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Underrated, High-Value Single Malt Scotches In The $40-60 Range

The Scotch whisky industry is dominated by a handful of big names. The likes of The Glenlivet, The Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Lagavulin tend to own the single malt conversation. But does that mean those well-known names are the “best” in any measurable sense?

That’s harder to say.

Sure, when you crack open a bottle of The Balvenie or Aberlour or Ardbeg, you can be pretty sure you’re about to enjoy some high-quality, well-made whisky. But there are dozens of other — often vastly underrated — single malt whiskies just waiting to be snatched off the shelves at your local liquor store. Many of which are bargains.

To help both your palate and your wallet, we decided to list eight of our picks for “underrated single malt Scotch whiskies” in the $40-$60 range. Perhaps you heard of them, maybe you haven’t. Either way, these bottles deserve a little more mainstream love.

If you want to try them, just click on the prices.

Deanston 12

Deanston

ABV: 46.3%

Average Price: $55

The Story:

This award-winning bottle was recently re-launched with a higher proof than previous versions. Fans of higher proof scotches can definitely get behind this non-chill filtered, sweet, slightly smoky whisky that was aged for more than a decade in barrels that formerly held bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is all sweetness with aromas of candied orange peels, sweet vanilla, and barley. The palate is surprisingly soft and mellow with notes of sticky treacle, wood char, buttery caramel, and a nice nutty sweetness. There’s just a kiss of smoke and salt that makes this dram highly memorable.

Bottom Line:

For the price, we have a hard time finding a bottle as underrated at Deanston 12. It ticks all the single malt boxes. It’s sweet and has a slight salinity that makes it tastes like salted caramel.

The Singleton Glendullan 12

The Singleton

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $40

The Story:

Originally launched as a bottle for travelers to pick up in duty-free shops at airports, it’s currently not available at other locations. This creamy, decadent, almost dessert-like whisky is aged in a combination of American oak barrels and European oak barrels. This results in a buttery, rich whisky you won’t soon forget.

Tasting Notes:

Breathe in the aromas of toasted vanilla beans, fresh leather, dried cherries, and a nutty sweetness. The palate of this single malt reveals dry notes of woody oak, caramel apples, butterscotch, and subtle cinnamon sugar. It evolves into crème brulee and dried fruits at the very end.

Bottom Line:

This is a very complicated single malt. It’s bargain-priced but filled with so many different, unique flavors, it will take a few samplings to find them all.

Cardhu 12

Cardhu

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $60

The Story:

While Cardhu is owned by Diageo, it doesn’t have the name recognition of many of the others (in the U.S. anyway). Though, you’ve definitely tasted it if you drink Johnnie Walker. This Speyside expression is aged for twelve years in American oak barrels, resulting in a subtly spicy, sweet, fruity whisky.

Tasting Notes:

Scents of dried fruits, crisp apples, clover honey, and charred wood appear on the nose. The sip reveals in the notes of buttery caramel, raisins, toasted vanilla beans, and a nice kick of spice at the end. This is a highly sippable, mellow whisky you’ll savor all summer.

Bottom Line:

Like many of the whiskies historically used for blends, after one sip you’ll wonder why you never tried this expression in its single malt form before. It’s the priciest bottle on this list, but well worth it.

Loch Lomond 12

Loch Lomond

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $40

The Story:

This award-winning whisky begins by distillation using two different pot stills. The liquid is blended together. This results in a slightly smoky, fruity whisky that’s then aged for twelve years in a combination of ex-bourbon, re-charred, and refill barrels. The blending of these three barrels results in a highly complex, well-balanced juice.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is mostly fruit with hints of fresh pear, candied orange peels, and a nice kick of sweet, vanilla. Taking a sip brings you to a world of marmalade jam, caramel apples, crème brulee, and just a hint of sweet malts. The ending carries an added note of smoky peat that pulls everything together perfectly.

Bottom Line:

Fans who might be wary of trying seemingly harsh, peated whiskies from Islay should ease their way in with a bottle like Loch Lomond 12. The smoke is gentle and melds well with the other flavors.

Glengoyne 12

Glengoyne

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $50

The Story:

Glengoyne’s tagline is that it runs “the slowest stills in Scotland.” This 12-year-old expression does taste like it was painstakingly made by true artisans. They never use peated barley. The whisky is then finished in sherry butts, giving this a unique, memorable, sweet flavor.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is filled with aromas of candied orange peels, sweet honey, wood char, and vanilla beans. The palate continues the sweet trend with hints of sticky toffee, cinnamon sugar, orange zest, and sugar cookies. There’s a nice, sherry sweetness at the finish that leaves you wanting more.

Bottom Line:

If you’ve never tried peated whisky or you simply don’t like it, this is a great bottle for you. Glengoyne goes out of the way to express that its whiskies don’t have any smoky peat. The addition of sherry, however, gives this an extra, almost dessert-like sweetness.

Speyburn 10

Speyburn

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $45

The Story:

This award-winning whisky might be the best bargain in the single malt world. Known for its affordability to quality ratio, this Speyside single malt is aged in both ex-bourbon casks as well as sherry butts. The use of these two barrels imparts an extra sweetness to the flavor profile that far surpasses its price.

Tasting Notes:

Breathe in the aromas of candied orange peels, caramel apples, oaky wood, and cinnamon. The palate includes notes of butterscotch, vanilla, biscuity malts, and a nice, gentle kick of smoke at the very end. It’s fruity, rich, and has just the right amount of smoke.

Bottom Line:

For the price, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more complex, flavorful, sweet-sipping single malt Scotch. We’ll enjoy a dram of this value sipper any day.

Tomatin 12

Tomatin

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $45

The Story:

A few years ago, Tomatin increased its 12-year-old expression’s proof from 80 to 86 and higher proof drinkers rejoiced. One of the distillery’s most popular expressions in the years since it’s first matured in American oak barrels before spending as long as nine months in barrels that formerly held Oloroso sherry.

Tasting Notes:

If you give this whisky a proper nosing, you’ll be treated to the aromas of dried fruits, almond cookies, and sweet, toasted vanilla beans. The palate swirls with charred wood, candied orange peels, subtle cooking spices, and butterscotch. The ending is very fruity due to the sherry finishing.

Bottom Line:

Fans of sherried single malts tend to stick to what they know. But if you want to branch out you’re your usual bottle of The Macallan 12, give this single malt a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Glen Scotia Double Cask

Glen Scotia

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $55

The Story:

Sure, many of the other whisky-producing regions get more press, but you definitely shouldn’t sleep on single malts from Campbeltown. Glen Scotia Double Cask gets its name because it’s aged in both first-fill ex-bourbon barrels as well as Pedro Ximénez sherry casks.

Tasting Notes:

This is a fruity whisky. The nose is filled with scents of raisins, apricots, and crisp apples as well as wood char and salted caramel. The palate features buttery caramel, more dried fruits, buttercream frostings, and subtle spices. Unsurprisingly, the finish is filled with sherry sweetness.

Bottom Line:

Another for the sherry fans, this sweet, fruity single malt is well-suited for after-dinner drinking. We prefer it neat (or with a splash of water) in a Glencairn glass as we sit on a back porch or patio.


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