Getting into whisky is expensive as a hobby. It is easy to spend up to £50, £100 or even more on a whisky. I figured out early on that I would not be able to afford to buy a bottle of every whisky I want to taste. Here are my tips for shopping around. Please bear in mind that this is from a UK perspective.
Stick to the plan : It can be so easy to walk into a whisky store or browse online for special offers and end up spending over £100 on whiskies that you had no plans to buy. Keep a budget and stick to it. I keep a monthly budget depending on what is going on for me that month. I become extremely selective when prices exceed £70. Don’t rely on your credit card and don’t get in debt over whisky. It is not worth it.
Supermarkets : Check the My Supermarket website, this is a price comparison website for all the major UK supermarkets. It will identify if the bottle you want is being sold on offer. I tend to find that supermarkets take it in turns to offer discounts but and when they do you can grab a good bargain. My best find so far was an Ardbeg 10 Year Old for £22 at Tesco!
Online : There are only two main players in this market. These are Master of Malt and The Whisky Exchange. I shop at both and they too tend to have promotions on a regular basis near special dates such as Christmas, Easter and Fathers day etc. Master of Malt have a flash sale so always helpful to sign up to their newsletter. The Whisky Exchange categorise whiskies by flavour which is very helpful. I have recently begun checking Amazon as they stock an extensive range of whiskies and at competitive prices, also if you have a Prime account you will be saving on delivery charges.
Specialist retailers : I feel fortunate to have 4 specialist retailers near me (I am from Birmingham so 4 is amazing in my book). I enjoy going to these stores as the folk at these stores are very knowledgeable and you can pick up some useful pointers from them. But be cautious, it is easy to get carried away and spend the big bucks on a bottle you had no intention of seeking out. I also find that their prices can be odd, some overprice by £10-£20 compared to online. Even after factoring in delivery charge for online shopping you usually get a better deal online.
Duty free: I would only buy if you know which bottle you want. It is easy to get sucked in and spend £40+ on a bottle you weren’t seeking. You could have spent your money on the bottle you wanted elsewhere, but if money is no object then lucky you. I am reading and hearing a lot from the online community that the quality of whiskies being sold are overpriced. I am taking their word for it.
Smaller bottles : Diageo get a lot of stick but firmly believe they are doing great things to make it easier to get into whisky. They created the whisky Flavour Map I believe. They also sell bottles in 20cl sizes, I believe this is the perfect size if you want to get to know a whisky without paying full price. 20cl bottles are not that common though. After that try seeking 5cl miniatures – I still think this is a good amount to allow you to assess a whisky. The Whiskey Exchange stock a good range of miniatures. After that you can get 3cl sample and both Master of Malt and The Whiskey Exchange offer these. 3cl is not ideal for assessing a whisky in my opinion but it can allow you figure out if you think it’s worth buying a bottle. You could buy two 3cl samples but then you will need to judge if the price is worth paying.