The first thing people say to me when I tell them I’ve begun drinking Single-Malt Scotch is “Isn’t that stuff expensive?” On the surface of it, they’re right. A few $70 bottles of Lagavulin 16 year, an $80 bottle of Aberlour A’Bunadh, several bottles of $35 Laphroaig… it adds up.
But wait! I decided to do some math. How expensive is drinking good Scotch, compared to other similar pastimes?
A little research quickly revealed that there is no standard unit of volume for whisky. To a Scotsman, a ‘wee dram’ is less a matter of careful calculation, and more a matter of tipping however much you like into your glass. Luckily, after a little personal experimentation and the information at this helpful site about Units of Measure, I settled on approximately 2 fluid ounces as a typical “glass” of whisky. Note that the dram or drachm is equal to 1/8 of a fluid ounce, or about a teaspoon. No Scotsman is likely to be satisfied with such a measure.
On to the math!
If there are 25.36 US fluid ounces in a 750ml bottle of Scotch…
…then there are approximately 12.68 “glasses” of Scotch in a bottle.
If a bottle costs $70, that means you’re paying $5.52 per glass of Scotch.
If a bottle costs $50, that means you’re paying $3.94 per glass of Scotch.
If a bottle costs $30, that means you’re paying $2.36 per glass of Scotch.
Compare this to wine: a quality $15 bottle of wine has approximately four glasses in it. Each glass is $3.75.
Compare to cocktails: A $27 (750ml) bottle of Grey Goose vodka gives you approximately 10.7 dry martinis, at a cost of $2.52 per cocktail.
Compare to beer: An $8 six-pack of craft brew costs approximately $1.33 per bottle.
Clearly, drinking even a $50 Scotch is equivalent to drinking middle-range wine, and only slightly more expensive than drinking top-shelf martinis.
Still think the “Good Stuff” (>$70) is too pricey?
Let me throw one more calculation at you:
Two glasses of $70 Lagavulin 16 year, savored slowly over the course of an evening: $11.04
Eight glasses of $5 beer at the local bar, drunk at a good pace to prevent them getting warm: $40.00
Six glasses of $9 cocktails at the local club, drunk quickly while crowded by sweaty strangers: $54.00
Twelve $7 shots at the local college hangout, drunk as fast as possible to get over the taste: $84.00
…and somehow the bar tab always seems to get even bigger than that. I suggest you do your own math.
Update: As you can see in the comments section, I’m comparing apples to oranges: scotch purchased at a bar is of course more expensive than scotch consumed at home. The commenters are correct. However, note that my point here is: drink expensive scotch at home and you’re better off (financially) than drinking overpriced drinks out. I also maintain that because you get more drinks out of a bottle of scotch, and can consume it over the course of a year or more, it can be cheaper than popping open a $15 bottle of wine all the time. Finally, c’mon people. This is a blog, not a medical journal – cut me some slack.