Welcome, John. I don't drink a lot of "hard liquor," but I enjoy my collection of Single Malts, fueled by a visit to the Highlands of Scotland. In the modest range, my favorites from Speyside are Dalwhinnie, Balvenie, and Macallan, and Oban from the West, but my preference is for the Islays. I like the edge. Bunnahabhain and Laphroig are two favorites, but for my money, the best when cost is a consideration is Lagavulin 16.
My most favorite of all are the independent bottlings with Provenance at the top of the list. I assume you've visisted the Highlands and The Whisky Castle in Tomintoul. Mike Drury puts on a great shopw and a great tasting.