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The Best Bang-For-Your-Buck Scotch Whiskies, According To Bartenders


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In the world of whiskey (or whisky), the word “Scotch” just sounds expensive. Bourbon has its expensive bottles, but it’s generally easy to embrace. Rye whiskey, Canadian whiskey, and Irish whiskey all have well-known options for the budget-minded drinker. Meanwhile, Scotch conjures up images of powerful scions, standing around, smoking cigars, talking about the stock market, while they sip on drams of expensive juice that they constantly call “peaty.” It feels like a spirit that would either cost a ton or taste awful.

But just because Scotch has its expensive bottles (and many of them are really expensive) that doesn’t mean that you can’t still find reasonably-priced, high-quality offerings. To help you do exactly that, we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the best bang-for-your-buck Scotch whiskies.

Pig’s Nose

Adam Weisblatt, CEO of Last Word Hospitality in Los Angeles

“Budget Scotch: Pig’s Nose – This is a great blended Scotch, mainly from Speyside, Islay, and Lowlands malts. It’s affordable and delicious on its own or is priced aggressively enough to be used in cocktails. Oily, with a touch of ocean air, pears, apples, and roasted nuts.”

Glenlivet 12 Year

Shawn Stanton, bartender at Public House in New York City

“What’s my favorite cheaper Scotch whisky? Glenlivet 12 Year. It’s under $50 and certainly does not taste cheap. It’s smooth with a subtle sweetness.”

Bank Note

August O’Mahoney, bar director at Baltaire in Los Angeles

“My go-to budget Scotch? Bank Note. It works well in cocktails, is serviceable on the rocks, and has a fancy looking label (even though it’s only about $15 per bottle).”

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Benjamin Rouse, bar lead at Henley in Nashville

“I’m a Johnnie Walker Black Label fan. I always keep a bottle on my bar at home. In the realm of scotch whisky, which can get a little pricey, this bottle is about $60/liter and is crushable! It tastes like a smoked slice of apple pie.”

Isle of Sky 8-Year

Hope Ewing at Rappahannock Oyster Bar at ROW DTLA in Los Angeles

“My go-to budget Scotch is Isle of Skye 8-year. It’s a great blend and one of the Scotchiest Scotches I’ve ever enjoyed.”

Cutty Sark

Jack Keane, general manager at Sundry and Vice in Cincinnati

“When I’m really cheap, it’s Cutty Sark just like my mom who used to buy because Ted Kennedy purchased it by the case. Now I’ve graduated to Pig’s Nose. You know you’re drinking Scotch, but it’s not going to kick you in the teeth. Extremely drinkable and it’s good neat, on the rocks, and with soda”

Monkey Shoulder

Will Benedetto, director of bars at In Good Company Hospitality in New York City

“My go-to budget Scotch is Monkey Shoulder — a great workhorse of a whiskey. It won’t break the bank and it’s as comfortable in a shaken cocktail as it is in a glass by itself.”

Dewar’s 12 Years Old

Spencer Elliott, head bartender at The Boogie Room in New York City

“Scotch is never something you want to look for ‘on a budget’. But if you find yourself in need of a decent Scotch and at the end of your paycheck, Dewar’s 12 Year will keep you from total bankruptcy. A smooth-yet-robust toasted almond start and trailing with hints of nutmeg and vanilla, this scotch is easy to finish with a price tag that is easy to swallow.”

The Macallan 12

Marcus Cosio, bartender at Andiron Steak & Sea in Las Vegas

“The Macallan 12 is a go-to scotch in my book, coming in around $40, plus range if your select neighborhood stores. Extremely well-known and balanced, it is the perfect fit for a go-to budget delicious scotch.”

Highland Park Magnus

Rus Yessenov, lead bartender at Honey Salt at Parq Vancouver

“What is my go-to budget Scotch? Highland Park Magnus (newly released) because it was made with cocktails in mind, but still retains complexity.”

Copper Dog

Josh Cameron, head bartender of Boulton & Watt in New York City

Copper Dog is a great budget Scotch. I was hesitant when introduced to it given its recent entry to the market, but then I found its subtle layers work well in cocktails (and its price point to make them affordable). Because of Copper Dog’s gentle balance, cocktails aren’t overwhelmed with spirit.”

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