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Our Favorite Scotch Whisky At Every Price Point Between $20 And $500

Scotch is a tricky whisky to get into. Below $50, you’re going to get a lot of swill that could put you off the stuff forever. You might have one sip and ask yourself why you aren’t buying two bottles of perfectly good bourbon instead? Still, great Scotch whisky is out there — even at low price points — and I’m here to make sure you find it.

For this list, I’m pulling all the top-ranked Scotch whiskies from our four-month-long journey through each price point, in which I named 130 scotches I dig. To make this list as diverse as possible, I’m not repeating bottles from the same brand (I tend to rank Talisker’s expressions pretty high across all price points). That way, I hope you’ll have a broader idea of all the great Scotch whisky out there.

The 13 Scotch whiskies below — both blended whisky and single malts — are some of the best of the best. Yes, even the bottle in the $20 to $30 bracket. Hopefully, this list can help you find a great bottle so that you’re not stuck with a shitty one. Let’s dive in!

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

$20-$30 — Chivas Regal

Chivas Regal

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $29

The Whiskey:

Chivas Regal is one of the biggest whiskies in the world, but that’s mostly outside of the U.S. The juice is a classic blend that is specifically built to be in a glass filled with rocks and maybe a splash of water.

Tasting Notes:

Cedar with hints of citrus, anise, banana, and salted caramel greet you. Creamy vanilla marries mild nutty notes as the nose carries on through the palate with hints of black pepper and malt. The finish is mellow, spicy, and creamy, albeit short.

Bottom Line:

This is a lot of people’s entry point to scotch in general. Chivas is a stone-cold classic and one of the original “scotch on the rocks” whiskies. So, yeah, pour this over some rocks and enjoy the fruity ride.

$30-$40 — Compass Box Artist Blend Scotch Whisky

Compass Box

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $35

The Whiskey:

The lion’s share of this blend — 45 percent — comes from a single grain whisky aged in ex-bourbon from Cameronbridge Distillery. 22 percent is a single malt aged in ex-bourbon that comes from Linkwood Distillery. The rest is a mix of French oak and ex-bourbon single malts and blended malts from the Highlands, Clyneilish, Linkwood, and Balmenach. Those whiskies are vatted and then proofed down before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with a very clear and concise note of apple candy with a hint of salted caramel ice cream cut with a touch of eggnog spices. There’s a nice maltiness that leans into a creamy vanilla, soft holiday spice mix, butter toffee, and a hint of milk chocolate near the end. The finish is warming with a whisper of tobacco next to a woody apple, spice candies (maybe ginger), and a final hint of cocoa and caramel.

Bottom Line:

Though Compass Box has been around for a couple of decades now, their releases always feel fresh. This blended whisky really has some great depth that makes it work over some rocks or layered into a great cocktail.

$40-$50 — Glenfiddich 12

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $47

The Whisky:

This is an entry whisky not only to Speyside but to single malts in general. The juice is aged in a combination of used American and European oak before it’s married, rested, proofed with Speyside’s iconic water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This dram is creamy like a vanilla pudding with a bright pear orchard vibe, some mild toffee, and hints of sweetgrass next to mild oak. That leads towards a very easy and soft woodiness with a touch of candied pear and more vanilla cream before hints of soft cinnamon spice poke up in the background with those soft malts. By the end, it’s clear how light and approachable this whisky is as that pear, vanilla cream, and milt spice slowly fade away, leaving you with a silken mouthfeel and just enough malts and toffee.

Bottom Line:

This is another easy landing for anyone looking to dip their toe in unpeated, or sweet, scotch. There’s a lovely fruitiness that’s clear and concise with a real creamy edge. Overall, this is a cocktail base more than a sipper but works either way.

$50-$60 — Johnnie Walker Green Label

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $55

The Whisky:

Johnnie Walker’s Green Label is a solidly crafted whisky that highlights Diageo’s fine stable of distilleries across Scotland. The juice is a pure malt or blended malt, meaning that only single malt whisky is in the mix (and no grain whisky). In this case, the primary whiskies are a minimum of 15-year-olds from Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, and Linkwood.

Tasting Notes:

Soft notes of cedar dance with hints of black pepper, vanilla pods, and bright fruit with a wisp of green grass in the background. The palate really delivers on that soft cedar woodiness while edging towards a spice-laden tropical fruit brightness. The finish is dialed in with hints of cedar, spice, and fruit leading towards a briny billow of smoke at the very end.

Bottom Line:

This tastes as good — if not better — than whiskies three, four times the price. Even though Johnnie Walker Blue is considered the mountaintop of the brand, this expression slaps. It’s a fantastic sipper (neat or on the rocks) that also makes a killer cocktail or highball. It’s versatile (and among my favorites on this list).

$60-$70 — The Macallan 12

Edrington Group

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $62

The Whisky:

Where many scotches spend time in ex-bourbon and then ex-sherry casks or some combination therein, this expression spends all 12 years of its maturation just in sherry casks. The barrels are imported from Jerez, Spain, and hand-selected for their excellence to mature this much-beloved whisky.

Tasting Notes:

Apple cider with a cut of cinnamon and clove in the juice greets you with a clear sense of vanilla, nuts, and plums on the nose. On the taste, those plums turn into prunes as orange peels mingle with sweet oak and a hint of tobacco spice. The end is long, full of that sherry, dried fruit, and sweetness, and returns back to the chewy tobacco spice.

Bottom Line:

The Macallan 12 is another gateway scotch. This is one of those pours that hooks folk into that malty and fruity side of things when it comes to whisky. But it’s just that, a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

$70-$80 — Dalwhinnie 15

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $73

The Whisky:

This entry-point bottle to the wider world of Dalwhinnie is a hell of an easy drinker. The juice is aged in Scotland’s oldest distillery, making the maturation process a severe one. The juice spends 15 years hiding in those barrels as the temperatures dip well below freezing across all those winters.

Tasting Notes:

Imagine a bowl of pear and apple peels sitting next to an open jar of floral summer honey on the nose. Dots of citrus oils mingle with that honey as a smooth vanilla character arrives on the back of sweet brown bread bespeckled with smoked walnuts. The nuts, sweet bread, and floral honey all converge on the finish as it slowly fades towards a final billow of sweet smoke at the back of your mouth.

Bottom Line:

This is where things get really good. This is a peated malt whisky that’s far more of a sweet, fruity, and nutty whisky than an acrid “smoky” one. That makes this a great place to start with peated malt. You have to go easy before you go hard.

$80-$90 — Lagavulin 16

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $85

The Whisky:

This is the most recognizable Lagavulin out there. The malts are smoked just down the road from the distillery at Port Ellen and the juice is crafted expertly by the sea at Lagavulin. Then the whisky spends 16 long years mellowing in old American and Spanish oak.

Tasting Notes:

Imagine a beach fire that’s using dried seaweed as fuel next to mugs of honeyed black tea and a clump of wet moss on the nose. The taste of this dram meanders through dried pipe tobacco smoke laced with hints of vanilla and tart apple while notes of briny caramel lead towards an oyster shell minerality. The finish is pure silk as the seaweed grows wetter and the smoke sweetens towards that caramel, vanilla, and apple.

Bottom Line:

Speaking of going hard, Lagavulin 16 is a pretty spectacular whisky that bridges the worlds of peat monsters and fruity sweet whisky damn near perfectly. There’s going to be some seaside funk in this whisky, but that’s what so many folks fall in love with.

$90-$100 — Talisker Distillers Edition

Diageo

ABV: 45.8%

Average Price: $99

The Whisky:

The 2021 Distillers Edition is a classic Talisker, aged by the sea, that’s finished for six months in Amoroso sherry casks. The whisky was distilled in 2011 and bottled at 10 years old. It was then finished in another Amoroso sherry cask, making it “double” matured.

Tasting Notes:

The nose runs deep on this whisky with mild hints of beachside campfire smoke whispering in the background as hints of red fruit, wet driftwood, and green peppercorns draw you in. The palate embraces the red berries with a slight tartness next to the sweetness as the peat remains dry and distant and tied to the brine of the sea with an almost oyster liquor softness. The finish lingers for just the right amount of time as sweet berries and dry peat lead towards soft dark cacao powder with a tiny note of vanilla and one last spray from the sea.

Bottom Line:

The refinement of this whisky is astounding. This is also one of those “ah-ha” whiskies that are either going to drive you deeper into the style or push you away for good. It’s also a perfect raw oyster or caviar pairing whisky.

$100-$125 — Laphroaig Càirdeas 2021 Pedro Ximénez Casks

Laphroaig Cairnes
Beam Suntory

ABV: 58.9%

Average Price: $124

The Whisky:

Laphroaig is always innovating its line. 2021’s Càirdeas is a triple-matured, cask-strength whisky. The whisky first mellowed in ex-bourbon casks before being moved to quarter casks and, finally, finished in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. That whisky was then bottled as is.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a lot going on with this nose from a starting point of fresh Band-Aids to rich marzipan with plenty of rose water to apples stewed in holiday spices with hazelnut and caramel to a light touch of bourbon vanilla and maybe a hint of cherry tobacco. The palate takes that Band-Aid and turns it toward a sharp but very fatty smoked bacon vibe while a medley of smoked apples, salted licorice, and eggnog spices mingle beneath that bacon. The mid-palate leans into a very dry cedar as notes of nori, fennel, and sharper brown spices, almost Red Hots, warm the back end of the finish.

Bottom Line:

Heavy peat and sherry casks really marry well. This whisky is bold with a capital “B” but retains some real nuance. That PX sherry cask adds this beautiful layer of dried fruits and nuts that works with the big peaty flavors of the spirit. This is a big swing if you’re new to peated malt, so think about working your way up to it.

$125-$150 — Oban Aged 12 The Tale of Twin Foxes

Oban 12
Diageo

ABV: 56.2%

Average Price: $135

The Whisky:

Oban’s location on the Scottish coast, next to both the Inner Hebrides and Highlands, allows it to harness the best of both regions when making its whisky. This year’s 12-year release is built on the backs of both ex-bourbon casks and refill bourbon casks, allowing the stronger notes of those new bourbon casks to get a light mellowing from the refill wood. The results are bottled at cask strength.

Tasting Notes:

Briny — that’s the draw here. The nose has this mellow mix of spicy nori crackers that lead towards an old wooden cutting board that’s slick with olive juice, fish oils, salt, and black pepper that you then take a heel of bread to mop up while a slight note of smoked whitefish lingers on the very backend. On the palate, a burst of citrus oils arrives to cut through all that umami, oil, and brine as a light malty fruitiness adds a little tart and sweet to the mix, with a sense of cedar chips soaked in mild chili oil driving a sense of warmth. The finish lets that spice build towards a dry pepperiness thanks to the wood as the fruit ties itself to a very mild tobacco leaf and another note of that smoked fish sneaks in at the very end.

Bottom Line:

This is another massively distinct whisky with serious depth. The beauty of this bottle is in how exact the flavor notes are. You really feel every nuance as you take your time sipping this one.

$150-$200 — Ardbeg Fermutation

Ardbeg
Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 49.4%

Average Price: $200

The Whisky:

Ardbeg’s boilers breaking down led to this whisky. Instead of throwing out the mash until the boilers were fixed, Dr. Bill Lumsden (the mad-scientist distiller behind Ardbeg) decided to see what would happen if they let it be. The washback lids were opened and the mash was allowed to ferment with the sea-kissed Islay air for three more weeks. To put that in perspective, Ardbeg (and most whiskies) usually ferment for 72 hours before distillation. Once the boilers were back up and running, the whisky was distilled and then barreled in first-fill and re-fill bourbon casks. 13 years later, Dr. Bill decided it was ready.

Tasting Notes:

The nose starts off with this burst of fresh green grass just after the rain that melts into a summer herb garden (mint heavy), grapefruit seeds, and smoked butter with sweet lemon candy and orange trees that are underpinned with a dark and rich soil that’s been turned with manure. Going deeper on the nose, you get fresh tires, mossy fir bark, and maybe a hint of fennel-heavy focaccia. The palate starts off incredibly soft with a toffee note before veering into burnt scones, hints of absinthe, turmeric, and finally Marlboro Red cigarette ash. That ashiness builds on the palate as a slight Windex note pops in next to a hint of mint candy and some more mild toffee. The finish lets that sweetness stay while the cigarette ash builds towards a crescendo and leaves your senses feeling like you’ve licked an ashtray with a hint of minty toffee candies.

Bottom Line:

There should be a warning on this bottle: “This might blow your mind.” There’s a lot going on here that somehow just works. Yes, even the ashtray vibes. In the end, if you’re looking at spending nearly $200 on a limited edition peaty from Islay, you’re probably already on the road to loving these types of whisky. If not, maybe try a Dalwhinnie first.

$200-$250 — The GlenDronach Parliament Aged 21 Years

Brown-Forman

ABV: 48%

Average Price: $249

The Whisky:

Don’t let the name fool you. The “parliament” in this case is the collective noun for rooks — a type of European crow that nests above the distillery. That dark essence is rendered in the whisky through 21 long years of maturation in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks exclusively.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a lot going on with this nose, starting with blackberry brambles hanging heavy with ripe fruit leading towards a well-spiced oatmeal cookie vibe and cut with hints of orange zest and vanilla. A sticky toffee pudding sweetness arrives (heavy on the dates) with flourishes of bitter dark chocolate notes and a sharp holiday spice matrix. The end is very long but very velvety with hints of dark fruits and spices warming your body as it fades away.

Bottom Line:

Taking a sip of this is like seeing the clouds part and the sun shine through for the first time. This is perfect malt whisky with a succinct flavor profile. Everything is so clear and makes sense as you sip it. You kind of don’t want this one to end because it’s like a silken flow of all your holidays, nostalgia, and hopes rolled into one glass of whisky.

$250-$500 — Springbank 21

Springbank 21
J&A Mitchell & Company

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $473

The Whisky:

This 21-year-old whisky, released in 2021, was crafted with help from old Port, sherry, and bourbon barrels. The peated whisky from the tiny Campbeltown region is built to highlight the unique and very fruity notes of the style while having its own vibe.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is all about the malt that’s a mix of oatmeal cookie and a Graham cracker with rich vanilla pudding notes, a touch of buttery toffee, and a final burst of deep red strawberries. The fruitiness takes on a savory note that’s kind of like smoked watermelon before heading back towards those cookies with plenty of cinnamon warmth and nutty depth on the palate. The finish arrives slowly with a nod towards peat as a passing fancy that’s buried beneath a vanilla cream laced with cinnamon, oats, raisins, and bitter over-roasted coffee beans.

The Bottom Line:

This bottle is very “go big or go home.” It’s super rare, very delicious, and just unique enough that you really need to dig in to find all of those deep flavor notes. Overall, this is a bit of a show-off bottle, sure, but it’s also just really goddamn good.

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