Buying Whisky (UK)

Whisky Shop Comparison Site

http://www.whiskymarketplace.co.uk/

Very useful resource for comparing several of the best known online whisky shops in the UK and even one or two from elsewhere in Europe.
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My Supermarket

Website: www.mysupermarket.co.uk

For anyone that lives near either an ASDA, Sainsbury, Tesco, Waitrose, ALDI or Morrisons this is a very useful site to let you know when whisky deals are available. If you set up an account you can add ‘price alerts’ for any whisky you’re interested in. You’ll then get emails to notify you when discounts occur for your selected drams.

Rating – excellent! 5/5 Stars
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Bartels Whisky (formerly ‘Malts of Scotland’)

Website: http://www.bartelswhisky.com/

I’ve ordered from this independent bottler many times. There have been a few minor issues along the way but they’re very quick to respond and resolve any reported problems. It’s worth following their Facebook page for updates and special offers. In the past they’ve had £40 and £50 bottle deals, free postage, malt of the month discounts and recently a new line in miniatures (which aren’t as good value as their 70cl bottles but certainly interesting).

Delivery is swift but once or twice the packaging hasn’t been protective enough for a glass bottle.

Value for money – good to excellent

Rating – 4.5/5 Stars
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English Whisky Company

Website: https://www.englishwhisky.co.uk

As well as selling their own distillery bottlings, the English Whisky Co has a good selection of ‘World Whiskies’. I’ve ordered several times but the last time I opened one of the bottle tubes only to notice a strong smell of whisky. It wasn’t leaking but I could see by the low neck level that the seal wasn’t good. Whoever packed the bottle would have noticed the smell but decided to send it anyway. Naughty!

Value for money – average

Rating – 3/5 Stars
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Highland Park Shop

Website: http://highlandpark.co.uk/shop/

If you use the Highland Park distillery shop, whatever you do don’t get the fridge magnet! It’s terrible. Most of what the shop has in terms of whisky can be found cheaper elsewhere but not everything. I ordered the 15-year-old expression simply because it wasn’t available anywhere else. Delivery was a little slow but well packaged and I would certainly use them again.

Value for money – average to poor

Rating – 4/5 Stars
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Abbey Whisky

Website: http://www.abbeywhisky.com

Ordered from Abbey Whisky once and very happy with their service. They had good prices on the bottles I wanted. Their 48-hour delivery service was good value and accurate. Packaging was very good.

Value for money – average to good

Rating – 4/5 Stars
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Robbie’s Drams

Website: https://www.robbieswhiskymerchants.com/

I’ve used Robbie’s Drams several times and they’re a good site to keep an eye on for special offers and interesting whiskies. Twice I’ve discovered bottles that have recently been discontinued but are still available at a reasonable price. Deliveries are swift, well packaged and competitive.

Value for money – good

Rating – 4.5/5 Stars
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The Wright Whisky Company

Website: http://wineandwhisky.co.uk/

This Yorkshire based shop appears to have been around for years and gets excellent reviews online. They have a good selection and some interesting bottles. Postage is a bit higher than average but orders come quickly and well wrapped.

Value for money – average to poor

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
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Wee Dram

Website: http://www.weedram.co.uk/

I discovered ‘Wee Dram’ when searching for the Ardbeg Kildalton 2014. I was amazed they were charging the original release price even though it was nearly 2016 and everywhere else was charging practically double (for the few places that still had it). I quickly set-up an account and placed an order. Delivery was swift and well packaged. I’ll certainly be happy to use them in the future.

Value for money – good

Rating – 4.5/5 Stars
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Whisky Please

Website: http://www.whiskyplease.co.uk/

I’ve only used Whisky Please once but I’m a bit disappointed. I made the mistake of assuming that the rare whisky I was ordering was the one pictured on the website. In truth it’s not their fault but a lesson for me to take into the future. The bottle I received had a lower neck level than the one pictured but it was still high enough not to complain. My bottle arrived in 3 days and was well packed so no problems there.

Value for money – average

Rating – 3.5/5
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Whisky Mouse

Website: http://whiskymouse.com

I have a love/hate relationship with this online shop. I love the variety it has but I hate that the stock list is out-of-date and many bottle pictures are missing. The good news is that the staff (I think it’s a one-man band) at Whisky Mouse are very helpful and will happily email photos of bottles that are missing pictures online. I did this with several bottles from closed distilleries to check their condition and was satisfied enough to buy them. Service and feedback is very high and delivery and packaging is good.

Value for money – good

Rating – 4.5/5
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Glenmorangie Shop

Website: https://glenmorangie.com

I’ve only ordered once from the Glenmorangie Shop when I saw on a whisky forum that they were taking pre-orders for a new release. I paid £40 and free delivery for the new A Midwinter Night’s Dram only for it to be selling in supermarkets a month later for £25. I fell into the trap of thinking I was getting something exclusive to Glenmorangie subscribers. I doubt I’ll be using the distillery shop again but their delivery service was good and the bottle was well packaged.

Value for money – poor

Rating – 3/5 Stars
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Famous Grouse Experience

Website: http://experience.thefamousgrouse.com/

I’ve only ever ordered from the home of Glenturret once and the service was good and efficient. Delivery took 4 days. Looking at the website again I’m tempted by a cask strength Glenturret for £75, which they hand-bottle at the distillery and inscribe with the recipient’s name on the label along with the bottling date. I must resist!

Value for money – average

Rating – 4/5 Stars
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Drinkfinder

Website: http://www.drinkfinder.co.uk

My initial impressions of Drinkfinder were good because I got some excellent deals during their Black Friday offers of 2014. Unfortunately in July 2015 the order I placed was late, arrived bashed and one of the bottles wasn’t what I’d requested. I haven’t used them since even though they gave good support and provided a refund.

Value for money – good

Rating 2.5/5 Stars
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Marks & Spencer

Website: http://www.marksandspencer.com/

This famous High Street store has a small but sometimes interesting selection of whiskies. It has its own ‘mystery malt’ range and occasional exclusives from certain distilleries like Glengoyne and Glenfarclas, along with standards from Kilchoman, Glenfiddich, Compass Box, etc. Prices aren’t always as cheap as can be found online but if you have a store near you then you wont have to pay postage.

Value for money – good to average

Rating – 4.5/5 Stars
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Oddbins

Website: http://www.oddbins.com/whisky

With 47 stores across the UK, Oddbins have a good coverage and have been selling whisky for many years. They’ve even done their own ‘mystery malt’ bottlings and been responsible for being first to release single malts from certain distilleries. Online they stock about 50 fairly standard whiskies, which can usually be found cheaper elsewhere. Their main selling point is if you have access to a store where you can physically visit and buy your whisky without any risk of delivery damage.

Value for money – average to poor

Rating – 4/5
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Ardbeg Shop

Website: http://www.ardbeg.com/shop/

As I write this at the start of 2016 the Ardbeg shop is still selling the Auriverdes release for £79.99, which is by far the best price for this bottle online. Postage costs are higher than average but you get a tracking code. My last delivery took 4 days and was well packed. Available whisky is limited to their own stock as you’d expect but worth a look from time to time if you’re a fan of Ardbeg.

Value for money – good to very good (for specific items)

Rating – 4.5/5
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Wine Rack

Website: http://www.winerack.co.uk/

Wine Rack have 26 stores across England and about as many whiskies listed for purchase on their website. This might not seem very many but when I chatted to a member of staff at my local branch they said they could get access to 100s more. If you have a store near by, you might want to chat to a member of staff about what they can source.

Value for money – average to poor (you pay for the convenience of a physical shop)

Rating – 4/5
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Amazon

Website: http://www.amazon.co.uk/

Often Amazon have supermarket prices but with the additional bonus of free postage. Another thing to look out for is ‘Today’s Deals’ which you can select at the top of the website Home page. Select ‘Beer, Wine & Spirits’ (or whatever they subsequently change it to in the future) and see what whisky offers are coming up. Towards the end of 2015 Amazon started giving their Prime members access to deals 30 minutes before non-members but this is not always the case. I’ve bought many whiskies from Amazon, all of which have arrived promptly and well packaged.

Value for money – good to very good

Rating 4.5/5
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Flaviar

Website: https://flaviar.com

Initially I thought you had to pay to join Flaviar’s tasting club to buy whisky but this is not the case. They have a club which you can join and get sent regular tasting packs but they also sell bigger bottles outwith their membership. If you see anything tempting it’s worth searching the internet to see if Flaviar have any coupons available. I discovered a ‘5% off’ voucher I could use and applied it to my first order during checkout.

Value for money – good to very good

Rating 4.5/5
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Justminiatures

Website: www.justminiatures.co.uk

Bought from them once. Everything they said was in stock that I ordered was genuinely in stock. This isn’t always the case with online whisky shops, as I’ll indicate later. Nicely laid out shop but not everything they have is shown from their menus. Using their search option can sometimes reveal hidden items that are also in stock.

Delivery – 8 days, so not as fast as some, and no dispatch notification. Also the packaging was the worst I’ve ever seen for glass bottles with no internal padding to protect the base and tops of the bottles.

Value for money – fair to good.

Rating – average to good. 3.5/5 Stars
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Green Welly Stop (Whisky Galore)

Website: www.thegreenwellystop.co.uk/

Ordered from them twice, the second is in the process of being delivered. On both occasions I got a phone call to say that items I ordered from their website, which were listed as ‘in stock’ were actually out-of-stock. The first time they gave me a bottle of Glenfarclas 105 in exchange for a Glenfarclas 10yo at no extra cost, which was kind of them. Very helpful staff and good service on the phone.

Delivery – about 3 days once they had everything in stock.

Value for money – good to excellent (but compare with other sites)

Rating – good. 4/5 Stars
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Drink Supermarket

Website: http://www.drinksupermarket.com

Ordered from them once. Nice website with a good selection of whiskies but not as comprehensive as some sites. Easy ordering process and everything was in stock that they had listed on their website.

Delivery – 3 days.

Value for money – good to excellent, especially for miniatures

Rating – excellent. 4.5/5 Stars
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Whisky Exchange

Website: http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com

Ordered from them once. Very good website with a large range of whiskies. Definitely one of the biggest and best online whisky shops serving the UK.

Delivery – 4 days.

Value for money – good.

Rating – good. 4/5 Stars
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Single Malts Direct

Website: http://www.singlemaltsdirect.com

Ordered from them once. Not a huge selection but several whiskies I’ve not seen elsewhere online. My first attempt to order had ‘WorldPay’ crash on me which locked all my purchases in my basket for 24 hours. I tried ordering them again but several were out-of-stock because the only bottles were trapped in my locked basket. I tried their ‘live chat’ option but got no reply. They did respond to my email, eventually, and apologised. They cleared down my basket and I placed the order again, this time working ok when it came to paying for it.

Delivery – 3 days.

Value for money – excellent for the items I wanted.

Rating – good. 4/5 Stars
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Nickolls and Perks

Website: http://www.nickollsandperks.co.uk

Ordered from them once. You’d be forgiven to think that N&P are more about wine than whisky but they say on their website “Spirits have become a major part of business at N&P, particularly Whisky. We are now one of the UK leading specialists with over 1000 bottlings in stock” which certainly seems true when you look at what they’ve got. As I look at their site now I’m being tempted by some of their discounts, which look very competitive. They certainly were for the order I placed.

Delivery – 3 days.

Value for money – good to excellent.

Rating – excellent. 4.5/5 Stars
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C. Gar. Ltd

Website: http://www.cgarsltd.co.uk (look under ‘Buy Whisky & Liquor’ tab)

Fancy a cigar with your whisky? This company are mainly focused on the former but they believe a good cigar requires a good whisky to go with it. I found them when searching for 20cl bottles of the Carn Mor collection, of which they have several. Although these were competitively priced, a lot of their whisky seems expensive compared to more mainstream drink sites. Nevertheless, the real bonus to C Gar Ltd was getting free delivery for orders over £50. Not only that but it was fast and very well packed!

Delivery – 2 days!

Value for money – good to average.

Rating – good to excellent. 4/5 Stars
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The Whisky Shop

Website: http://www.whiskyshop.com/

You can buy online or visit one of several shops around the country (22 mentioned the last time I looked). My local shop is in Guildford, which I visited to order a bottle of Dailuaine they had listed on their website. Having paid for it I was offered free delivery but when it didn’t arrive I phoned them, several times, before they admitted it was out-of-stock and they’d not had it for months. This was 2 months ago and they STILL have it listed on their website!

Be warned – they have different (usually cheaper) prices on their website than in their stores. Use their ‘click and collect’ option to buy online for the best price and then collect it in store to avoid postage (if there’s a branch near you).

Delivery – not experience it when buying something in stock but they’re very poor at giving updates.

Value for money – terrible! I’ve compared their prices to other suppliers and found them to be 30-40% more! One or two of their deals have been competitive so it’s worth looking at those.

Rating – 2.5/5 – average to poor.
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Demijohn

Website: http://www.demijohn.co.uk/drinks/whisky

Although this is an online deli rather than a whisky shop, they do have a couple of single malts and a blend, the latter getting 88/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2013. With an excellent range of lovely Italian bottles and free postage over £40 (completely free with the lead up to Christmas), Demijohn are a delight to use and order from.

Delivery – 3 days.

Value for money – good.

Rating – good. 4/5 Stars
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Whisky Broker

Website: http://www.whiskybroker.co.uk/

The whisky broker is a young man, Martin Armstrong, that has set himself up as an independent bottler of whisky (mainly single malts). There isn’t a huge selection but what whisky there is you wont find anywhere else. It’s also very good value. I’ve just placed my 2nd order which includes a 29-year-old, 70cl bottle of Tormore for £65. If bought from a more mainstream bottler it would be £100 minimum. It’s also worth visiting Martin’s Facebook page where he gives regular updates and latest whisky arrivals.

Delivery – orders are posted out once per week on Mondays, so if you just miss a dispatch you have to wait until the next Monday before your order is sent out. Once en route my last order took 4 days (arrived Friday).

Value for money – excellent!

Rating – excellent. 4.5/5 Stars
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Not Recommended

The Lincoln Whisky Shop

I’m not going to bother with a link because they don’t deserve any hits via my blog. I tried to place an order with them online but I had to register first to find out what the delivery cost would be. I was shocked when it said £19.25! But they did say to get in touch for cheaper delivery options, which I did. I got a call to run through my order only to discover that several items listed as ‘in stock’ on their website were actually ‘out of stock’ in their shop. I’m not a big fan of this but I accept that it happens. What I didn’t appreciate was being told that they’d phone me back in a week when the boss returned from holiday because he was the only one who could authorise an order for more stock. I waited but no call came. I contacted them but I didn’t get a reply.

Laphroaig Shop

I’m not a fan of the Laphroaig online shop run by the distillery. My main quibble is when whiskies appear to be in stock until you get to their dedicated pages and find the dreaded words ‘out of stock’. When dealing with Laphroaig staff during an attempt to place an order they were dismissive and unhelpful. With so many other great distilleries out there it’s nice to have Laphroaig firmly removed from my list.

Underwood Wines

It’s been several years since I blacklisted Underwood Wines. Initially items listed on their website weren’t in stock but all of a sudden they were (after I’d bought them elsewhere). A few months later I tried contacting them again but got no answer. Their website disappeared for a while and I’m not sure if they’re still in business. If they are, approach with caution!

A2zdrinks

Under no circumstances order from A2zdrinks! The only good thing about them is that you pay with PayPal. Often their 0800 phone number doesn’t work and they rarely answer emails. After 2 weeks of waiting for my purchases I sent several unanswered emails before raising a dispute on PayPal. Within a day A2zdrinks had refunded my money but there was no apology. I subsequently found that they have bad reviews all over the internet and even on their Facebook page.
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Other online whisky shops worth looking at:

Master of Malt

http://www.masterofmalt.com/

Royal Mile Whiskies

http://www.royalmilewhiskies.com/

J A Mackay

http://www.getwhisky.com/

John Lewis

http://www.johnlewis.com/

Robertsons of Pitlochry

http://robertsonsofpitlochry.co.uk

Harris Whisky

http://www.harriswhisky.com

Hard To Find Whisky

www.htfw.com

Alexander Hadleigh (Southampton)

http://www.ahadleigh-wine.com/

Kinloch Anderson (Edinburgh)

http://www.kinlochanderson.com/whisky

Beers of Europe

http://www.beersofeurope.co.uk

Edencroft

http://edencroft.co.uk

Whisky Online

https://www.whiskyonline-shop.com/

CASQ (Aberdeen)

https://www.cascshop.co.uk/collections/whisky

Tamdhu Distillery Shop

http://shop.tamdhu.com/

Spirit of Alba

http://spiritofalba.com/

Inverurie Whisky Shop

https://www.inveruriewhiskyshop.com

Soho Whisky

http://www.sohowhisky.com/

Milroy’s of Soho

http://shop.milroys.co.uk/

Kosher Wines

http://www.kosherwineuk.com/

Loch Fyne Whiskies

https://www.lochfynewhiskies.com

The Whisky Vault

http://www.thewhiskyvault.com/

Gauntleys of Nottingham

https://www.gauntleys.com

Morrison & MacKay Ltd

http://www.mandmwhisky.co.uk/

The Whisky Barrel

https://www.thewhiskybarrel.co.uk/

Lockett Bros (North Berwick)

https://www.lockettbros.co.uk/

Cadenheads Whisky Shop

https://www.whiskytastingroom.com/

DrinksWell (Ripon)

http://www.drinkswell.co.uk/

Drinks by Edzell

http://www.whiskybyedzell.com/

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Online Whisky Auctions

I’ve participated in many and, to be fair, it is quite exciting towards the end. You’re left wondering “will I win or wont I?!” right to the last minute. But I have a number of issues with auctions, which are:

1. You can never be 100% certain you’re getting something real or fake. The bottle might be genuine but the whisky inside might not be. I always aim to get a bottle with a sealed top that looks old and original. I avoid screw caps which can easily be super-glued back into place as if they’ve never been opened.

2. Like Ebay, there’s always a hope that you’ll find a bargain but there are several costs after the item is won such as buyer’s fees, postage (often very expensive), VAT, credit card fees and undeclared fees (as I discovered when my payment was more than I expected and couldn’t work out why!).

3. Often there is little or no information about where the bottle(s) came from with guesswork being applied by the auction house such as “1970s-80s”.

4. Usually when you register for an online auction site they take a registration fee, which I’ve seen range between £3 and 10€. This strikes me as a cheeky way of making money for nothing because if you never bid you don’t get the registration fee back.

I’ve had a look at finished auctions online, and what results they had, and if you can get onto a new auction site from the start there are definitely some bargains to be had. But, once the auction site is established, bargains seem few and far between. So it might come down to how much value you place on the excitement factor that you get as the closing time draws near. As much as I consider the cons outweigh the pros, I’m sure I’ll find myself bidding again and again.

One response to “Buying Whisky (UK)

  1. Great site! so much quality info! Thanks a lot man!

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