Arguably, times are bad. The economy is still in the dumps, unemployment is high, and the whisky industry is having a field day with rampant price increases. In the midst of this less-than-favorable market, there are still a few good ways to get a deal. Bank Note blended scotch from the Morrison family (owners of celebrated independent bottler A.D. Rattray) is 1 liter of blended scotch for $20. That’s cheaper than… well, just about everything else. Given the current market conditions, at that price, it -should- taste like garbage. It doesn’t. If you want something to lower your average yearly spend on scotch without having to buy Red Label, stop reading this now and go buy some of this. I have no idea how long the Morrisons can maintain stock at this price, but I can’t imagine they’ve got an unlimited supply; either quality or price will have to give as the market continues to balloon.
Bank Note is a blend of 40% single malts to 60% scotch grain whisky. That’s WAY higher than most blends, even though one must assume the malts aren’t worthy of bottling as single-cask products (or A.D. Rattray most certainly would have done so). At 43% ABV and 5 years of age (minimum), and a bonus 250ml due to the larger bottle, it’s hard to justify buying any other low-end blend as long as this is available. It’s no SIA or Great King Street, but it’s eminently drinkable, mixable, and at this price I swear I can taste the money I’m saving. Seriously, I should include ‘VALUE’ in the tasting notes!
Update, 7 years later, I have it on good authority that the quality of this blend has decreased as the Morrison family no longer has access to the mature whisky stocks that once powered Bank Note. Alas, I don’t have any details on what that means, but I have re-reviewed this with a newly-purchased bottle. Also, there’s now a peated version on the market.
Nose: Peach (indicating mild sherry), some brash young grain. Somewhat lemony, but otherwise standard cereal notes. Light and inoffensive.
Palate: Mid-creamy body. Nougat. Lemon gummy candies. Cocoa nibs. Very mild tongue burn.
Finish: On the short side. Caramel and freshly-baked bread. The lemon notes turn a little bitter – like lemon pith.
With Water: Reveals some vanilla in the nose, thins the body, and washes out some of the more interesting flavors. Perhaps more citrus on the finish, but I wouldn’t bother.
Overall: It’s certainly not bad. Compared to every other $20/liter blended scotch, it stands far above the competition. It lacks a substantial aroma, but presents a pleasantly sweet array of notes on the tongue, and does not reveal any of the off-flavors I usually get with young grain. The finish is, like the nose, unremarkable. I would still prefer Great King Street if I had only one blend, which is altogether more elegant and more balanced, but it’s also more than twice the price. I recommend this over Johnnie Walker Black Label, Chivas, Dewars, or any other sub-$40 blend. If this product remains available for this price, it will become my standard cheap blend. A rare example, these days, of whisky sold for a price below its value. If you need something cheap to get your wallet through the price increases we’re seeing lately, look no further.
Note: The “Must Try” rating reflects the quality-to-value ratio of this bottle. If you’re not looking for an alternative cheap blend, then this is not “must”-anything for you.
This one definitely deserves the great press you’re giving it. It’s become a new favourite since I’ve been trying to save cash this year.
This is some real tasty batch of booze. I just saw it next to JWRed and thought what the hell for$19 bucks. Right up there if not better than JW Black. Real sleeper and yes I’m headed back to pick up Two more
I’m gonna have to give this one a try. Other than Black Bottle, I have had little luck enjoying sub $20 Scotch.
A surprising review! At a duty free, I saw a bottle which I believed was called King of Clubs or King of Spades scotch. If I recall correctly it was 1140 ml and it was $8. Scary. I cannot find it anywhere online but curious to know if anyone reviewed it.
Hello Noob. First time commenter here…woop woop! Anyways, it sounds like a pretty good whisky but am I correct in assuming that you bumped the rating of it up a notch because of it being such a goos value? Cheers.
Yes, all of my ratings include a subjective analysis of the “worth” of a whisky, which includes its “bang for the buck”. If Bank Note retailed for $100 a bottle, I would give it an “Avoid” rating. Similarly, if a whisky I wasn’t crazy about, like Yamazaki 12 year retailed for $27, it would warrant a hearty recommendation. It’s not a perfect system, but it actually causes less confusion than a number-point scale… “How can Talisker 10 be rated 95 and Talisker 18 is only 92?!?!”
Only way you can do that fairly, is a 2 rating point system. A rating of how good the whiskey is across the whole range of whiskey. And a rating adjusting for value. could even do a rating of, this whiskey came out with a overall rating of 75 compared across the board of whiskey’s. It gaines 20 points for value, giving it a rounded score of 95. then you can look and see, it’s way lower than glenfiddich 30 year aged. But still a really good buy. The advantage to that is, if my budget is $35 for a bottle of scotch, i can get a clearer idea of what I’m gaining relative quality wise, spending the extra $15. Rather than, the somewhat confusing am I better or worse at the higher rated scotch costing $25 than the lower rated $35 dollar scotch. I mean, yeah, it might not be as good a value, but is it actually better?
I’ve thought about doing that, but it ends up being somewhat hard to explain to new readers. Also, it’s a lot of work keeping everything consistent – especially when prices inevitably change.
How would you compare this to Grant’s Family Reserve?
Alas, I haven’t yet had an opportunity to try Grant’s.
Bank Note has much more depth, complexity, and is of evidently higher quality than Grant’s for only a little more.
This is coming from someone that generally has an unopened bottle of Grant’s on hand at all times.
Looking at my first bottle now. Went in asking for Black Bottle and inquiring about deal they had on something else (2 for $30 or something like that). They recommended the 1 liter Bank Note instead b/c of the value. Decided to buy and vette later. Looking forward to a taste.
Picked up a bottle of this today. I REALLY like this stuff for the price. Hell, I’d like this stuff for $10 more even.
Not a big fan. Bitter. Sticking with Teachers, which continues to impress me.
I want to take back my comments. I actually stuck with this and I really enjoyed it. I think this is a superb value. It does have a little bitterness, but I may have subconsciously been comparing it to Glendronach that I was tasting around the same time. My bad.
This is truly a marvelous find and elegant taste to be sure – taste is great, the whisky well crafted and certainly the best buy for the price in years. Definitely beats the spats off Johmmy Walker Black Label.
Tried my first bottle.very impressed I think itis as good as J&B or Dewars.Trouble is you can’t find it at all stores
Thanks for the review. I tried this a few years ago. I’ve only found the 750ml size. My first bottle was fabulous. Smokey and creamy with delicious flavors. My favorite scotch. “Like mother’s milk!” The next bottle lacked the smoke, but was still creamy and tasty. The bottle I bought a few weeks ago seems to be less creamy, less rich, and harsher with more noticeable bitterness. Disappointing, but still very good. Maybe the Morrison’s don’t have enough “left over” malts on hand to keep the blend consistent.
Thanks for the note, Rob. I hadn’t noticed a degrading in the quality of Bank Note, but then I haven’t been drinking it recently (lots of other bottles to get through!). I had always thought that the quality-for-value ratio was higher than expected for this blend, and that it was unlikely that the company would be able to maintain the same consistency… especially considering that rising demand has eviscerated the market for independent barrel resale and filling contracts. It must be getting harder and harder to source decent whisky for a blend like this. I don’t think Bank Note is the only product suffering from the scarcity of good whisky, either. Even companies (like Diageo) that tend to produce all of their own blending stock are finding it hard to meet demand. I’m guessing they are dumping barrels into the marrying tun that would have been marked down and resigned to the secondary market in the past.
Good stuff! I’m a peaty blend drinker: Teacher’s, White Horse, Black Bottle, Isle of Skye, JWBL etc. my latest concoction is 4 parts Bank Note and 1 part Laphroig.. It’s stellar! And cost wise Bank Note is so cheap that you only need buy a Laphroig to mix with every 5th bottle. Brilliant. On its own this is a surprisingly tasty, floral complex sweet Speyside/Highland style blend that tastes as good as some cheaper single malts.
Really good blend. Trouble is, my liquor store says they can’t get it, “out of stock.” Is anyone else having this problem? Next time I find it, I will buy a case. Jeff, I want to try your Laphroig ‘concoction. Laphroig is my preferred Sctoch.
Not having this problem Leon, where do you live? Northern California here. In my opinion Bank Note is a nice blend, but moreso based on value. In other words, you can still make the concoction with any other non smoky blend of good quality. Meaning I am not sure it would work with a grocery store Scotch like JW Red or Cutty ( I wont even drink those) but it might work well with Grant’s or Buchanan’s 12. Those two blends I like and find very similar to Bank Note and are not too expensive. I like Laphroig too!
As a fairly new whisky guy (bourbons & rye), my only foray into Scotch was Chivas 12 over last Christmas and before that an attempt at Ballantine’s Finest (thought it was the Whisky of Year winner so bought it. It just about turned me off forever to whisky… thankfully I persisted). I was at the store a few weeks ago and I must say, your review on this Scotch came to mind when I saw it on the shelf when looking to try another blend.
There is not much else to find about this Scotch on the net in terms of reviews as it seems to be not widely available or something. What rare reviews I did find over at Reddit /r/Scotch have been abysmal (a 69 and a 50!).
So it was very surprising how smooth and easy this one goes down for me. The bottle I got has been creamy and an almost corn whisky-like taste underneath with a slight taste of smoke that lightly persists after the swallow. Hardly any alcohol burn for my normally 100+ proofed ruined palate. I weirdly have been finding myself craving this single bottle of blended Scotch against my small good bourbon selections. I am dumbfounded by the bad reviews on this and also limited chatter. I can see myself grabbing another bottle when runs out, especially for the $18 I paid for it. I guess just chalk it up to my newb taste buds.
Bank Note is indeed a great blended scotch. I can honestly say it’s currently my second-favorite of all blended scotches that include grain whisky (the first being Great King Street Artist’s Blend). Cheers!
What a steal. The last worthy blended scotch (of this price and caliber) that I found was Black Bottle, which is no longer avail near me. This one is great! I’m grabbing a couple more for the shelf before it runs out. By the way, LOVE this site!
I’m new to Scotch. Someone offered to buy me a Scotch and soda made with Chivas 12 yr, and I liked it. And then I received a gift certificate to a liquor store a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I would treat myself to a bottle of Laphroaig 10 yr.. It was a tad stronger than the Chivas! Anyway, I went back and found a liter bottle of Bank Note for $21, and I liked that very much with club soda. But what to do with the Laphroaig?
I decided to make a cocktail!
This drink is named after the smell of Laphroaig. It’s just a variation on a Scotch and soda. There’s another cocktail made with Islay single malt called a Penicillin. It has lemon juice, honey syrup, and ginger, in addition to blended Scotch and 1/4 oz Islay single malt.
I came down with a bad cold yesterday, I thought about making myself a Penicillin, but I didn’t have the other ingredients on hand. I decided that my cold didn’t need a Penicillin, and that a simple Betadine Band-Aid would help get me through the worst of it. It’s easier to make, and the extra Laphroaig helps clear the sinuses.
The Betadine Band-Aid is really quite good. In fact, after I applied two of these devices directly to my cold I hardly noticed I was sick, or cared.
2 1/2 oz. Bank Note blended Scotch whisky
1/2 oz. Laphroaig 10 yr. single malt Scotch
2 ice cubes
3 oz. club soda
Thanks for the recipe. 🙂 I made a Penicillin once with Laphroaig, but wasn’t too impressed. I’ll have to try your recipe next. Cheers!
I’d never heard of Bank Note before stumbling upon it at my local store. Curiosity got the better of me. I had to know how good a sub $20 bottle of scotch could possibly be. I was pleasantly surprise at how drinkable it is. I’ll definitely pick up another bottle or two.
I used to be a devotee to Jura, until the yuppies discovered it, now it’s too expensive for me. I keep two bottles in reserve, just in case…
But this? this will do just fine! It’s balanced, woody-fruity-peaty, and tolerates ice! Tastes great after a fine diner and over a campfire. and the nose is heady even after the third serving. There is no phonolic addition to the after kick. As a great bonus, I don’t feel a squeezed budget, when I pour. I feel plenty good offering this to any guest (what ever he thinks of his own importance ) I’m sure any one would be pleased with it, or even pretend they can give me an analysis, on the spot! It requires analysis and praise, especially being a blend it this price. /|\ cheers!
How is bank note holding up 5 years later? Anybody k ow what states it’s available in?
I don’t know its distribution, but I continue to buy another bottle every 4-5 months and so far it’s been very consistent quality-wise. Cheers!
Thanks for the update!
Tasted this back to back with Monkey Shoulder and like this better than Monkey Shoulder. The nose on Monkey Shoulder is significantly better, as noted in the review Bank Note has a subdued nose. I would rate the palate on both about equal, but the Monkey Shoulder has significantly more oak drying and bitterness, reducing my enjoyment considerably. I’ll take a pleasant palate and finish with a subdued nose over a better nose with a bitter aftertaste.
My go to for a highball, about daily ( don’t judge me 🙂 ). I like Toki just a smidge better for a highball, but it’s more different than better, brighter where Bank Note is richer if I have everything cold enough. If I don’t have the glass and whiskey pre-chilled the flavor can fall apart a bit and I pick up oily notes, my palate is a bit odd though.
Interesting observation, thanks! I’m generally pretty lazy when I make cocktails and don’t pre-chill glasses except for up drinks… and I never pre-chill the spirits because I don’t have room in my fridge/freezer. 😉 Good on you, though!
Great find, In now tipping a 5th daily. I cant get enough! OK, maybe 2 5th’s. I wake up drinking the Note and pass out sipping the Note. I dream of drinking it! Thinking about a bar keg full of the Note with a rubber hose attached.
Cheers to the Note!