Oh, no... We malt maniacs want more!
A decent collection, for example. Reasonable prices would be nice too - and you might throw in some good advice while you're at it.
Alas - how rarely does a person find himself lucky enough to live in the vicinity of a liquor store that meets all of those requirements?
Very rarely, I tell you!

D rinking a good single malt whisky
is a very special and almost sacred
experience. Acquiring that same malt,
on the other hand, usually isn't.
First of all, you have to leave the
comfort of your home to visit a liquor
store. But for most of us, flying off to
the nearest liquorist isn't an option.

All in all, it's amazing that I didn't think of buying
(at least some of my) single malts on-line sooner.
I mean - what could be easier?
Instead of dragging my sorry ass through wind and rain to who knows where, I could be fulfilling my alcoholic needs with a few clicks of my mouse.

Take me, for example. I live in a one mile radius from four different liquor
stores, but none of them meets my requirements. This means, I will have
to travel to the centre of Amsterdam to visit a liquorist with good service,
a wide selection and decent prices.
In my case, this means that a trip to an acceptable liquorist (and back) takes up at least two hours of my time - a rare and valuable commodity.
Being Dutch and all, I can't help but think about the money I could have earned in that time - or the more wortwile activities I could have been doing, like excersizing, maintaining this site or having a nice dram.

Two of the four liquor stores in my neighbourhood are part of the large Dutch 'Gall & Gall' chain; their prices are very steep and I've tried all of the malts they have to offer anyway, so that's not an interesting option. Even more so because the people behind the counter don't know what they're talking about. The third is a bargain basement store in a supermarket - good prices but they have only 4 or 5 single malts on stock. The last one is an independant liquorist - A pretty good selection but the prices are almost at the Gall and Gall level.

And there's a tricky question to begin with.
I already know a few on-line shops through my contacts in the whisky biz, but most of my visitors don't. I assumed most people would use a search engine when they wanted to find an on-line whisky store, so that's what I did. I started a search on Altavista and Hotbot and gave myself 30 minutes to collect the URL's of as many on-line malt shops I could find.
When my time was up, I found myself with a list of over 80 sites!
Of course, it would be impossible to investigate this overwhelming number of shops in detail, so I was forced to make a selection.

Where should I shop?

Name

URL

Interface

Selection

Info

Prices

Blackadder

www.blackadder.com

**

**

*

*

Whisky House

www.thewhiskyhouse.com

*

*

****

*

Master of Malt

www.masterofmalt.co.uk

*

***

*

**

Liquor.com

www.liquor.com

*

***

*

*

Whisky Shop

www.whiskyshop.com

***

**

*

*

Buy-Whisky.com

www.buy-whisky.com

*

?

?

?

Vintage House

URL too long

**

***

*

**

Covent Garden

URL too long

*

?

?

?

Whiskyshop.nl

www.whiskyshop.nl

*

*

*

*

Whiskyworld

www.whiskyworld.nl

*

****

**

**

Rankings on search engines can easily be manipulated, so rather than just
picking the first ones from the list, I tried to 'randomize' the results. I
chose every fifth URL from the 82 I found for further investigation.
Five of the sixteen links proved to be dead links and another site on the
list made my computer crash twice when I tried to visit. This conveniently
left me with a shortlist of 10 online single malt shops. I decided to
visit those sites and compare them to one another.
(Move your mouse across the piece of paper for more information about the criteria.)

These are just 10 shops from my selection at a glance.
See
seperate page for details.

The criteria I used to 'judge' the sites were
Interface (accessibility, look and feel, navigation),
Selection (number of available malts, diversity of stock),
Information (background information, quality of content)
Prices (prices of malt, shipping and handling costs)
(the maximum number of stars is 4)

What should I pay?

Well - that all depends. Obviously, you don't want to pay a lot more for a single malt in an on-line store than you would at your own liquorist. After all, buying malts on-line has one major drawback compared to conventional shopping; there's no instant gratification. Considering you may have to wait a few weeks for your order to be delivered, on-line shopping is something for people with enough restraint to be able to keep away from their liquorist for a few weeks. There is, of course, one exception. When you live in an area where the supply of single malts is limited, an on-line shop could be an interesting way of discovering single malts that are not ordinarily available to you. It's hard to put a price on the amazing experience of opening a new, undiscoverd malt for the first very time. This leaves us with the conclusion that the lowest possible price is the best price.
Gee whizz - What an amazing conclusion...

Name

Lagavulin

Morangie

Glen Ord

Balvenie

Dalmore

Aberlour

Macallan

HL Park

Blackadder

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Whisky House

-

C 61,48

-

C 38,18

-

-

-

C 43,63

Master of Malt

C 44,89

C 47,34

C 29,38

C 42,44

C 33,55

C 28,17

-

C 37,05

Liquor.com

C 55,12

C 61,36

C 39,52

C 42,64

C 45,76

C 37,44

C 50,96

C 50,96

Whisky Shop

C 48,97

C 53,06

C 36,73

C 48,16

C 45,64

C 35,09

-

C 35,91

Buy-whisky.com

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

Vintage House

C 44,74

C 49,32

C 34,37

C 42,62

C 38,04

C 31,35

-

C 36,82

Covent Garden

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Whiskyshop.nl

-

-

C 27,69

 -

C 31,77

-

-

-

Whiskyworld

C 35,21

C 46,83

C 26,83

C 41,75

C 31,18

C 29,01

C 36,27

C 36,27

And that pretty much ended the experiment.
Two of the 10 on-line shops I selected for the first run (Blackadder and the Covent Garden Whisky Shop) didn't offer any of the 'touchstone' malts I was looking for, which makes it effectively impossible to compare prices. Two other ones (the whisky house and whiskyshop.nl) had only a few of the malts on my shopping list, and at www.buy-whisky.com none of the links into the site worked.

Please note: All prices are in Euro's. Calculations (transferring between guilders, Euro's, deutschmarks and pounds) have been made in april and may 2000. Prices and exchange rates change constantly. The four malts on the right are all 1.0 litre bottles - if (at a certain shop) that malt was only available in 0.7 or 0.75 litre bottles, or if it wasn't clear wheter or not it was a litre bottle, I printed the price in a lighter shade of brown.

Now I could have selected five other shops and check them out, but the first results of my price survey on the other sites were so disappointing that I didn't even bother. Needless to say - I wasn't going to pay these kind of prices! Even without shipping costs (more about that later), the prices at some shops were almost twice what I pay at my favorite liquorist. It seems that for most people, buying malts on-line is a lot more expensive than just dropping by at their neighborhood liquor store and picking up whatever they want.

Only two shops on the list offered the wonderful Macallan 12 yrs. I love so much. I did see a 1990 Gordon and MacPhail 'Speymalt' bottling, however, which I ordered. When it arrived three weeks later I wish there had been reliable info and tasting notes on the site, because it was completely inferior to the official bottlings.
One of the dangers of on-line shopping, I guess.

Even after the recent increase in prices, a litre of Macallan 12 is only 32 Euro's at my favorite liquorist. The greatly inferior 0.7 litre bottle of Macallan 1990 'Speymalt' cost me 61 Euro's including delivery. Almost twice as much.

What should I buy?

Another difficult question. Are you just a beginner wandering around in maltland or a seasoned expert who knows exactly what he wants? For those of us with some experience, choosing a few good malts is relatively easy. Novices, on the other hand, may find it very hard to make a choice; even more so because the majority of the on-line shops offer little or no background information about the single malts on offer.

I figured any good on-line shop should offer at least a selection of widely available commercial malts. That way, 'fresh' shoppers will be able to buy something they already read something about - either in magazines, books or elsewhere on the Internet. That's why I selected a package of single malts that offer good value and are available almost anywhere in the world.
Of course, this is just a personal selection for this particular experiment.

The package:

Lagavulin 16 yrs.                        0.7 litre
Glenmorangie Port Wood              0.7 litre
Glen Ord 12 yrs.                          0.7 litre
Balvenie 12 yrs. Doublewood         0.7 litre
Dalmore 12 yrs.                           1.0 litre
Aberlour 10 yrs.                           1.0 litre
Macallan 12 yrs.                          1.0 litre
Highland Park 12 yrs.                  1.0 litre

I also put a few litre bottles on my shopping
list, because they tend to offer even more
bang for your bucks. My supplier offers a litre
of Highland Park 12 for around 30 Euro's, while
the 0.7 litre bottle costs almost 25 Euro's.
And hear this: A litre of Aberlour 10 costs
the same as the 0.7 litre bottle: 25 Euro's.
That's a good few extra drams for free!

One would think that in this digital day
and age, one should be able to order single
malt whiskies online at reasonable prices.
Well... Not quite....
As it turns out, my digital dreams of a future
in which I can easily and quickly order my
liquid fixes from the comfort of my own home
are just that; dreams about the future.

Sounds great, doesn't it?
Yes, it does. But then I thought about it some more.
I realised that buying my malts online sounded a lot
easier than it probably would be. Thinking about it
more and more raised a few important questions;

There's an added incentive to buying your malts from an international on-line store. Sometimes a new single malt becomes available in one part of the world while others have to wait a year or more for the same bottling. The official Ardbeg 10 reached Holland in march 2000, but isn't available in America or Australia yet.

What about taxes and legal stuff?

Again: That depends very much on your specific local situation.
When you buy on-line from a store in your own country or state, there's usually only the ordinary sales tax to be reckoned with. International purchases, on the other hand, can be quite another story. Some countries don't effectively tax small shipments of liquor, but in most cases you can't import more than a litre duty free. I haven't found a shop yet that sells at duty free prices, which effectively means you usually have to pay taxes twice on bottles purchased abroad. As far as the legal stuff is concerned, there are also considerable differences in rules and regulations in different countries. All in all, this makes it very hard for me to say anything useful on the subject within the confines of this article - so I won't.....

What about shipping costs and delivery?

The unfriendly prices at the shops I selected caused me to abandon my original plan of buying a few bottles from every store. This means I could not compare shipping costs at the different shops. Suffice it to say that I noticed some considerable differences between various shops, so make sure to check and compare carefully before you buy on-line.
One final point of importance is the delivery period. After all, we'd like to receive the malts we order as soon as possible. My plan of testing things out in real life fell through, but from a few on-line purchases I made outside this survey I've found that on-line offers usually are delivered within two to four weeks from ordering. Since my favorite supplier delivers in a day here in Amsterdam, with no extra charge, there's one more reason for me to hold off on the on-line shopping for a while.

In conclusion: At the moment, buying single malts on-line does seem to offer most people a poor alternative to the oldfashioned physical shopping experience. Whether or not on-line shopping is an interesting alternative for you depends on your local situation. Just see if it works for you...

Please note that the research for this article has been conducted in april and may 2000. The world wide web is an ever changing and expanding universe with new sites popping up everywhere. This means that this article is becoming more obsolete every day. Time permitting, I will repeat my survey somewhere in the future.

Meanwhile, I feel sorry for those of you who aren't blessed with a supplier that delivers a litre of Highland Park at home within a day - and that for just 30 Euro's with no delivery charge! Being the compassionate guy that I am, I immediately thought about finding a way for the visitors of my site to benefit from the same great prices I do. I did some wheeling and dealing, and I'm glad to announce that I will be building a site for my supplier in a few months. He ships worldwide, so this should be especially interesting for those of you who happen to live in an area where the selection of available malts is limited.

Meanwhile, you might find the next item useful: A printable list of all the single malt whiskies I tasted so far (currently around 90), with my personal ratings next to them. Just print it and take it with you on your next trip to the liquorist. Click here for the list.

E-mailSitemap / Table of ContentsGo Back Go HomeQuestions?
BackNext PageSend an E-mailVisit www.scotchwhisky.com