Truth be told, I went into this 200 ml Whisky Challenge a bit skeptical, expecting the worst.
Cheap blends really aren’t my bag baby.
But I came out of the whole shebang a believer in the power of cheap blends.
I discovered that for under NT$200, you can have yourself a pretty darn enjoyable blended-whisky-hullabaloo of an evening.
But when the rubber meets the road and you can only select one, which whisky do you choose?
Here’s a quick roundup of the competition:
McAdams Rye Whisky
Jim Murray called McAdams Rye Whisky “delicious stuff” when he reviewed it in his Whisky Bible.
I find a lot of his reviews to be spot on but the McAdams was pretty unremarkable and bland to my taste buds.
At NT$160 it’s overpriced in this talented field.
At NT$135, the price would be just about right.
Jim Beam (White Label) Bourbon
My rational on this one is pretty simple.
If you’re in the mood for a decent bourbon, pick up the Jim Beam.
You’ve got no other choice.
While I’m never overjoyed to spend a whole evening with Jim Beam (White) it certainly doesn’t deserve the bad reputation it has in some snobbish whisky circles.
Johnny Walker Red
To be fair, Diageo states pretty clearly that they only recommend using this beast as a mixer, so it’s no surprise that Johnnie Red didn’t perform so well in this contest.
That being said, even if you’re making cocktails for the evening, at NT$159 Johnnie Walker Red is a bit overpriced.
You’re better off going with the Famous Grouse or one of the Suntory twins as a mixer.
Since the 1980s, Famous Grouse has been the #1 selling blended whisky in Scotland.
I’ve heard wonderful things about The Finest Grouse, The Black Grouse, and the 30-year expression but I don’t see the regular ole’ Grouse making it into the Jerk’s regular rotation of blended whiskies any time soon.
It’s charming for a grainy-blend but like the bird itself the Grouse has some trouble getting off the ground.
Johnnie Walker Black
I quite like Johnnie Walker Black but at this price you gotta be fucking kidding me.
JW black can compete with the top dogs in this field but it’s nearly twice as expensive.
If you’re a die-hard Johnnie Black fan, go ahead and experiment with the Old Matisse or splurge for a full bottle of Johnnie Walker Black for a much better value.
Suntory Black Kakubin
It’s stronger than its yellow sibling but it lacks the finesse and flavor.
If these two laced em’ up and met in the squared circle, Suntory Black would be Foreman and Suntory Yellow would be as Ali.
Whether you’re mixing or sipping, spend the extra NT$5 (16 cents) and upgrade to the Suntory Yellow.
The Medal Round
Finally we get down to the nitty gritty and we have three horses running neck and neck down the home stretch.
In third place, the bronze medal winner is ….
A lovely little vatted whisky that’s readily available in Taiwan (and throughout Asia) but it’s a little harder to come by in Europe, Canada, or the States.
Overall, it’s a nicely-balanced blend that is definitely worth a try.
And in second place, the silver medal goes to …..
Suntory Yellow Kakubin
Really enjoyable, nice introduction to Japanese blended whisky.
It’s got some hints of Irish pot-still goodness while still retaining its own character.
Which means …. the gold medal winner and NEW champion of convenience store whisky in Taiwan is
Don’t let the conservative refined and classy marketing fool you.
This one’s got some funky stuff going on underneath the hood.
Like a chocolate-tier, chewier version of Johnnie Walker Black available at just a fraction of the price.
Dare I say I spotted a 700 ml bottle at the local Welcome Supermarket the other day for under NT$500.
How’s that for value?
So, in the end Old Matisse takes it in a photo finish.
But that’s just our opinion.
What do you think the best convenience store whisky is in Taiwan?
Let us know in the comments below.