If your local bottle shop is frequented by hicks/rednecks, then... we must be neighbors.
Just out of curiosity, where are you from, as liquor prices vary considerably from state to state.
To answer your question, I think a great bottle that is typically in your desired price range is the Balvenie Doublewood 12. You and your wife should find it quite enjoyable. Though the flavors are by no means identical to your previous drinks, I think it will be mild enough for your wife and provide a little more oomph that you were looking for.