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The Best Unpeated Highland Single Malt Scotch Under $100

When a lot of us think of Scotland, we’re likely imagining the Scottish Highlands. The craggy peaks, the long murky lakes, shaggy cows, and old distilleries of grey stone hidden away in some shady glen — it truly is an idyllic scene. Today, we’re going to focus on that last image and talk about Highland single malt whisky.

The Highland whisky region of Scotland is home to 47 of Scotland’s 130 distilleries. It’s the biggest Scotch whisky region geographically, with the Speyside region even contained completely inside of it. In short, it wouldn’t be off base to say that the Highlands is the essential heart of Scottish whisky.

For the list below, we’re breaking down (and ranking) 10 unpeated Highland single malt whiskies that’ll give you an introduction to the regional style — all of them are under $100 and pretty available at any good liquor store. We’ve already covered our favorite peated Highland malts here in case you’re a smoke head. However, we are removing the Islands subregion — Skye, Orkney, Jura, Mull, etc. — from the Highlands, as those whiskies truly have their own vibe and more and more people are finally recognizing those whiskies as their own thing outside of “Highland” whisky.

As for this ranking, we’re going on taste alone. Sound good? Let’s get into it!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of The Last Six Months

10. Old Pulteney 12

InterBev

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $39

The Whisky:

Old Pulteney is all about sea vibes. Their entry-point spirit is aged for 12 years in second-fill bourbon casks before it’s batched, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of creamed honey with a touch of sea spray on the nose. The taste really holds onto that creamy honey while notes of wildflowers and oaky spice mingle with malts. The end is fairly short and leaves you with a sense of that creamed honey and a touch of spicy warmth.

Bottom Line:

This is a great, standard malt that works wonders in a highball with some fizzy water and maybe a touch of lemon or lime. Over the rocks, the creaminess of that honey comes forward along with a dry grainy note. It’s nice and even-keeled.

9. Balblair 12

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InterBev

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $73

The Whisky:

This entry-point single malt from the Highlands is an easy drinker. The juice is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon casks and “double fired” or re-charred used American oak barrels. The results are touched with a little water to bring it down to proof and then bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This is a malty sip with touches of lemon pudding next to a hint of tart apple on the nose with a small edge of vanilla. The palate carries notes of orange rinds studded with cloves next to a touch of creamy honey and vanilla. The end dries out a bit with a note of Scotch broom and lightly spiced malts.

Bottom Line:

Overall, this is a good highball Highland malt. It’s very basic in its flavor profile but does deliver a distinct and well-rounded profile overall. It’s not going to blow any socks off for depth or nuance, but it doesn’t need to.

8. Royal Brackla 12

Royal Brackla 12
Bacardi

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $90

The Whisky:

Royal Brackla has had a tumultuous past but has been making a comeback over the last few decades and years. The juice in this bottle is a classic unpeated single malt whisky that spends 12 years mellowing in ex-Oloroso sherry casks. The whisky is then vatted, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a light and bright fruit salad with dark berries, fresh peach, a hint of pineapple, and maybe some mint with a twinge of honey in the background. The palate veers more savory with a pinch of sea salt next to fresh sage and maybe even some rosemary that leads back to creamy honey with a thin line of almond shells and mild spicy malts.

Bottom Line:

This is a great cocktail base whisky. That savory note with the bright fruitiness tends to shine through nicely, especially with some citrus and an egg white in a whisky sour situation.

7. Glengoyne 10

Glengoyne 10
Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd.

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $58

The Whisky:

Glengoyne uses unpeated Highland barley that they air-dry at the distillery. The uniqueness of this whisky doesn’t end there. They also season their own American and European oak barrels with sherry for six years before filling them with their juice. After 10 years of maturation, those barrels are vatted, proofed, and bottled for this expression.

Tasting Notes:

This starts off with notes of apple candies, butter toffee, and a few chocolate-covered almonds. The taste leans back into the apple but it’s more tart and juicy, as minor notes of anise and wet cedar bark lead to a little bit of warm cream sitting on top of a shot of espresso and hint more of those almonds. The finish lets the malts sweeten with a spoon of orange marmalade on toast rounding things out.

Bottom Line:

This is getting into the more interesting whiskies on this list. There’s enough going on with this palate to warrant a classic “on the rocks” pour. That bitterness from the marmalade and espresso calms down with water and the creamier notes move forward. It’s very straightforward but nice.

6. Loch Lomond 12

Loch Lomond 12
Loch Lomond Distillery Company

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $50

The Whisky:

This Highland malt is all about maturation. The whisky is barreled in three different bourbon barrels. One set is first-fill bourbon barrels (meaning that this whisky was the first thing to go in the barrel after the bourbon was drained). Another set of barrels were re-fill bourbon barrels (meaning that the barrels had already held local whisky). And the last set of barrels were re-charred bourbon barrels.

Tasting Notes:

This is a rush of apple and pear orchards on the nose with hints of dry oatmeal next to floral honey, vanilla husks, and a bright note of lemon oils. The palate really leans into the apple/pear vibe while the lemon turns into a lemon cream pie with stiff peaks of vanilla whipped cream and a lard-based crust supporting everything. The end has a light touch of spicy malts next to all that lemon creaminess and apple and pear woodiness that just hints at a moment of singed cedar thanks to that heavy char from the bourbon barrel.

Bottom Line:

This is a nice and complex whisky that also feels unique. I’d probably focus on drinking this on the rocks, but it also works really well in a cocktail like a Sazerac or Manhattan thanks to that citrus vibe.

5. Blair Athol 12 Flora & Fauna

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $58

The Whisky:

Besides this bottling, you really only see Blair Athol malt in Bell’s Whisky (a very old-school blend) and very limited releases from the distillery or boutique brands. The whisky is a Highland malt that spends 12 years chilling out in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks before proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

The sherry really shines on the nose with a deep dried fruit feel next to Christmas cake spices that were soaked in dark rum — all leading towards hot coals straight from a fireplace. On the palate, light yet very thick syrup arrives with a malty edge, notes of lemon jam, dried apricots, and a vanilla tobacco chewiness. The finish takes its sweet time and turns that light syrup into bitter lemon syrup over dried out malt crackers with a throughline of burnt rosemary sprigs.

Bottom Line:

This is an interesting pour. It’s deeply fruity but has a minerality that’s almost chewy. The pour works well on its own thanks to that but really shines with a little ice to let it bloom in the glass.

4. The Dalmore 12

Whyte & Mackay

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $68

The Whisky:

This Highland whisky is a gateway whisky that feels like a classic. The juice is aged in ex-bourbon for nearly a decade. The whisky is then transferred to former sherry casks for that crucial finishing touch of maturation for around three years. It’s then proofed down with to a very accessible 80 proof.

Tasting Notes:

Oranges studded with cloves mingle with a deep dark chocolate foundation and a hint of eggnog creaminess and spiciness. The palate goes even deeper on the orange and spice as heavy vanilla arrives — the husks, seeds, and oils are all present. The end is fairly succinct and touches back on the chocolate with a bitter mocha-coffee vibe and more of the vanilla.

Bottom Line:

This is where we squarely get into the “sippable” whiskies on this list. You don’t need a rock here, but it does help it bloom in the glass. Otherwise, this is a fine introduction to Highland whiskies with zero rough edges and a deep flavor profile.

3. Aberfeldy 12

Bacardi

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $47

The Whisky:

This Highland malt is the cornerstone of the much-beloved Dewar’s Blended Scotch. This whisky is a very accessible single malt that spends 12 years resting in various casks before it’s married and proofed down and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The heart of the nose is in the mingling of pear and honey with a hint of Christmas spice, especially nutmeg. The palate expands on that with a lush maltiness, creamy vanilla, mild spice, and more of that honey and orchard fruit. The end gets slightly nutty and bitter with a little water as the honey, fruit, and spice linger on the senses.

Bottom Line:

This whisky really leans into the honey with a silky edge. Overall, this whisky really works wonders on a single rock or in a cocktail. That honeyed base brings a lot of depth to a sour. On a rock, it gets creamier with a nutty/spicy edge that shines.

2. Glenmorangie The Cadboll Estate Batch #2

Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $90

The Whisky:

Glenmorangie has finally made this a regular drop on the North American market. The juice is made from Highland barley grown exclusively on the 440-acre Cadboll Estate, which surrounds the distillery. The juice is then filled into French casks which held Muscat and Sémillon wines. It’s then left alone for 15 years to mature. Finally, those barrels are batched and brought down to a low 86 proof with local highland spring water.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of buttered scones with lemon curd next to a good dose of vanilla and a touch of savory herbs on the nose. The palate really holds onto that biscuity nature while adding in a caramel candy note next to a bit of butter with a white sugar cube vibe. That lemon comes back on the short finish with hints of old straw and strawberry jam while the savory edge sneaks back in with a hint of lightly spiced tobacco leaf.

Bottom Line:

It’s hard not to love a good pour of Glenmorangie. It’s just… the quintessential unpeated malt. This bottle is the “turned up to 11” version of the 10 and Nectar d’Or expressions. It’s so distinct on its own but really benefits from that drop or two of water or a single rock.

1. Glendronach 15 Revival

Brown-Forman

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $79

The Whisky:

This Highland malt has made a roaring comeback (the expression went on hiatus from 2015 to 2018). The juice is aged in a combination of Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks for 15 long years. Those casks are married and this whisky is brought down to a very easy-drinking 92 proof.

Tasting Notes:

Dark berry brambles with tart and sweet fruit, stems, thorns, and even a little black dirt draw you in on the nose with a hint of walnut shell and cherry pie. The palate is a creamy-yet-bitter dark chocolate orange that leads toward a semi-savory fig countered by ripe apricot. The chocolate comes back with cinnamon spice and more dark berries and walnut on the end.

Bottom Line:

This is the most distinct whisky on this list. The flavor notes are dialed, clear, and delicious. This doesn’t need a rock or water, but adding those will bring out so many more flavors to enjoy. This really could be your next go-to whisky pour.

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