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The Best Blended Scotches To Drink Straight For Under $50

Blended scotch whisky is often pigeoned-holed as “mixing” whisky. Yes, some of it is literally blended to be a mixer, especially for highballs (a combination of whisky, fizzy water, and ice). But that’s only a small section of the blended scotch category. The vast majority of expressions are created, at least in part, as sippers — either neat or on the rocks.

Those blends are the bottles we’re focused on today. The only two parameters we’re following are 1) is this scotch enjoyable on its own? and 2) is it under $50? Life feels very complicated right now, we’re keeping this list simple.

The expressions highlighted below are blended scotches we love at a price point most folks can manage. They’re also all easily accessible in most U.S. markets — on liquor store shelves or via delivery (just click on the price). Read the tasting notes to find a bottle that hits the flavor notes you love, deep freeze a few ice cubes, and enjoy!

The Famous Grouse Bourbon Cask

The Famous Grouse

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $26

The Whisky:

This edition of Famous Grouse is a nice step up from their entry-level blend (which is a great highball base, by the way). The whiskies are aged primarily in American oak and refill bourbon casks before blending. The end result is meant to entice bourbon fans into the wonders of well-made blended scotches.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of that bourbon vanilla, caramel, and oak on the nose. The palate definitely delivers on that with a sweet sense of honey, a touch of citrus, and creamy vanilla pudding body and taste. The end is sweet, creamy, and short.

Bottom Line:

This hits enough of those creamy, bourbony notes to drink with a few rocks. It’s also a steal at under $30 a bottle (pending your state’s taxes, of course).

Chivas Regal Aged 12 Years

Chivas Regal

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $35

The Whisky:

While Chivas is a real powerhouse in South, East, and Southeast Asia, it’s regaining much-deserved popularity back in the U.S. The main reason is that this is a very well-crafted blend that harkens back to the old-school “scotch on the rocks” days.

Tasting Notes:

You’re greeted with a nose of salted caramel, cedar, citrus, anise, vanilla cream, and a note of distant banana. The sip carries on with those notes as a foundation and adds a fatty roasted nut edge, with plenty of malts and a nice dose of peppery sharpness. The finish embraces that pepper as it slowly fades back towards the sweeter notes.

Bottom Line:

This is the sort of dram I know I can order (always on the rocks) when I’m not really sure what I want and know I’ll get something supremely satisfying.

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $35

The Whisky:

This, along with Chivas, is one of the best selling whiskeys in the world. The juice is a blend of around 40 whiskies that are each aged for a minimum of 12 years. The end result is a blend that’s specifically dialed in to be sipped not mixed (Red Label is Johnnie Walker’s mixing blended scotch).

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear spicy Christmas cake nose that’s cut with a slice of lemon and a dash of black pepper. The palate embraces the spiciness while adding a hint of caramel, malts, orange oils, and dried bouquet garni (herbs) on the tongue. The wood comes in late, as the spice and sweetness fade slowly towards a final billow of faint smoke.

Bottom Line:

This is a perfectly serviceable sipper with a few rocks, or even neat, if you prefer. It also serves as a gateway to the long list of bottles in the higher reaches of Johnnie Walker’s line.

Monkey Shoulder

Monkey Shoulder

ABV: 59.8%
Average Price: $35

The Whisky:

This Speyside blend from William Grant & Sons highlights the shingle’s three Dufftown distilleries: Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie. The end result is the best of Speyside in one, award-winning bottle.

Tasting Notes:

You’re met with a clear sense of crème brûlée next to Christmas spice, cacao, and a touch of orange marmalade. The taste delivers well on those promises with bright berries, stone fruits, and a sense of malts by way of fresh-baked bread dripping with creamy butter and fresh honey.

The end isn’t too long, but touches on those sweet honey notes, the spice, and a final touch of fresh mint sprigs.

Bottom Line:

This is a really fine sipper to have on hand and feels like it should cost twice as much, easily. It’s also worth noting that this is a killer workhorse blend that’ll really amp up a cocktail.

Shackleton

Shackleton Whisky

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $37

The Whisky:

The story of this whisky is amazing. It was recreated from the whisky that Sir Ernest Shackleton took to Antarctica in the early 1900s. This actual expression was recreated from bottles found in Shackleton’s Antarctic camps nearly 100 years later, alongside recipes from the 1800s for the actual whisky. That alone is a good conversation starter for a true throwback blend.

Tasting Notes:

Malt crackers mingle with a sweet-cinnamon nose. The taste is light and accessible with a lean toward apple fruit, honey sweetness, and a nice cut of orange zest. The end holds onto the orange as the sweetness edges towards toffee on the quick fade.

Bottom Line:

This is a fine sipper on the rocks. But it’s really the conversation about Antarctica it opens up that’s the star of the show.

Great King St. Glasgow Blend by Compass Box

Compass Box Whisky

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $38

The Whisky:

Compass Box Whisky is all about creating very sippable blends of scotch. This blend is Scotland in a bottle. It’s 67 percent Highlands, Speyside, and Islay married to 33 percent Lowland whiskies aged in first-fill and refill bourbon, first-fill and refill sherry, and finished in specialty French oak.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a plummy nature that’s counterpointed by a subtle yet clear peaty smoke on the nose. The taste really basks in the plummy and nutty sherry aspects, while touching on a lighter vinous note and plenty of berry sweetness. The end is medium-length, with hints of that fruit next to a dailed-in smokiness.

Bottom Line:

This is designed to be a sipper and it hits that mark wonderfully — blooming wonderfully with a little water.

Buchanan’s Aged 12 Years

Buchanans

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $38

The Whisky:

This is a classic blend that harkens back to simpler times in whisky without losing any beauty in its juice. It’s meant to highlight the sweeter and softer notes of great scotch and really hits that mark.

Tasting Notes:

Notes of orange, cacao, creamy vanilla, and a hint of peat mingle on the nose and draw you in. The taste embraces the vanilla and creaminess with a counterbalance of berries, apples, and caramel. The end arrives with a billow of creamy pipe tobacco with a slight peaty edge as it quickly fades out.

Bottom Line:

Most bartenders will automatically use this as a mixer. I’d argue it’s perfectly suited for an “on the rocks” order if you want a nice mix of berry sweet with mild peat smoke.

Dewar’s Aged 15 Year

Dewar

ABV: 40%
Average Price: $44

The Whisky:

Dewar’s White Label and 12 get a lot of attention, and rightfully so. They’re fine bottles. But for the price, their 15-year-old expression really is a winner. The extra three years this blend gets in the barrel adds a nice depth that speaks to how good blended scotch can be while still being affordable.

Tasting Notes:

Apples covered in caramel and walnuts mix with a bit of sherry jamminess on the nose. That nuttiness really leads the way on the taste as a malty cracker feel mixes with toffee, vanilla, and dried fruits. The end holds onto the sweetness of those fruits then fades quickly towards an earthy final note.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those blends that can lead to an “ah-ha” moment when you realize how great and complex these bottles can be on the rocks or with a drop or two of water.

Virginia Distillery Co. Port Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky

Virginia Distillery Co.

ABV: 46%
Average Price: $50

The Whisky:

Okay, this isn’t technically a Scottish blended whisky.

It’s a hybrid — marrying single malt scotch to single malt whisky from Virginia. Even though the whiskies involved are 100 percent malts, they’re not all from Scotland. So it’s not a single malt. It’s not exactly a blend either, because that usually denotes a blend of malt and grain whiskies. Maybe it’s best to call it a “blended” whisky and just leave it at that.

It’s our list and we’re giving it a spot.

Tasting Notes:

Figgy pudding cut with walnuts mingles with apples and caramel on the nose. The taste embraces that fruit while adding more caramel with plenty of cinnamon-forward spices and a dusting of cacao when water is added. Those spicy caramel apples linger the longest with a distant wisp of oak and smoke tying off the sip’s long end.

Bottom Line:

This is a very easy sipper and bridges the old-school Scotch single malts with newer Virginia whisky-making. Definitely drop in some water to help it reach its full potential or just drink it on the rocks as I do.

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