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Affordable Single Malt Scotches To Sip This Weekend

Finding a good bottle of cheap single malt scotch here in the United States is tough. First, there’s the matter of import costs. The bottles have to get to the U.S. from Scotland — an added layer of expense. Then there’s the fact that scotch is aged for much longer than your average bourbon (which generally only ages two to four years). As we’ve said before, time spent in the barrel costs money.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to find good single malt in the U.S. hovering around the $30 mark. There are a lot of bottlers who buy up un-used barrels from distilleries and give them finishing touches in their own warehouses, then slap their own labels on. They vary in quality greatly, but there are definitely some drinkable expressions out there. Plus you have the standard or base versions of some single malts available — just straight, non-fussed-with expressions. Those can be quite solid, even without bells and whistles.

The ten bottles below represent a range of affordable single malts that definitely get the job done. We’re not talking the best single malt scotches ever. We’re talking about the best single malts in this price range that you can also get delivered. In the end, these are the bottles that can introduce you to a style without draining your bank account.

NOTE: With bars and tasting rooms closed, we’ve supplied tasting notes from the distillery here.

Glen Ness Aged 8 Years

ABV: 40%
Region: Highland
Average Price: $20

The Whisky:

This label comes from Alistair Forfar. The bottler is known for buying up cheap barrels and releasing them as specialty labels under the Alistair Forfar shingle. Generally speaking, these bottles are going to have rough edges that work best when mixing, not sipping.

Tasting Notes (from Drizly):

“Rich, Oak, Nut, Long.”

Highland Queen Majesty Classic

ABV: 46%
Region: Highland
Average Price: $24

The Whisky:

This expression from Highland Queen — which is probably better known for its blends — gets high marks for its drinkability. Famed whiskey reviewer Jim Murray (Whisky Bible) called this single malt “well-made” and with “no off notes at all.” That’s high praise for a very affordable dram of whisky.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

“Aroma: Sweet and fruity with light floral notes. Flavor: Soft and elegant with light fruit notes marrying nicely with the light oak tannin. Finish: Soft and sweet.”

Shieldaig Highland Finest Old

ABV: 40%
Region: Highland
Average Price: $25

The Whisky:

Distiller, blender, and bottler Ian Macleod purchases Highland whisky from an un-named distillery to bottle this expression. The idea behind the expression is to highlight the peatiness of the northern reaches of the Highlands in the taste.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

“The sharp fragrance of pine-studded islands. The flash of silver herring in the dark waters of the loch. The shawls of mist around the shoulders of the nearby Torridon hills.”

Glen Kirk 8 Year Old

ABV: 40%
Region: Speyside
Average Price: $25

The Whisky:

Glen Kirk — meaning valley church — is a sourced Speyside single malt that’s bottled under the Angus Dundee shingle. The whole idea behind the dram is to keep the process old-school so as to shine a light on the ways of the Speyside’s master distillers.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

“Glen Kirk Aged 8 Years has rich-tasting characteristics with a light, malty and mellow palate and smooth finish.”

Hamilton’s Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

ABV: 40%
Region: Highland
Average Price: $25

The Whisky:

Hamilton’s is another bottle sourced by Angus Dundee. This label aims to highlight the Highlands as a sort of gateway into the regional style. The idea is that if you like this, you’ll be on a path to finding more Highland whisky to drink.

Tasting Notes (from the distillery):

“Nose: Intense and fresh with citrus tones and hints of spicy oak. Palate: Clean and crisp with pleasing harmony between natural sweetness and the soft spicy oak. Finish: Prolonged fusion of malted barley and oaky-vanilla.”

Tomatin Dualchas

ABV: 43%
Region: Highland
Average Price: $27

The Whisky:

Sold as “Legacy” back in Scotland, this whisky was created for the town of Tomatin. The whisky celebrates the fact that the town grew thanks to the distillery becoming the heart of the community. It’s also a great entry-point for Tomatin’s wider range.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

“Time in Bourbon barrels and Virgin Oak casks brings a light sweetness to The Tomatin Legacy, which boasts aromas of vanilla, marshmallow, pineapple, and lemon. On the palate gentle flavors of candy, pine, lemon sherbet, apples and sponge cake emerge ahead of a light, clean finish.”

Ainsley Brae Single Malt Oak Cask

ABV: 40%
Region: Highland
Average Price: $28

The Whisky:

Alexander Murray & Co. sources their single malts from an undisclosed Highland distillery. They then transfer that juice into a wide array of finishing casks to add their stamp to the whisky. Their “Highland Oak” finished is the most straightforward and offers the perfect place to start.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

“An aromatic whisky, fresh and vivid. Drawing nicely from the wood. Lots of garden fruits and light honey. Greengages and pear. Gooseberries. Yellow flowers. Vanilla. Lovely waxy notes. A perfect dram to celebrate a grand occasion.”

Grangestone Master’s Selection Rum Cask Finish

ABV: 40%
Region: Highland
Average Price: $28

The Whisky:
This bottler and blender is actually based in England but is owned by Scottish heavy-weight William Grant & Sons. It’s rumored that Grangestone pulls Highland malts from William Grant for finishing in their own warehouses. In this case, the finishing took place Caribbean rum casks.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

“Aroma: A rich malty aroma with a biscuity sweetness and fresh fruit notes. A delicate leafy character is balanced with vanilla sweetness. Taste: Sweet and rounded with vanilla oakiness. The malty character carries through into the taste with subtle notes of caramelized fruits. Finish: Mellow and long-lasting.”

Aerstone Sea Cask Aged 10 Years

ABV: 40%
Region: Lowland
Average Price: $30

The Whisky:

Aerstone — also from William Grant & Sons — is made specifically for beginners. The whisky is produced at an un-named William Grant distillery and then mellowed for accessibility. It’s light, easy, but still holds all the classic hallmarks of a single malt scotch.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

“Nose: Light and floral with a subtle, nutty character. Delicate oak, malted biscuits, and creamy vanilla background. Taste: Lightly-toasted almonds, sweet cotton candy and a gentle vanilla oak, balanced with a touch of tannin. Finish: Lingering oak with delicate sweetness.”

Glenmorangie The Original Aged 10 Years

ABV: 40%
Region: Highland
Average Price: $32

The Whisky:

This is a bit of a fudge since it’s two dollars over $30. Still, it’s worth mentioning as Glenmorangie The Original is a wonderful gateway dram of single malt scotch. The whisky has a deep heritage in Scotland dating back centuries. The juice in this expression is aged for ten long years in used American oak, giving it a real depth at a very affordable price-point.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

“Aroma: The scent of citrus and ripening peaches is softened by the aroma of vanilla. Taste: First, vanilla is detected on the tongue before it ripples along the palate bringing a burst of flowery fruitiness. Finish: About a minute after tasting, you are left with a clean and salving aftertaste with hints of orange and peach.”

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