While the words budget and scotch rarely go together, I am here to bring together some of the recommendations from experts. I am hoping to show you the best scotch for your price range, so you don’t spend more than you have to.
There are many regions of scotch to navigate, but there are a couple tips I have for picking out your first (or next) few bottles.
-If you are new to scotch opt for a speyside blend. They are a bit sweeter and more complex than the other regions.
-The Islay, Islands, and Campbeltown regions of scotch have a good amount of peat and brine. Those flavors are much more harsh than the other predominant flavors from other regions. I personally have not acquired a taste for them, and it may take someone a bit to get used to. In addition, blends that contain any islay will definitely have the peat smoke and brine, as it is a very dominant flavor.
-Blends have the potential to be second tier to the single malts, but most are actually very good, especially those mentioned below. Just don’t insist on getting only single malt scotches, branch out!
- Bank Note ($14.99)
“‘This is a blend of five-year-old scotches that brings sweetness in the first taste of vanilla and light fruits to finish with oak barrels. I use it for Rob Roys.’—Mcson Salicetti, head bartender at New York City’s Crimson & Rye” Liquor.com
I don’t know much about this one, but if it is recommended by both a head bartender and Liquor.com, I think it is worth a shot. Especially at $15
- Famous Grouse ($16.49)
“‘An easy-to-use bottle with well-balanced content, The Famous Grouse can work great with many types of cocktails, both stirred or made with fresh citrus.’—Lucinda Sterling, managing director at New York City’s Middle Branch” Liquor.com
This one is found in many, many bar wells (unless it’s a serious cocktail bar, then I have seen #4), it is a go to for bartenders – and myself – to mix cocktails with. I would opt for some other options to pour neat, but it’s a solid choice for slinging drinks.
- Glen Moray Classic ($22.99)
“It is mellow and bursting with pear and soft creamy malts leading to one of the most interesting interpretations of what a Scotch can taste like. Rather than typical scotch flavors, it has delicate perfumey moments with an understated brittle malty backbone with only wisps of smoke” Emma Janzen (Serious Eats)
I’m not as big of a scotch fan as other spirits, I feel like it can be a bit too smoky and earthy, this one is quite light and tasty.
- Cutty Stark Prohibition ($25.99)
“The flavor is absolutely wild. It’s smoky and robust, with hints of vanilla and spice. It doesn’t have as much bite as it does to spicy exotic sass. This stuff has been handcrafted in Scotland since 1923—and when a Scotsman hands you something to drink, you shut your damn mouth and drink it.” –Jeremy Glass (Thrillist)
- Monkey Shoulder ($28.99)
A bartender’s go-to considering the versatility in cocktails. It comes highly recommended by many reputable sources on blogs and Youtube — namely The Whiskey Vault. A blend from three (Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie) wonderful Speyside Whisky leads to the big malty character, brown sugar, and a cooking spices finish. Excellent for anyone from beginner to expert.
- Johnnie Walker Black ($29.99)
“Johnnie Walker Black incorporates upwards of three dozen different whiskies into this globally-famous blend. Black Label offers a peaty backbone which doesn’t overpower the palate, working with a creamy sweetness, as well as spicy and citrus notes. This bottle is the best entrant point into the Johnnie Walker family.” –Jake Emen (Eater)
- Glenfiddich 12 ($32.79)
“The single malt is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso sherry casks. This is a smooth Speyside sipper with a combination of floral, sweet and fruity profiles, and notes of pears, vanilla, oak and butterscotch.” –Jake Emen (Eater)
This is the staple budget single malt, extremely easy sipping scotch. It’s a fantastic scotch for beginners and great to give as a gift.
- Glenmorangie 10 ($32.99)
“Glenmorangie is a name even the novice scotch drinker can trust. The 10-year-old is fruity, but not too fruity; spicy, but not too spicy; and floral, but not like a bouquet—if that makes sense? Perfectly balanced, fresh, vibrant, and great to just sit down in a chair and sip” Jeremy Glass (Thrillist)
- Highland Park Magnus ($32.99)
“This new, non-age-statement bottling from the well-known (but off-the-beaten-path) Orkney outfit is a solid intro the brand. It’s pretty, showing notes of stone fruit and hay and a touch of peat, and well-balanced on the palate with an intriguing tension between big notes of caramel and “birthday cake” and high-toned acidity.” – PUNCH Staff
- Glenlivit 12 ($33.39)
“One of the most famous single malts out there, and an archetypal Speyside whisky (on the lighter, grassier end of the Speyside style). You’ll get light cereal/grain notes with some delicate buttery notes, honey, soft orchard fruits and light, grassy spring florals. Famous for a reason, a great value.” – Emily Bell (VinePair)