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These Speyside Single Malt Whiskies Under $100 Offer A Fantastic Intro To The Region

Speyside is one of the smaller whisky regions in Scotland. The whole area is surrounded by the Highland region, which makes the definition of the region’s style of whisky a little harder to get a handle on. To top that off, Speyside is home to Dufftown, which has the most distilleries of any town in Scotland and is the official “Whisky Capital of the World” — producing more single malt than any other place on the planet.

So what makes Speyside special? The thrust of the style is the River Spey and how it combines with the northeastern coastal and interior dry climates of Scotland. It’s close to barley fields. But it’s really the water from the Spey and surrounding springs that inform the local whisky. It’s reported that the water has a very low mineral content, which is good for the single malts made there. Lastly, while the Highland whiskies can range from peat monsters to fruity and honeyed, Speyside tends to lean a bit more towards the sweet and fruity end, with peat used sparingly.

To get a better grasp on this hyper-specific region of Scotland’s whisky scene, we decided to call out ten bangers for under $100. Sadly, that leaves out one of our all-time favorite single malts, Mortlach, since their whisky tends to always be north of that price point in the U.S. Otherwise, these are all whiskies you should be able to source pretty easily that will also give you a handle on region’s nuances.

If any of these bottles interest you, make sure to click on the prices to try them yourself.

Glenfiddich 12

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $50

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 and some mild toffee. That leads towards a very easy and soft woodiness with a touch of candied pear and more vanilla cream. It’s also very light and approachable while still feeling like a solid whisky.

Bottom Line:

This is most people’s gateway to scotch in general. Overall, this is a really well-rounded whisky that’ll easily help you fall in love with sweet single malts of Speyside.

Glenfarclas 12

J. & G. Grant

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $60

The Whisky:

Glenfarclas is a bit of an outlier. The whisky is distilled with old-school fire-heated stills (most stills use steam) to this day. The juice is then aged exclusively in ex-sherry casks for 12 long years.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a rumminess to the nose that touches on molasses, prunes, nuts, and jam. The taste holds onto that vibe to the point of having an almost spiced rum sweetness and clear notes of holiday spices, plenty of dried fruit, and a roasted almond element. The end long and spicy, leaving you with a Speyside hug.

Bottom Line:

This is a great bottle for a dark rum fan who’s looking to test the waters of Scotch whisky. The whisky on its own also plays well in cocktails while holding up as an easy sipper on ice.

Cardhu 12

Diageo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $60

The Whisky:

This single malt is a crucial component of Jane Walker Black Label, thanks to its subtle sweet notes and to the fact that two women created this whisky. Helen Cummings made this whisky in the early 1800s and sold bottles to passers-by from her house. Emily Cummings, Helen’s daughter-in-law, took over the stills in the mid-1800s and sold the old distillery to Glenfiddich to finance a new one, which eventually became part of the Johnnie Walker family.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a softness that starts with a nose of purple heather flowers, ripe pear, and homemade oatmeal cookies made with honey and sultanas leading towards this touch of cinnamon sticks and pine resin. The palate really delivers on the malts via that oatmeal cookie while the pear amps up to a subtle pear candy with a little spiced tobacco buzz. The end is short and leaves you with a lingering sense of that tobacco leaf spitting thin lines of smoke at the back of your throat.

Bottom Line:

This is hugely popular in Spain but only starting to get a foothold in the U.S. The juice is super easy to get into and understand while being very well-rounded and almost … cooling on the tongue.

BenRiach The Twelve Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Brown-Forman

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $62

The Whisky:

Dr. Rachel Barrie’s reimaging of BenRiach has been a stellar success. This dram is a marrying of 12-year-old malts that matured in ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and ex-port casks before vatting, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This has a bold nose full of apple and pear candy next to maple syrup, plenty of blooming heather scrubs, and blueberry juice and stems with a hint of dark orange chocolate balls. The taste boils everything down to a silken palate of stewed pears with cinnamon sticks, sherry-soaked prunes, freshly milled oats, orange-infused marzipan with dark chocolate frosting, and a slight espresso bean oily bitterness (especially with a little water). The finish combines the coffee and chocolate to create a creamy espresso macchiato vibe that’s spiked with that dark orange chocolate note and a final hit of those stewed fruits.

Bottom Line:

This is a velvety dram of whisky. It’s also a great insight into Speyside whisky with its pure fruit, sweet, and citrus notes next to those oaty malts.

The Glenlivet 14

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $63

The Whisky:

This is a new release from a classic Speyside distillery. The juice in the bottle is a 14-year-old malt that matures in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry before it’s finished in cognac casks to add that final x-factor.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sense of cinnamon toast made with sourdough bread with plenty of butter and brown sugar next to a jar of peach jam with a touch of honey and black licorice. The palate, on the other hand, dances between baked pears with eggnog spices, Raisinettes, and orange-spiked maple syrup next to a stack of oatcakes. The end is soft and short-ish with a focus on the fruit and syrup that almost becomes honeyed by the end.

Bottom Line:

This is a new and interesting release from a well-known brand. It might not be everyone’s jam but it’s a good example of something different (or new) on the shelf. This release also supports U.S. military veterans with profits from the sales of this bottle going to veteran support groups.

The Macallan Double Cask 12

The Edrington Group

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $75

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 cut with cinnamon and clove greets you, with a clear sense of vanilla, nuts, and plums tagging along. 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 sweetness, and returns back to the chewy tobacco spice.

Bottom Line:

For a lot of folks, this is their first step into the wider world of premium whisky. Overall, this bottle is just that: A gateway to a wider world of high-end whisky that’ll get your palate ready for more.

The Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $85

The Whisky:

The Balvenie is renowned for doing everything in-house, grain-to-glass, and for 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 at 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, full of soft wood and vanilla cream, and a touch of that spice.

Bottom Line:

This is some quality whisky that’s really hard to beat at this price point. It’s a great sipper that’s soft enough to drink neat.

Cragganmore Distiller’s Edition

Diageo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $85

The Whisky:

Cragganmore is an iconic Scottish distillery. The whisky is matured in sherry casks for 12 years. It’s then transferred into American oak casks that held port for a final maturation phase before proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Fennel leads to some dried fruits and fresh apples on the nose. The taste, on the other hand, leans into sweet oak, figs, pear candies, and a softness that’s almost hard to believe. The end is full of sweet fruits and has just the right touches of oak, vanilla, and savory greens as it fades at a good clip.

Bottom Line:

We’re getting into phenomenal whisky territory with this expression. Every single aspect of this dram is so nicely dialed in, it’ll be hard to go back to drinking anything else. The balance of herbal, sweet, and floral in this whisky is exemplary.

Aberlour 16

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $94

The Whisky:

This small Speyside distillery has been producing quality whisky for over 200 years. This expression is aged 16 years in both ex-bourbon and ex-Olorosso sherry casks. It’s then married and proofed with soft Speyside water from the Highlands and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a matrix of dried dark fruits next to powdery dark spices with hints of walnuts and dried florals that draw you in on the nose. The taste delivers on those notes while adding a deep plummy jam cut with clove and slightly sweet wood. The end really holds onto that jammy fruit and spice as it slowly fades across your senses, leaving a velvet texture in your mouth.

Bottom Line:

Again, this is really damn dialed in. Though, this expression of Aberlour tends to lean a little sweeter than herbal, unlike the Cragganmore above.

Benromach 15

Gordon & MacPhail

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $99

The Whisky:

Benromach is built to highlight fruit, spice, sweetness, and very subtle smoke in every drop. The 15-year-old whisky is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry before it’s masterfully blended, proofed, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with a sense of smoked plums next to pears and bananas stewed with a handful of barks and spices and then drizzled with floral honey and dusted with dark cocoa powder. That dark chocolate flavor amps up on the palate towards an almost roasted coffee maltiness with more stewed pears, holiday spice, buttery toffee, smoked oats, and a spritz of orange oils. The end is dry yet creamy as the pear and banana become dried out with that smoked plum making a final appearance at the back of your palate.

Bottom Line:

When we say smoke or peat is used “sparingly” in Speyside, this is what we mean. There’s a mild hint of smoke to this that’s attached to the malts, fruit, and sweetness as a supporting act and it never overstays its welcome. That makes this a dynamic dram of whisky.


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