The Best Scotch Whiskies Under $50, Ranked

Ad Blocker Detected

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.

Scotch whisky at around $40 to $50 opens a nice gateway to the wider world of both blended scotch and single malts. This is where blended Scotch whisky starts to go a little deeper (and gain nuance). It’s also the price point where big-name 12-year-old single malts start to come into play.

Essentially, this is where Scotch whiskies start to get familiar, fun, and very interesting. I had a blast re-tasting these.

For this list, I’m ranking ten bottles of Scotch whisky — both blended whiskies and single malt whiskies — that I love. There’s a lot out there, so this isn’t meant to be exhaustive. This is just a list of the stuff that resonates with me right now and I think really rocks at this price point.

When it comes to the ranking, I’m going on taste alone. Some of these will vary pretty greatly but the overall vibe here is great taste at a great price. That all being said, these are bottles that you should be able to find pretty easily at your own liquor store (I’m not going into esoteric releases that don’t leave Islay or the Highlands). Let’s dive in!

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

10. Ballantine’s 12

Ballentine's
Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $44

The Whisky:

Ballentine’s is a classic grocer-turned-whisky-maker, a tried and true Scottish tradition. In this case, the juice in the bottle is built from 50 different grain and single malt whiskies that are at least 12 years old. Once those barrels are vatted, the whisky is proofed down to a very accessible 80 proof.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a nice mix of fresh honey and lush vanilla on the nose next to hints of sweet oak and soft malts. The palate leans into the honey with a creamy edge as short hints of wildflowers balance against vanilla creaminess, a touch of holiday spice tied to the malts, and a nice dose of that sweet oak with a lightly charred sense. The finish is short and sweet and balances that vanilla and honey cream against florals and lightly spiced malts.

Bottom Line:

This isn’t going to blow you away but it is solid for what it is. It’s a very straightforward blended whisky that’s clearly built and works really well in a highball or on the rocks in a pinch.

9. The Ardmore Legacy

The Ardmore 12
Beam Suntory

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $48

The Whisky:

Ardmore is the distillery behind super cheap blended scotch, Teacher’s Cream. This Highland single malt is a blend of 80 percent peated malt and 20 percent unpeated malt that’s proofed down to a very drinkable 80 proof.

Tasting Notes:

Floral honey and rich and butter toffee mingle on the nose next to a hint of cinnamon brioche and a touch of peated malt. The palate lets that floral honey get creamy as a cream soda vanilla vibe kicks in but is countered by a smoky peated edge that’s more like an old fireplace that’s just puttering out for the night. The end is full of wintry spice attached to the malts that tempers the smoke towards the background as the floral honey smooths everything out.

Bottom Line:

This is a pretty good place to start if you’re looking to dip your toes into the “peated” whisky world. It’s smoky, sure, but only just and really leans into the softer honey notes of the Highlands. Still, this is more of a mixing whisky than a sipping one.

8. The Singleton of Glendullan 12

Diageo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $40

The Whisky:

This single malt from Diageo is a great gateway to good single malt. The juice is aged for 12 years — mostly in ex-bourbon barrels and a few ex-sherry cask-matured whiskies — before it’s cut with that iconic Speyside water and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This is a delicate sip of whisky that leans into notes of dried florals and sweet fruits counterpointed by spicy oak and worn leather. The palate lets the spice amp up a bit while the fruit touches on both orange oils and orange blossoms with whispers of bourbon vanilla, dried fruits, and fresh honey. The end really holds onto that lightness while fading fairly quickly, leaving you with a cedary leather, more of that sweet fruit, and almost creamy vanilla.

Bottom Line:

This is a great candidate for a bourbon drinker. There are very familiar notes at play that’ll feel like going back home to Kentucky while still feeling new, fresh, and definitely malty. While this is definitely more of a mixing whisky, you can throw this on some rocks and it’ll be perfectly fine.

7. Johnnie Walker Double Black

Diageo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $45

The Whisky:

This is basically Johnnie Black– a slightly peaty blend of over 40 whiskies from around Scotland — that’s been casked again in deeply charred oak for a final maturation. The idea is to maximize that peat and amp up the Islay and Island whiskies’ smokiness.

Tasting Notes:

Clove-forward spice and billows of softwood smoke — think cherry and apple — greet you on the nose. The palate has a vanilla creaminess that’s punctuated by bright apple, dried fruit, and more peat that leans more towards an old beach campfire than a chimney stack. The spice kicks back in late, warming things up as the smoke carries through the end with a nice dose of oakiness, fruitiness, and sweet vanilla creaminess.

Bottom Line:

All Johnnie Blacks are built as sippers, especially on the rocks. This one is definitely for someone looking to go all-in on the peated whiskies while still feeling like they haven’t gone into the wildly peated ones yet. This is an approachable peat/smoke that’s balanced well with fruit and sweetness throughout.

6. Shieldaig Oloroso Cask Finish

Shieldaig Olorosso
Ian Macleod Distillers

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $49

The Whisky:

Shieldaig is distilled by a big distillery in Scotland that a lot of other whiskies, gins, and blends. This expression is a Speyside peated malt that’s finished in Olorosso sherry casks to temper that peat in the whisky.

Tasting Notes:

The nose balances honey, apples, and toffee with a very distant hint of peated malts, dark spices, and a touch of nuttiness. The palate largely delivers on those notes while adding in layers of vanilla creaminess, apple butter, orange zest, ashy malts, and soft oak with hints of figs and plums in the background. The finish brings it all together with spicy stewed raisins, prunes, and dates next to a light walnut shell dryness and a hint of smoked malts.

Bottom Line:

This really has a nice balance of fruit and peat. It’s hard not to dig this, especially on the rocks or in a highball.

5. Ardbeg 10

Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $49

The Whisky:

This is a classic bottle of peated malt. The Islay whisky is made with iconic Port Ellen peated malts and then primarily matured in ex-sherry casks for at least ten years. Those casks are married and then cut with local lake water before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of stonefruit, orange oils, and earthen peaty smoke that greets you. The palate leans into the iodine and earthiness with plenty of campfire smoke next to black pepper, vanilla, and an underlying nuttiness. With a little water, a coffee bitterness arises next to a hint of black licorice. The end really embraces the smoke, adding fattiness like an old meat smoker as the fruit and nuts make a final appearance on the very slow fade.

Bottom Line:

Grabbing this whisky is going all-in on peated whisky. While this doesn’t have the BandAid or Windex qualities of some of the bigger Islay malts, it does hit you with significant smoke. Though I’d argue, this is more of a backyard smoker kind of smoke that’s perfect for pairing with brisket or a pile of smoked ribs.

4. Loch Lomond 12

Loch Lomond 12
Loch Lomond Distillery Company

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $48

The Whisky:

This Highland malt is all about maturation. The whisky is barreled in three different bourbon barrels. One set is first-fill bourbon barrels (meaning that this whisky was the first thing to go in the barrel after the bourbon was drained). Another set of barrels were re-fill bourbon barrels (meaning that the barrels had already held local whisky at least once before they were refilled with this whiskey). And the last set of barrels were re-charred bourbon barrels (meaning the barrels took on a brand new layer of char but were still seasoned with bourbon deep inside that wood).

Tasting Notes:

This is a rush of apple and pear orchards on the nose with hints of steel-cut oatmeal (uncooked) next to floral honey, vanilla husks, and a bright note of lemon oils. The palate really leans into the apple/pear vibe while the lemon turns into a lemon cream pie with stiff peaks of vanilla whipped cream and a lard-based crust supporting everything. The end has a light touch of spicy malts next to all that lemon creaminess and apple and pear woodiness that just hints at a moment of smoke that feels more derived from the oak getting charred again than “peat.”

Bottom Line:

This is another great bridge between bourbon and scotch. The lemon and orchard fruits really help this one pop, especially as an on the rocks sipper. Overall, this is a great candidate for a brilliantly bright whisky highball, thanks to all that citrus and fruit.

3. Highland Park 12

Erdington Group

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $46

The Whisky:

This is a pretty unique whisky. The distillery is located in Scotland’s far north Orkney Islands. The juice in the bottles is a classic peaty single malt that spends 12 years maturing in European and American oak, both of which were seasoned with sherry. The whiskies are then married and proofed down to a very accessible 40 percent.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a real sense of rich and almost rummy holiday cake full of dark spices, dried fruits, candied citrus, and nuts with a hint of smoke. A touch of fragrant honey arrives to smooth out the texture while adding sweetness. That smoke pops back in on the finish but it’s more like a chimney smoke from a house a few doors down on a snowy day than a funky peaty smoke from a bog.

Bottom Line:

This is another solid on the rocks scotch, especially if you’re looking for a wintry spice bomb that’s just touched by peat. This feels homey and easy at the same time.

2. The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

The Glenlivet Founder's Reserve
Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $43

The Whisky:

This no-age-statement whisky from The Glenlivet goes back to the 1800s in style and substance. The whisky is made with mountain water from Speyside and distilled in old lantern-shaped stills. That juice is then aged in traditional oak and first-fill bourbon barrels before it’s blended like the old days (before age statements were a thing).

Tasting Notes:

Fruit bursts from the whisky on the nose with lemon, lime, and orange oils next to bright Granny Smith apples and juicy pears next to bourbon vanilla, creamy toffee, and a touch of honey. The palate holds onto that bright fruit, especially the orange and pear as the toffee becomes buttery and brittle with a little bit of green banana sneaking in next to cream soda and apple candies. The finish is long with creamy vanilla and toffee sweetness balanced out by all those citrus oils and pear vibes.

Bottom Line:

This is just super easy to drink. It’s not mind-blowing or anything like that, but it’s not meant to be. This was built to be an easy and fun sipper or mixer and that’s exactly what it is.

1. Glenfiddich 12

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $44

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 vibe, some mild toffee, and hints of sweetgrass next to mild oak. That leads towards a very easy and soft woodiness with a touch of candied pear and more vanilla cream before hints of soft cinnamon spice poke up in the background with those soft malts. By the end, it’s clear how light and approachable this whisky is as that pear, vanilla cream, and milt spice slowly fade away, leaving you with a silken mouthfeel and just enough malts and toffee.

Bottom Line:

This is shockingly easy to drink for a whisky (from any region). The flavor notes are so clearly rendered and concise. This is a dream in a cocktail or highball but works perfectly well on the rocks too. It’s versatile and, generally, really freaking tasty.

Source: https://uproxx.com/life/best-scotch-whisky-under-50-ranked/