least in his 2018 bible).

I haven’t had what I would call a bad whisky ever. A couple which weren’t very good though - 100 Pipers in the 1970’s for example.

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IIRC, Jack is one of the world’s fastest growing big brand whiskies (it’s not, as many people assume, a Bourbon), being especially popular with the young (and Keith Richards).

I find it OK, nothing special, but not particularly horrible either. And certainly not “poison” either, unless drunk to excess of course. Again, it’s designed to be drunk long or with a mixer or in a cocktail. I presume lots of people in Holland enjoy it; if you don’t like it, don’t buy it, nobody’s forcing you to drink it.

The big growth areas for the “water of life” are Asia, South America and Africa. According to 2018 figures from the international trade journal The Spirits Business, the fastest growing whisky in the world is Bangalore Malt Whisky (huge in India), followed by Black & White, 8PM and White Horse. Part of this is down to good marketing, but also because the taste and brand heritage/values of these whiskies suits drinkers in the big growth regions.

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Laphroaig is like licking an ashtray.

I would not go this far as comparing it to licking an ashtray, but Laphroaig isn’t my cut pot of tea (or glass of Whisky) neither.
In general I love Islay Whiskies, mainly the Lagavulin 10 years old.

Marco :tophat:

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Sadly, several of these seem to have been discontinued or have limited availability.

Interestingly, Suntory’s Roku is my current favourite gin.

I am also a sucker for a single malt and did get given a bottle of Ardbeg 10 from my lovely wife!
I have had a couple of nice blends in the past but nothing that you can get out of a supermarket.

I must admit I’ve never compared the two.


and she allows the hifi hobby!

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If out and about and find myself in a position to choose a whiskey within an establishment with poor choice. Jamesons is a good bet. Much like Gordons gin. Found everywhere but still a good choice.

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It’s probably like kissing a smoker.
MArco :tophat: