Teacher’s Highland Cream

Well, it’s a blend. Specifically a $20 blend of Scotch malt and grain whisky. Like J&B, Cutty Sark, Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse, and others, it occupies the industry “sweet spot” – just above no-name $10/bottle swill, and just below the entry-level Single Malts and “premium” aged blends. Principally intended for mixing or drinking over ice, I nevertheless feel that it deserves a mention as an eminently drinkable spirit, neat.

Teacher’s is reportedly a blend of around 45% single malt with Scottish grain whisky, which is quite a bit higher than the 20% to 30% found in other widely-available blends. The dominant malt is Ardmore, which is owned by the same parent company. First bottled in 1830 by its namesake, William Teacher, it has enjoyed a long popularity in the British Isles.

Nose: Young grain is predominant, as expected, with undertones of the typical caramel and treacle notes. Additionally, there is a greasy, nutty, clarified butter scent – like ghee. A dash of water brings out little extra – maybe a ghost of crushed peanuts.

Palate: That young grain is up front – flavors of fresh hay, raw oats, figs, buttered scones, and – way in the background – hazelnut toffee. There is a nice creaminess to the mouthfeel, more body than I’d expect in a young blend. A dash of water thins the body slightly.

Finish: Medium-long and slightly unpleasant: machine oil, bitter coffee grounds, and echoes of the toffee. A little water mellows the finish, rounding out the flavors and sweetening them: candied walnuts and light brown sugar.

I would say this is a small step above The Famous Grouse in pleasing flavors, and the creamy mouthfeel is quite nice in such an inexpensive blend. Props also for the higher malt content. Worth a try if you’re looking for a staple liquor cabinet blended Scotch for under $25.

Teacher’s Highland Cream
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $20-$26
Acquired: (Bottle): The Whisky Shop, San Francisco, CA. $23

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37 thoughts on “Teacher’s Highland Cream

  1. Hi! I have read so many good reviews of Teacher’s that I decided to try it as I was getting into scotch. It’s somewhat of a strange conundrum to me; on the one hand, there are some nice flavors in there that you don’t get in most $20 blends, but on the other, I find it more rough and harsh than some of those other ones, like Famous Grouse. Caught between flavor and harshness, I tend to find myself reaching rather for the smoother-drinking Grouse, and Teacher’s sits on the shelf. I think that many people drink this a bit watered down or with ice, but I just prefer a whisky I can drink neat, whenever possible.

  2. @Ryan, I understand the dilemma. I’m often trying to settle on a few “value” bottles to keep on hand to prevent me from drinking all my good stuff. I’ve yet to try some of the bigger-name blends (Cutty, some of the J. Walkers, etc), but I have a feeling they’re all basically the same: A small amount of low-flavor malt trying to cover up the harsh bite of under-aged grain whisky. I’ve heard The Famous Grouse boast a higher percentage of malt, which might account for its smoothness, but I agree that it doesn’t have much flavor. A better bet might be to settle on an inexpensive single malt, Glenlivet 12 or Glenfiddich 12 or perhaps a similarly-priced Irish whiskey (Jameson is really pretty good), and just have a bottle of Grouse on hand too.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean. I like scotch, and I want there to be a good bottle of scotch under $25, but there might just not be one. It bugs me because I know there are genuinely good bourbons under $25 that are properly aged and not harsh. Even if you want something smooth, you can get Jack Daniels or a wheated bourbon like Maker’s Mark. I think I like those better than Grouse or Jameson; even though the latter are smooth, they’re just so boring! I know I’m not always in the mood for a bourbon, but something like Jack Daniels is so light and smooth that it’s in a different category to me.

      I have a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label in my cabinet, but I haven’t tried it yet (need to finish of a couple open ones first). If that one isn’t any good, I may be close to giving up! If you haven’t tried Black Label, that is definitely a good scotch although it’s a bit more expensive (I can get it in the upper $20’s). And alas! If I could get Glenlivet or Glenfiddich for $25, I would be happy, but they are $35-45 around here.

      Thanks for the response and the blog, it’s a good one!

  3. I just stumbled across your site, and look forward to looking through your reviews and thoughts. After spending most of my life thinking I hated scotch, I decided to give it a try a few months back–just shy of turning 64. Imagine my surprise, and my regret at all the missed opportunities. Anyway, I pretty much started off with the usual single malts: Glenmorangie and Glenfiddich, then did a birthday splurge and picked up a bottle of Aberlaur A’Bunadh batch 32, which is fairly amazing. Along the way, I picked also up a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black, which I love. After many Ralfy reviews, I finally got up the nerve to pick up a bottle of Ardbeg 10, and immediately decided to go Islay (or at least island). I am trying to decide whether to go for a Lagavulin 16, one of the Laphroaigs, or a Talisker 10 next. But coming up on retirement, I decided that I had better start looking for some more budget minded scotches. Again based on one of Ralfy’s reviews, I recently picked up a bottle of Teacher’s. While it doesn’t match the Johnnie Walker, in my opinion, I found it quite pleasant, and I picked it up at a local store for around $17.50 (plus our newly boosted Maryland state tax on alcohol). I still want to try the Famous Grouse, but I think I could get by on the Teacher’s if that is what my post-retirement finances dictate.

    Have you done much “home blending?” As a way of stretching the good stuff, I tried mixing about an ounce and a quarter of Johnnie Walker Black with a bit over a quarter ounce of the Ardbeg with pretty good results. An acquaintance mentioned doing much the same thing with Famous Grouse and Lagavulin. Anyway, keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Mike, glad to hear about your new enjoyment of Scotch! I think you’d like the Lagavulin 16, and probably the Talisker 10… both are among the best peated whiskies under $80. Laphroaig 10 is pretty rough and wild, but it’s usually a good deal (I can find it in Northern California for around $33). I think Famous Grouse is equivalent in quality to Teacher’s, although I like JW Black less than you do, so I might not be a good source for blend information. :)

      As for home blending, I do know that some good whisky bloggers occasionally experiment by blending together single malts to produce interesting effects – usually with the last inch or two of an exhausted bottle. I personally think that you’re better off buying a few good ($60-$80) bottles and drinking them sparingly, while seeking good value whiskies ($20-$40) for casual/regular drinking. By mixing the two, you may be elevating the cheap stuff, but you’re also losing a lot of the complexity and smoothness that you paid top-dollar for. However, you should drink your whisky in whichever way maximizes your enjoyment, so don’t let me tell you what to do. :)

  4. look i find the grain whisky too young rough harsh today and it’s color is now a MARS BAR. This complaint I started at same time they decided to put it in a no frills cola can. I was happy with it a year before. yes, refine, barley sugared, caramal then that big succulant toffe malt. mmmm. also creme salt savory thing. and smoke. sit back like a single malt fix. Never tried HP 12. anything similer as teachers cream replacement for me? also never tried Ardmore as single malt. do not like zesty. not not like firm island dry whisky.

    1. @J WHITE, Have you tried Famous Grouse? I don’t think it’s quite as good as Teacher’s, but it might be cheaper. It has many of the same faults (excessive use of coloring, rough grain, etc) which seem to afflict most or all of the no-age-statement blends.

      As far as single-malt alternatives to Teacher’s, I think that Auchentoshan Classic is a cheap single with nice creamy sweet flavors – although it’s VERY light and a tad dry (triple-distilled). The Balvenie DoubleWood is another one in the same price range – although it’s partially sherry finished, the flavors are right down the middle, cream, honey, vanilla, and some touches of fruit. If you like a little bit of smoke, you might consider the Isle of Skye 8 year blend. I’m not crazy about it, but it has a lot of the elements you mentioned. Might be worth a try.

  5. you so right on starter blends today!Balvenie has been recommand to me fore. but not smoke and think there some oak flaws.
    Oh, so HP 12 noting like teachers in a sense.(creamy, good toffee texture, smoke, salt all happening. i think Hp is mocho too)
    Im also considering Balintine 17. would get glendonarch in one second if it available near me.

  6. what you think of Hankey Bannister original or 12? read it has toffee creamness. i dont thin it looks as fake as teachers now days. Just dread spirit reek.

    buy the way do you know of any single malt that is like teachers? savory, salt hint, creaminess, toffed brittle like malt, smoke. Admore notes dont seem to match other thgen the smoke.

    1. @J, You might consider The Black Grouse. It’s the only malt-heavy blend that I know of which also has predominant smoke notes (review here). The Black Bottle is another Islay blend, but it’s harder to find in the US, and I’m not sure how much malt character it has (never tried it). There’s also Johnnie Walker Black Label, which has a lot of toffee and hazelnut, but only a light touch of peat.

      1. black not very close to teachers texture. i ment sorta the whole teachers thing bot just one element. you say forget hankey blend?
        I wrote on aberlour 30 if you recommand. that has toffee. I have had glendonarch 15 (only sherry) and bookers (only cask) and found them easy to drink. no sharp edges. I found them flawless on the palate.

  7. I am a total scotch noob as well and have recently tried the Black Bottle and the Teachers. For me they are well ahead of JW Red, and maybe even the JW Black as well. Both are more smooth all the way around, with the Black Bottle more on the smoky side than the Teachers, and the Teachers more on the creamy side than the Black Bottle.

  8. Over the festive period I had the pleasure to drink a number of whisky s both old and new to me.
    These were:
    Glenlivit (Scotch single malt) (new to my taste buds)
    Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon (revisiting my tastebuds from a number of months ago)
    Teachers (Blended Scotch ) (Revisiting my taste buds after a good couple of decades!)
    Buffulo Trace (Kentucky Bourbon) (New to my taste buds)
    Makers Mark (Kentucky Bourbon)(A regular favourite of mine)
    I also had in reserve some Johnnie Walker Black Label(Bended Scotch) (A favourite scotch of mine)…..although I didn’t drink any JW Black over the festive season……I had about 3/4 of a bottle a few weeks before the festive season.

    In my view here is how my taste buds ranked them in order

    Joint N0.1 Makers Mark (Already a repeat purchase whisky of mine)
    Joint No.1 Johnnie Walker Black Label (Already a repeat purchase of mine)

    No.3 Buffulo Trace……a very nice bourbon which I will definitely buy again!

    No.4 Woodford Reserve…..nice taste but overated….not having the lovely nose of Makers Mark or the nice warm burn of Makers……and doesn’t have the nice explosion of flavours that Buffulo Trace has.
    In comparison to Makers and Buffulo…… Woodford…especially given its high regard amongst bourbon drinkers…..is surprisingly and disappointingly dull.
    N0.5 Glenlivit !0 year old …. It may have been a single malt……but it didn’t excite my taste buds too much!

    No.6 and last Teachers……..too sweet and harsh for my tastes……those that say that Teacher’s is smooth obviously haven’t tried Johnnie Walker Black!

    If I was given the choice of Teachers or Johnnie Walker Black……there would be no competition!
    Don’t get me wrong……Teachers is an okay whisky…..but of all the bottles of whisky I have on my shelf at the moment the Teachers will be by far the one that will be the hardest for me to finish!

    Kl
    Oxford

    1. KL, Thanks for the comment. I share your low opinion of Woodford Reserve (http://scotchnoob.com/2011/04/18/woodford-reserve-bourbon/). JW Black is not my favorite, as I find it blander than even the cheap single malts, although it is definitely smooth. Teacher’s one redeeming feature (aside from the somewhat creamy body, surprising in a blend) is its price. I certainly wouldn’t pit it against any single malts or any of the better ($40+) blends.

  9. [email protected] houser says:

    Well, I agree that JW black is smoother, and at a 50% premium over Teachers, you would expect it to be. I also like JW red and FG for smoothness. What I like is the complexity of Teachers. It is everything the others are not. I love single malts, Oban being one of my favorites. I like them neat. But with Teachers I like just a splint of ice to bring out the flavor and settle the taste. Quite excellent even you just want a scotch for a nightcap.

  10. Teachers was always on my self. Became a bourbon and rye fan for the past, oh, twenty years,
    but recently was gifted with a bottle of Teachers.

    Has this blend changed over time, or is it me? This bottle tastes “rougher,” and smokier than my taste buds, or wherever in the brain taste might be stored–remember.

    Does anyone else feel the same? Or has my palate become used to the American oak smoothness of Makers Mark, Old Overholt, and Bulleit rye?

    Rob Morris
    [email protected]

    Ro

  11. This is the best deal going in scotch whiskey right now – it’s always $14.99 at total wine. And for $15, there’s probably no better whiskey you could buy – certainly not one you’d enjoy neat!

  12. Just found your site and enjoyed the lesson. Friend of mine gave me a bottle of 21 yr old Bushmills a few years ago. cried when I shared the last glass. Looking for affordable, DRINKABLE single malts. You’ve been a help, thanks.

    Will.

  13. Conundrum city, man. It does have nice flavors but has some harsh grain, I presume, as well. Really like this, though. Weird. Overall, I think this is good enough to be an everyday scotch. But I feel kinda bad saying that, in a way. But also good, because I don’t think I’d ever get called a snob for daily drinking this guy. Is cheaper than JWB by $20 per handle and has some really great flavor. Keeper as long as the price is right.

      1. I will check, for sure. Just want to say how glad I am to have discovered this website/blog. I really appreciate the public service!!!

      1. SN, yes Sir, that’s the one my fave has now been discontinued – the new Black Bottle has changed, for the worse – I’m going to try “Smokin'” which has been described as the new “BB” – so, fingers/toes etc crossed 😉

  14. Teacher’s is AMAZING value. Neat for me, but perhaps with a drop of water to get past the roughness for others, it has great complexity. Sad to say, but, in most cases, you will sacrifice multiple flavors & complexity if you insist on smoothness in whiskey. In a blind taste test, I venture Teacher’s would beat many popular single malts. Put blinders on and you will realize that most single malts are just as rough. Another blend which makes you crazy to throw your money away on a single malt is Black Bottle. By the way, you have it backwards: the grain is added to young malt to smooth it out. Young malt is very rough, but it is costly to age it out. So, to get a cheaper product to sell, they add grain, hoping to maintain the malt taste profiles in a smoother drink.

  15. Oy! In the past 18 months I’ve tried many SMS. Maybe I have a tender palate but many glenmorangie are my fave. Lately tho my hubby has decided to joine in my love of scotch. We both agree the teachers is relegated for the zombie apocalypse, whether as oral anesthetic or disinfectant. It’s just way to harsh to palate. Abelour a’bunadh and Dalmore 15 (acquired cheaply at duty free). Are currently in taste testing. I favor the abelour, he prefers the Dalmore. But we do agree on a few things in the scotch realm: minimal peat and iodine are preferred. It’s going to be hard to digress to blended again, but I’m willing to try and find something more affordable for every day consumption. Speyburn( not Bradan Orach)is quite easy on the palate and easy to find. $30 is very reasonable. I’m Sure our opinions will change after a visit to the distlleries next year.

  16. About 40 yrs ago the wall street journal published an article on Scotch testing that took place at a scotch liquor convention. It was a blind test and each salesmen was given three shots of which one was his brand.More people selected Teachers as his brand.It was voted the best Scotch. Besides its still 86 Proof. You cant beat itfor the money.

  17. I picked up a half gallon of Teacher’s for $29.99 on a special. Having never tried it, I cruised websites (including Scotch Noob) until I figured out that it was a helluva buy. I’ve found it to be a great blended to go with cigars, while my good stuff (Macallan and others) are for when it’s time for serious drinking and musings. I’m now a convert to Teacher’s!

  18. Hi just want to say i have enjoyed teachers whisky for many year’s and recently bought a bottle that almost killed me well that’s how I felt I am sure it is a fake i still got the rest so if you want to check i am happy for you to do so send me a email thanks

  19. Teacher’s is a roulette blend; a quarter of the time it is foul, grain-dominated and bitter while half the time it is simply a very good blend, the creamy/dry peat balancing out grain and bitterness. The remaining quarter of the time it is pure gold: oily, peaty, creamy and complex. I’ve had one bottle I’d have paid $50 for. So give it a few tries if you don’t like your first bottle, just know that it is like buying a lottery ticket.

  20. If price was no issue, I’d only drink Lagavulin 16 and Laphroaig Quarter Cask. But, for peat and smoke lovers here’s a recipe for home blending: McClelland’s Islay mixed 50/50 with a blend. My first blend was a mix of McClelland and Dewar’s12. Way good. Now looking for a lower cost blend for comparison. Teacher’s may be next. Total Booze sells McClelland for about $42 per handle in AZ.

    1. I heartily recommend Bank Note 5 year, if you can find it. $25 / liter and it’s roughly twice as good as Teacher’s, in my opinion. It’s the only blended scotch that has a permanent spot in my cabinet. Cheers!

  21. Any comments or reviews on the new labeling of Teacher’s that came out in 2016, I believe. Has the whiskey itself changed or just the packaging? If the whiskey blend has changed, how has the flavor changed? I’m afraid to buy this new bottling without getting some opinions first. Seems all the decent and reasonably priced smokey blends are falling by the wayside. Thanks.

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