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The Best Value-Per-Dollar Scotch Whiskies, Ranked

Finding the best value-for-dollar Scotch whisky is no easy task. The juice from Scotland is just flat-out more expensive on the U.S. side of the pond than it is over in Europe. That makes value pretty damn important, but that also makes it pretty freakin’ subjective.

There are so many pre-conceived conceptions about the preciousness of Scotch whisky that it’s hard to really know what’s what sometimes. For instance, there are plenty of single malts Scotch whiskies that are mediocre at best. At the same time, there are plenty of blended Scotch whiskies that blow some single malts out of the water. That means something labeled “single malt” isn’t always going to be worth your time or money. Likewise, just because something is labeled “blended” doesn’t mean it’s bad.

To that end, we’re calling out ten (plus one) Scotch whiskies — both blended and single malts, peated and unpeated– that we think are worth more than the sum on their price tags. What we’re looking for is a balance of uniqueness, availability, and delicious flavor notes. It’s an interesting balancing act but not an impossible one.

As always, if you want to try any of these yourself, click on the prices!

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

10. Laphroaig 10

Beam Suntory

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $58

The Whisky:

This might be one of the most “classic” Islay smoky whiskies on the shelf. The craft behind this whisky is a blend of the unique Islay peat (used to smoke the malts) and the influence of the sea, which laps at the distillery’s outer walls.

Tasting Notes:

The smoke is what greets you with a hint of fruity wood, creating an almost sweet smoke next to a hint of anise and maybe some Band-Aid scent (not in a bad way!). The palate holds onto the smoke while adding a wet seaweed brininess next to hints of vanilla cream, peppery spice, and soft oak. The end really amps up the smokiness while holding onto the iodine of the sea with a final note of salted toffee.

Value For Dollar:

When it comes to Islay peated malts, the sky is the limit in price and variation of flavors. Laphroaig 10 remains the damn-near perfect entry point to the island’s vibe while being inexpensive enough to just try. A $50 bottle of booze isn’t special enough to be precious about (ever).

Moreover, if you’re curious about iodine-heavy peat monsters, this is the right way to plunge into that category.

9. 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.

Value For Dollar:

On the flip side of the above, a powerfully sweet and fruity single malt is also a necessary stepping stone to understanding all that Scotland’s whisky scene has to offer. This expression from Speyside over-delivers on the palate, with a refinement that’s not seen in bottles twice this price. Again, don’t be precious about a $50 bottle of scotch. Experiment with this. Try it neat, with water, on the rocks, in a highball, in your favorite cocktail, in your coffee, drink it however you like to drink whisky.

8. Monkey Shoulder

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $36

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.

Value For Dollar:

This feels like a great way to get a vibe for more expensive single malts from Glenfiddich and the iconic and much-sought-after The Balvenie (more on that later). And that’s the beauty of these blends, you’re getting an introduction to other scotches by drinking the blends made from those more expensive and iconic brands.

Look at it this way, The Balvenie generally starts at $50 to $60 per bottle (depending on your state’s taxes). You’re getting a taste of that for almost half the price here.

7. Naked Grouse

Edrington Group

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $34

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 lovley note of chocolate-covered cherries with a sweet/dry vibe.

Value For Dollar:

The Macallan is one of the most sought-after and perhaps over-hyped scotches in the game. An entry point 12-year bottle is going to start around $70 (at least) per bottle. Then there’s the Highland Park juice in this blend (which has a similar entry price point). It’s another excellent single malt. You could get a bottle of each for around $140 and blend them yourself. Or you could buy this bottle for around $35 and enjoy the hell out of it in your next highball.

Of course, the juice in this blend isn’t exactly The Macallan and Highland Park 12, but… you get the point.

6. Ardbeg An Oa

Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 46.6%

Average Price: $65

The Whisky:

This is a quintessential Islay peaty whisky. The juice is aged in a combo of Pedro Ximénez, charred virgin oak, and ex-bourbon casks before being married and rested again in Ardbeg’s bespoke oak “Gathering Vat,” allowing the whiskies to really meld into a cohesive dram.

Tasting Notes:

Imagine slow-smoked peaches, soft cherrywood on fire, and singed sage. That nose leads towards buttery but almost burnt toffee with hints of egg nog spices, savory leafy green veg with a bit of dirt, walnut shells, black tea, and a little bit of pancake syrup (the high fructose corn syrup kind). The finish is long, has hits of black licorice, and really brings the soft yet sweet smoke with an almost meat smoker edge.

Value For Dollar:

This is where things get interesting on Isaly for peat lovers. Ardbeg is a tiny, bespoke distillery that has limited release bottles that stretch to astronomical price points. But they also have incredibly solid peated malts that stay at a price point and anyone can enjoy. Their An Oa is a special malt that non-peat whisky drinkers even enjoy every now and then.

Moreover, there are Islay bottles that are younger and harsher than this that cost ten times as much (at least). Not going to name names but just sayin’.

5. Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or

Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $80

The Whisky:

This dram from Glenmorangie is a much-loved Highland malt. The juice is matured in ex-bourbon barrels for an undisclosed number of years. The whisky is then transferred to French Sauternes barrels which held sweet dessert wines where it spends two more years finishing.

Tasting Notes:

This has that classic “shortbread cut with lemon and vanilla” vibe that makes some single malts so approachable. The sip has a buttery toffee nature that’s layered with subtle oak, mild brown spices, and more fruits tied into a creamy pudding body. The spice then leans a little towards ginger with that buttery shortbread as it slowly fades out.

Value For Dollar:

Back to the sweet side of Scotland’s tipple, this is where special finishing casking comes into play. While the entry point Glenmorangie is always a delight, especially in highballs, this dessert cask finished whisky has that extra layer of depth and flavor that helps it stand above so many other bottles with the same finish. Yes, it’s a little pricier than some of the other bottles, but it’s really hard to find another finish like this that’s this damn good.

4. The Balvenie Caribbean Cask

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $86

The Whisky:

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

Value For Dollar:

The Balvenie is one of those brands that’s both legendary and delivers every time, helping to keep them legendary. That also means that you can get priced out pretty darn fast with this brand. When it comes to this expression, it has two things going for it. One, it’s probably the best rum-finished scotch, period. Two, it costs under $100. Those are wins, people.

This bottle could easily cost $150 and no one would bat an eye.

3. Chivas Regal Mizunara

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $50

The Whisky:

Chivas is renowned for its iconic blended whisky. This expression — originally created for the Japanese market and released in the U.S. in 2019 — adds a unique dimension to the classic blend. A portion of the whisky is finished in Japanese Mizunara casks, adding a layer of nuanced flavors to the standard Chivas.

Tasting Notes:

There’s serious fruit up top with hints of ripe pear next to almost spicy orange zest, leather, and soft wood. That spice becomes the backbone of the sip as subtle notes of fatty nuts mingle with more fruit and a moment of honey-soaked oak. The end holds onto the spiciness with a velvet texture and sweet pear on a medium-length finish.

Value For Dollar:

Mizunara casks are some of the most sought-after barrels in the whole whisk(e)y game. Let’s keep this simple, the fact that you can get a whisky that’s touched by these super rare casks for $50 is phenomenal (though not unheard of). The kicker with this bottle is that you’re still getting the ultra-refined Chivas blend at the base of this bottle.

It’s a great combination at a great price point.

2. Talisker Distillers Edition

Diageo

ABV: 45.8%

Average Price: $88

The Whisky:

The 2020 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 2007 and bottled at ten years old. It was then held in the bottle for three years, resting, before its 2020 release.

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.

Value For Dollar:

Talisker is a tiny distillery, nestled on the sea — seriously, their barrel warehouse is smaller than some whiskey visitors centers in Kentucky. It’s so refined and unique that’s it wild that any bottle of Talisker is under $100 in the U.S. (and, yes, this bottle sometimes reaches above that price point). Still, this is a limited released from a tiny distillery with a special cask finishing for less than most limited edition American whiskeys from huge conglomerate distilleries.

You’re getting something truly bespoke and delicious from over the hills and far away for $90. Come on!

1. Johnnie Walker Green Label

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $65

The Whisky:

The blend is a “pure malt” blended whisky, meaning that it’s made only with single malts (usually blended scotch is made with both grain and malt whisky). In this case, the juice is pulled from all over Scotland with a focus on Speyside, Highland, Lowland, and Island malts, including a minimum of 15-year-old Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, and Linkwood.

Tasting Notes:

This sip draws you in with the smells of an old, soft cedar box that’s held black pepper, sweet fruits, and oily vanilla pods next to a hint of green grass. The taste really holds onto the cedar as the fruits lean tropical with a hint of dried roses pinging in the background. The end builds on that by adding a note of spicy tobacco, a splash of sea spray, and a distant billow of campfire smoke.

Value For Dollar:

The fact that whiskies at least 15 years old from Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, and Linkwood are all present in this bottle and it doesn’t at least cost $100 is kind of mind-boggling. For comparison’s sake, a Talisker 18 will set you back close to $200. Hell, a Caol Ila 15-year costs around $160. The point is, there are phenomenal whiskies in this blend and it only costs $65 (or less depending on where you are).

That’s value-for-dollar that you cannot beat.

Hidden Track: Compass Box Artist Blend

Compass Box

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $40

The Whisky:

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.

Value For Dollar:

While all of the above blends are built from distilleries within the parent company’s portfolio, Compass Box gets to have the best of all worlds. They source their barrels from every distillery they can in Scotland, regardless of who owns them. That means you’re getting a true blend of Scottish whiskies that very few other blenderies are doing. That alone almost makes these blends invaluable when looking at the big picture of blended whisky in Scotland.

Plus, this juice is just delicious.


As a Drizly affiliate, Uproxx may receive a commission pursuant to certain items on this list.

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