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The Best Scotch Whiskies Between $30 And $40, Ranked

Scotch whisky — either single malt or blended varieties — doesn’t have to break the bank. While the sweet spot for taste and price does tend to sit closer to $100 per bottle than, say, Kentucky bourbon, you can still get perfectly drinkable Scotch whisky for less than half that.

There are plenty of Scotch whiskies in the $30 to $40 range that work pretty damn well as both mixers — in highballs or cocktails — or as a sipper on some rocks. Our decision-making process on which Scotch whiskies in this price range deserve your attention was pretty simple: Does it taste good? Yes? Then it’s on then this list.

Does it taste the best? Then it ranked higher!

The ten bottles of affordable Scotch whisky below are a mix of single malts and blended whiskies we think you should give a shot, especially if you’re looking for a solid scotch to mix with or a cheap scotch that’s actually good enough to drink on the rocks. Let’s dive in!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of 2021

10. J&B Rare Blended Scotch

Diageo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $33

The Whisky:

J&B is a back bar mainstay. This old-school blend became hugely popular in the U.S. after Prohibition and still sits on most American bar shelves to this day, though often just collecting dust (almost inexplicably, it remains one of the best-selling whiskies in the world). The juice is a mix of 42 Diageo single grain whiskies and single malt whiskies that lean heavily into Speyside whiskies.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is malty with a flourish of orange zest next to cedar bark and sweet, buttery toffee. That sweetness carries and folds in nuts and a bit of red fruit. The oak and spice kick in late as the sip fades fairly quickly while warming you up.

Bottom Line:

This is a great candidate if you’re looking for a solid highball whisky. It’s not going to blow anyone’s socks off, but it’ll be a satisfying pour all around without challenging anyone’s palate.

9. Tomatin 12

Takara Shuzo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $35

The Whisky:

This heavily awarded single malt from the Highlands is a classic and accessible example of the region. The single malt juice is aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry for 12 years before those whiskies are vatted and then proofed with that soft Highland spring water.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a real sense of soft cedar on the nose with a bit of wildflower next to marzipan sweetness and nuttiness. The palate is ultra-svelte, with a creamy vanilla pudding next to buttery toffee covered in roasted almonds — all counterpointed by fresh ginger and orange zest spiciness. The sip ends with a hint of malts next to more of that cedar and final notes of pears and apples.

Bottom Line:

$35 for a single malt from Scotland is a steal. While this might not be overly complex, it does have bourbon notes that help bridge those worlds, which is great if you’re a bourbon drinker looking to get into scotch.

8. Grangestone 12 Highland Single Malt

Grangestone Single Malt 12
Quality Spirits International

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $35

The Whisky:

Grangestone is an off-shot of William Grant & Sons and is primarily a blender/bottler. That means this whisky comes from an undisclosed Highland distillery within the William Grant & Sons stable. The whisky is aged 12 years. But beyond that, there’s not much more information.

Tasting Notes:

Milled oats mix with a lightly spiced malt (think clove, cinnamon, and orange zest) next to a touch of prunes, dark chocolate powder, and a hint of vanilla extract. The palate builds on the orange and vanilla towards what feels like a banana cream pie with a cup of sweet black tea on the side and a hint of toffee in the background. The finish holds onto the bitterness of the tea and marries to the dark chocolate as a light walnut shell arrives and dries out the short end with a light sweet woodiness.

Bottom Line:

If you’re mixing up highballs, this is works well. There are a lot of sweeter elements at play that benefit from being calmed down by fizzy water and ice. Regardless of all of that, you’re still getting a 12-year-old whisky (that’s also a single malt) for under $40. That’s a win.

7. Johnnie Walker High Rye

Johnnie Walker High Rye
Diageo

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $35

The Whisky:

This whisky leans into the moment rye is having worldwide. The blend is 40 percent single malts from Diageo’s stable of distilleries — particularly Cardhu, Glenkinchie, and Caol Ila — and 60 percent Scottish rye whisky aged in American oak. Those whiskies are vatted, proofed down, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose feels like the best of both worlds as a twinge of rye spiciness mingles with sweet smoky notes cut with orchard fruit and a hint of vanilla. The fruit drives the palate with tart apples spiked with clove and anise as a buttery caramel sweetens the sip. The finish moves on from that sweet note towards a dry sense of woody spices and a touch of dried and smoked apple slices.

Bottom Line:

If you’re already an American or Canadian rye fan, then this is going to be right in your wheelhouse. In fact, this is a great bridge between the world of American ryes and Scottish whiskies. You’re kind of getting the best of both worlds while drinking something that feels both unique and truly new. Try it on some rocks first.

6. Naked Grouse

Edrington Group

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $31

The Whisky:

This whisky from the very popular Famous Grouse is a dialed-in expression. The juice in the bottle is a blend of sherry-cask-finished whiskies from The Macallan and Highland Park. The whisky is then cut down to a very accessible 80 proof and then bottled in a nicely understated bottle.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sweet malt buried under a buttery scone dripping with raspberry jam with a touch of light spice lurking in the background. The sherry really kicks in on the palate with big notes of dates soaked in black tea next to creamy caramel, vanilla cake, and a touch of dry raisins. The end doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves you with a lovely note of chocolate-covered cherries with a sweet/dry vibe.

Bottom Line:

This is just damn nice to drink. It’s not overly complex but it’s very clearly dialed into the depth that it has. It’s also so easy to drink, especially on a few rocks. That said, I do like using this to mix up a cocktail too as it stands up in pretty much anything.

5. Monkey Shoulder

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $32

The Whisky:

This Speyside blend is crafted as a workhorse whisky. The juice is drawn from the William Grant & Sons distilleries, focusing on Kininvie, Glenfiddich, and The Balvenie. The juice is then rested for up to six months after blending to let it mellow even more before proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a nice welcoming note of creamy vanilla that almost becomes cream soda, next to hints of zesty orange marmalade, malts, and dark spices. The taste delivers on those notes by amping the spices up to Christmas cake territory with a slight tart berry edge next to that cream soda sweetness. The end is short and sweet with a nice lightness that really makes this very drinkable.

Bottom Line:

This is another damn fine whisky. Still, it is specifically built as a mixing whisky for cocktails, so treat it as such. Though, no one is stopping you from pouring some over some rocks in a tumbler either.

4. Buchanan’s DeLuxe

Diageo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $33

The Whisky:

Buchanan’s is another Diageo blend that’s making a big comeback. Part of that is due to this expression snagged a Double Gold from San Francisco World Spirit Competiton in 2020. The whisky has a long history and is built to be a classic “on the rocks” whisky.

Tasting Notes:

The whiskey opens with a real sense of dark chocolate married to bright orange zest. The palate builds on that adding in hints of vanilla pudding and dark spices next to a cedar woodiness and a little bit of spicy/ chewy tobacco. A whisper of peat arrives late and far in the background as the chocolate orange throughline lasts the longest on the fade.

Bottom Line:

This really leans into the more bourbon-esque flavor notes for blended scotch. All that choco-orange, vanilla, spices, and tobacco will feel familiar but maybe a little dailed back, due to the low proof. Either way, this is one of the original “on the rocks” whiskies and we’ll just leave it at that.

3. The Glenlivet 12

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $39

The Whisky:

This Speyside single malt is a good entry point into the wider world of The Glenlivet. This single malt juice is aged for 12 years in both American and European oak before vatting, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a real sense of both tropical fruits, like pineapple, next to orchard fruits, like apricot. Plus you get a slight hint of citrus. The palate really leans into the pineapple but is more like a sweet and buttery pineapple cake with a vanilla frosting. The oak comes in late and only peeks in as the fade amps up the sweetness of the fruit.

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for a fruit bomb in a subtle and approachable single malt, this is going to be the whisky for you. This is also a really solid cocktail whisky thanks to all that fruit offering a nice sweetness.

2. Johnnie Walker Black Label

Diageo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $35

The Whisky:

Johnnie Walker is the best-selling whisk(e)y in the world. That means that there’s no getting away from this brand. The classic Black Label is a blend of over 40 whiskies from three dozen distilleries in the Diageo stable, including powerhouses like Talisker and Lagavulin.

Tasting Notes:

Citrus meets spicy Christmas cake and a bit of powdery white pepper. Those wintery spices carry on through the taste as creamy maltiness, caramel sweetness, and dry herbs bounce on your tongue. The oak comes in late with a dose of peaty smoke that’s cut by an orange zest flourish on the quick end.

Bottom Line:

Johnnie Red is built to be mixed. Johnnie Black is built to be enjoyed on the rocks. While you do see a lot of bar folks using this to mix cocktails with, it still 100 percent works as an end-of-day sipper with plenty of ice. Pro-tip, express some lemon or orange oils over the whisky and rocks before you drink it. It’s the classic “twist” from back in the day.

1. 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:

This is the one whisky on the list that has no business being as inexpensive as it is. This really punches far above its price point. It’s freaking delicious and works wonders in a cocktail, highball, on the rocks, or even neat in a Glencairn. That’s versatility at a great price point.

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