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World Class ‘Sipping’ Single Malt Whiskies Under $100, Ranked

When it comes to Scottish single malt whisky, it’s easy to assume that it’s all for sipping given the generally higher price tag. That’s very much not true. There are plenty of kerosene-level rot-gut Scotch whiskies on the shelf at any given liquor store. Look at it this way, just because a scotch bottle has an elk on it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the good stuff.

Quality is something that’s found. It’s not a given — not in Scotch, bourbon, rum, tequila, or beer.

So what do I mean when I say “sipping” scotch? I’m talking about single malt whiskies that have balance to them that also take you a journey from the nose to the finish. There are clear notes that have specificity both on the nose and the palate — think “vanilla frosting” or “vanilla pudding” instead of just “vanilla.” But perhaps more importantly, a good sipping single malt leaves you with a warm and comforting feeling. Sure, the flavor notes are important, but how that sip leaves you is just as important.

Do you want another pour? Do you want to tell your friends about it? Do you stop caring about the price tag? These are all feelings that good sipping whisky leaves you with.

To that end, I’m calling out ten great sipping single malt Scotch whiskies below that I personally vouch for. Each one offers something a little different, so I’ve ranked them according to which I personally reach for the most. Hopefully, you can find one that speaks to you and go from there.

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

10. Loch Lomond 14

Loch Lomond 14
Loch Lomond Distillery Company

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $70

The Whisky:

This Highland whisky is a stop between the brand’s entry-level 12-year and their bolder 18-year. In this case, the single malt spends 14 years mellowing in ex-bourbon casks before it’s transferred to French Limousin casks for a final touch of maturation.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a nice mix of fresh apple fritters with yeasty cinnamon rolls with a vanilla frosting trying them together as a quiet note of winter spice and old cedar planks mingle on the nose. The palate leans into the apple with a spiced apple cider with plenty of anise, clove, and cinnamon that’s countered by a svelte nougat, a touch of leather, and more of that old wood. The end is part of apple pie and part creamy nougat with a tiny whisper of fireplace smoke on the very end.

Bottom Line:

This is a great place to start. Loch Lomond 14 isn’t overly complicated but it still delivers clear and precise notes on the nose and tongue. Moreover, as someone from the Pacific Northwest, which is apple country. I always appreciate a good, apple-forward soft single malt like this.

9. The Balvenie Caribbean Cask

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $86

The Whisky:

The Balvenie is renowned for doing everything in-house from growing grains to making their own barrels while also being the distillery that spearheaded the whole “finishing whisky in a different cask” movement. In this case, the juice spends 14 years maturing in ex-bourbon barrels. The whisky is then batched and transferred to barrels that The Balvenie aged their own blend of West Indies rum in.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a welcoming rush of buttery toffee up top with hints of brown spices, bright red berries, and a touch of sweet malts. The palate brings around creamy vanilla dotted with those sweet and slightly tart red berries next to a very soft and sweet oakiness. The finish is medium-length and full of soft wood, vanilla cream, and a touch of that brown spice.

Bottom Line:

This is a good entry-point sipper in general. It’s easy drinking while having some serious depth. It’s also pretty goddamn smooth all things considered. The only reason it’s a little lower on the list for me is that it is a little… forgettable for me. There’s nothing that really grabs your attention.

That said, I’d never turn down a pour of this one.

8. Longrow Peated

Longrow Peated
J&A Mitchell & Company

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $82

The Whisky:

This Campbeltown whisky is distilled at the iconic Springbank Distillery. The whisky is a no-age-statement release that leans into the peatier end of the Springbank offerings. The whisky is bottled with a little water added to cut the proof down but without filtration or added color.

Tasting Notes:

You get a big whiff of vanilla pudding on the nose that leads towards singed marshmallow and a backyard firepit vibe with fresh, savory herbs growing nearby and fruit trees (think pear and peach) hanging overhead, adding a light fruity woodiness. The palate lights those fruity wood on fire and lets the soft and sweet smoke drive the taste as the creamy vanilla is counterpointed by a slight Ace Bandage note and an earthy dry clay. The finish takes its time and lets the sweet smoke slowly fade away while a hint of sweet vanilla lingers underneath the pall.

Bottom Line:

This is like Springbank, Jr., and you can actually find it for a good price. That said, if you’re really into Springbank, this will feel a little one-note in contrast to that iconic sibling brand. If you don’t know Springbank, then this will be one hell of a nice pour.

7. Highland Park Valknut

Highland Park Valknut
The Edrington Group

ABV: 46.8%

Average Price: $80

The Whisky:

High up on the Orkney Islands, Highland Park is making whisky for modern-day Vikings. Valknut (a knot of three triangles honoring those who fell in battle) uses locally grown “Tartan barley” that’s malted with a bit of local peat. That whisky spends an undisclosed amount of time aging in American oak that held sherry. The juice is vatted, proofed with Orkney’s soft water, and bottled in a bespoke Viking-inspired bottle.

Tasting Notes:

Imagine vanilla pods warming up in a pan and just starting to release their oils and smoke next to a hint of black pepper and cedar. The palate holds onto that vanilla while adding a touch of black licorice and clove next to more cedar and maybe some fennel-crusted rye bread. The finish holds onto the spice with a chewy tobacco vibe next to an almost fatty smoke from a backyard salmon smoker and a touch of orange oils.

Bottom Line:

This has an interesting bourbon/rye vibe that builds upon that pure Northern Scottish peated malt. It’s briny and full of smoked fish fat, which hits a hardcore nostalgia for me.

6. Glenmorangie The Cadboll Estate Batch #2

Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $89

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.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those sippers that’s just nice. You take a sip and you’re immediately put at ease. You exhale and your worries melt away for a moment. That’s a quintessential sipper. The only reason I have it a little lower is that it’s a little thin on the palate for me. I’d like it closer to 50% ABV to get a little more oomph. But that’s just me.

5. Ardbeg Uigeadail

Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 54.2%

Average Price: $79

The Whisky:

“Oog-a-dal!” This dram from Islay is a blend of old and young single malts aged in ex-sherry casks and ex-bourbon casks. The final product is a single malt that’s deeply flavored yet still approachable.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a definite peat smoke on the nose but it’s kissed with sea brine and counterpointed by notes of holiday cake stuffed with candied orange, fatty nuts, dried fruit, and plenty of dark spice. Those spices marry to the smoke as the palate sweetens with toffee and becomes almost like silk with a rich choco-tobacco chew arriving late, bringing a buzz to the tongue. The end really embraces that chew as notes of toffee, dried fruit, and spice lurk behind the billows of briny smoke.

Bottom Line:

This is a true classic peated Islay malt. It’s complex, fresh, fun, and truly takes you on a journey from the craggy and long sandy beaches of the Inner Hebrides to your grandma’s kitchen during the holidays.

And honestly, from this point on in this ranking, it comes down to mood and flavor notes more than anything else because all of these bottles slap…

4. 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). Revival 15 takes its sherried nature very seriously. 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 with that soft Highland water.

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:

I’m going to contradict myself and say that the lower ABV is perfect for this expression. It never feels light or thin, even though it’s a very standard 46 percent. Instead, you’re met with a rich and complex whisky that delivers from top to bottom with comfort and ease.

3. Aberlour A’bunadh

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 56.2% (varies)

Average Price: $95

The Whisky:

A’bunadh (ah-boon-arh) means “the original” in Gaelic and the juice in this Highland bottle represents that for Aberlour. The whisky is matured in old Oloroso sherry casks exclusively. The juice then goes into the bottle at cask strength, unfussed with.

Tasting Notes:

That sherry plumminess is evident right up top, with hints of bright orange oils, clumps of dark chocolate, honey, and nuts, and a hint of oak. The taste shines with notes of dark, ripe cherries, prunes, more bright orange zest, dark chocolate, and a good measure of svelte vanilla. The slow finish leaves you with a creamy mouthfeel next to bitter chocolate next to sweet cherries and plums, all of which lead towards a warming spice on the tongue at the end.

Bottom Line:

This is one of those whiskies that immediately elicits a reaction of “Oh, yeah, that’s f*cking good, isn’t it?!” when sipped neat. If that’s not a great sipper, I don’t know what is.

2. Talisker Distillers Edition

Diageo

ABV: 45.8%

Average Price: $96

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:

If you know my whisk(e)y writing, you’d know there was no way a Talisker wasn’t showing up. That aside, this is one of the subtlest yet most unique sips on the list. If you’re looking for a kiss from a mermaid that leads to a slow walk on a rainy beach toward a campfire with a brief stop at the berry patch, this is the whisky for you.

1. 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 in Islay 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:

This feels like the whisky you drink when you’ve graduated from the entry-level pours to the “good stuff.” This narrowly beats out Talisker on this list for having a little more going on that might feel familiar to an American bourbon drinker. And as I mentioned above, these top five are pretty much interchangeable in my mind and on my shelf, so I’d recommend finding the flavor profile that speaks to you the most and going from there.

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