Best Cheap Single Malt Scotches

Credit: ecastro

Credit: ecastro

Single malt scotches have a reputation for being expensive and it’s a reputation that is well deserved as many single malts are quite expensive, on a ml by ml basis. Take a look at Macallan 18 – a 750mL bottle will set you back around $150! Macallan is a lovely dram, that’s for sure, but it’s also a pricey one.

Not all single malts are as expensive. Macallan has the branding power behind it and so they can charge a premium, much like how people pay more for a Mercedes Benz or a BMW. Is it worth it? Perhaps. But there are certainly cheaper single malt scotches that are very good at a fraction of the price.

The tricky part about buying single malt scotches in the United States is that everything is imported and thus everything is automatically more expensive. When compared to whiskey produced in the US, it’s going to be more expensive because it has to be imported. That said, there are a few options out there and here are the best cheap single malt scotches I can think of.

If you are looking for a gift for your favorite scotch lover but don’t want to buy scotch, you can always try these gifts for under $50 or these gifts for under $25.

Try Blended Scotch

johnnie-walker-red-little-bottleThis is a bit of a cheat but if you’re new to scotch, consider a blend rather than single malt. Blends are far cheaper and you can get a great blend for less than a mediocre single malt. I’d argue that you shouldn’t go too cheap or it’ll turn you off on the idea of scotch in general but a Johnnie Walker, Cutty Sark, Chivas Regal, or Dewar’s will provide a great drink at a fraction of a single malt’s price. A 750mL Johnnie Walker Red, Cutty Sark, or Dewar’s should only cost you $20.

Bowmore Legend

bowmore-legend-little-bottleThe Bowmore Legend is part of the Bowmore core range and available for less than $30 a bottle (750mL). It’s a light gold whisky with no age statement but still retains the smoky peat nose that Bowmore is known for. As an Islay (they claim the “first Islay malt”), it’s lighter than an Ardbeg but it’s definitely present. I’m a fan of Bowmore and I have several bottles in my collection (18, Enigma, and Mariner) and you won’t go wrong with this one.

Glenmorangie

glenmorangie-little-bottleGlenmorangie went all out into the finishes game, releasing several finishes in everything from port to Madeira to Sauterne. Their original is called Glenmorangie The Original and you can usually find it for just over $30 a bottle, sometimes less, and it’s a ten year old scotch that has fruity character and is fairly light. It’s light gold in color and one of my first scotches (in part because of price!). it is classified as a Highland and so expect those characteristics (interestingly enough, they also own Ardbeg which is your quintessential Islay in terms of smokiness and peatiness).

As funny as it sounds, glassware does make a huge difference because it can help accentuate your scotch. See our choices for the best glass for whisky here.

Glenfiddich 12 Yr

glenfiddich-little-bottleGlenfiddich 12 is a 12yr single malt you should be able to find for around $42 a bottle (750mL) and it’s your prototypical Speyside with nice oak, floral and fruitiness and no smoke. Glenfiddich is the best selling single malt scotch in the world and that’s because it’s affordable while giving you a good feel for what it means to be a Speyside single malt. At $42 it puts it on the outer range of what we’d call “cheap” but I wanted to mention it just because it’s so beloved.

What about all those sub-$20 a bottle single malts that you see in the stores? Names like Glen Kirk or Glen Ness or Shieldaig (update: I tried it, it was OK) and the like? I’ve never tried them. The only one I’ve heard bad things about is McClelland’s and that’s just from very few people. If you plan on mixing them, like in a Manhattan or something like that, I suspect those wouldn’t be a bad bet (though all things considered, I’d go with a blend in that case).

For drinking neat, which is what I prefer, I’d stick with these.

Community Contributions

Since I posted this article, tens of thousands of readers have seen my list and wanted to contribute their own thoughts. With mine, I tried to find high quality, inexpensive expressions available almost everywhere so an omission is not an indictment.

Here are the most comprehensive comments of the batch below:

  • Lindsay discusses what she likes about Aberlou 10, anCnoc 12, Ardbeg 10, Bowmore Legend, Cragganmore 12, Dalwhinnie 15, Glenfiddich 12, Glenlivet 12, Glenkinchie 12, Glenmorangie 10, Highland Park 12, Laphroaig 10, Talisker 10, and dislikes about Glen Moray 16.
  • Eric shares what he likes about Balvenie 12 DoubleWood, Old Pultney 12, Talisker 10, GlenDronach 12, Clynelish 14, Longrow CV, and Lagavulin 16.
  • Sean gives us the rundown on Ledaig 10, Cragganmore, Glen Moray 16, Glenmorangie (several expressions), Glencadam 10, with a strong rebuke for Glenrothes Select Reserve.

There are a lot of great comments below, I just wanted to pick out a few of the comprehensive ones that I feel you should not miss.

Lastly, you can make a “cheap” scotch look classier with a decanter and some fine scotch glasses.

About Jim

Jim is the founder of Scotch Addict and one of the many fans of whisky in all its forms. Connect with me on Google+.
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123 Responses to Best Cheap Single Malt Scotches

  1. Dan says:

    Good choices Jim. Glenfiddich 12 was my first single malt. Three years later I’ve been through 50 different malts, but Glenfiddich is always one I come back to. The 15 yr is actually a great value also.

    • Jim says:

      Yeah, I’m a fan, it’s such a great value. Thanks for the comment Dan!

      • Tam says:

        Being a Scot Glenfiddich is an awful mass produced single malt, and blended whisky is the devil. Bowmore yes, glenfiddich no. If you like a peaty single malt talisker 10 is a very cheap single malt and at 45% gets my vote. Or a very cheap malt is Auchentoshan, its matured in a burbon cask for the last few years.

  2. Dean says:

    So true about the Glenfiddich. I am a converted ex-Bourbon drinker. My first ever single malt was a 18 yr old (Oleroso) GF. I was stunned, and have never looked back.

    (personally, I can’t choke down the best of bourbons any more 🙂

    I currently have over 40 different brands and bottle-ings in my collection and always return to the GF 18 with fondness (for an EXCEPTIONAL value try the 15 yr old GF Solera! at half the price.). I love so many of the others, but the ‘Fiddich 18 is my Speyside benchmark.

    • Jim says:

      I’ve never had bourbon aged as long as many of the scotches I enjoy so I don’t want to make the comparison because it wouldn’t be fair based on my experience. You take a 12 year anything and it crushes any bourbon without an age statement, it’s like comparing an NFL team to a college one.

      I haven’t tried the Solera myself but I’ll give it a look, thanks for the recommendation Dean!

  3. Lindsay says:

    I’m also a fan of Glenfiddich 15yo, although in my part of the world I wouldn’t exactly call it cheap ($95), though I do consider the 12yo good value. I’ve limited this list to $75, which probably seems high, but Scotch isn’t cheap in Australia. If I’d limited it to $50 the only option at regular prices would have been Glenlivet.

    This is my experience so far:
    Aberlour 10yo – excellent value – cheaper than Glenfiddich 12yo but with a lot more character – though it does show its youth.
    anCnoc 12yo – this one’s nice and lively.
    Ardbeg 10yo – heavily peated as it goes, but still well balanced and complex. You could cradle one of these for hours taking it in.
    Bowmore Legend (NAS) – modern Bowmore seems not to be terribly popular among Islay fans if the internet is to be believed(…), but I don’t mind this particular expression, and I think it’s fairly priced for what it is. The peat’s not as strong as the 12yo.
    Cragganmore 12yo – I thought this was decent, there’s a flicker of life there, though I’m not sure I’d buy another bottle of it in preference to something I haven’t tried. Might be worth a look.
    Dalwhinnie 15yo – excellent value for a 15yo, but ending there sells it short. It’s one of the lighter malts but that just ensures it’s clean, and doesn’t reduce its complexity.
    Glenfiddich 12yo – seems to have come back into the land of the interesting lately. Still holds its place in the Glenfiddich hierarchy but is no longer just “the cheap one”.
    Glenlivet 12yo – the price is the best thing going for it. My experience is a bit like the Cragganmore, although the Cragganmore was cleaner. It’s reliable, and I would never turn one down.
    Glenkinchie 12yo – decent, if not memorable. That is to say I don’t remember disliking it at all, but I can’t remember anything jumping out at me either.
    Glenmorangie Original/10yo – what more can be said of Glenmorangie?
    Highland Park 12yo – I’ve heard of some batch inconsistency, but it needs to be stressed that no distillery is immune from that. A good bottle is rewarding, and there’s a mild peatiness that contributes an extra dimension rather than taking over.
    Laphroaig 10yo – definitely not one for beginners – it was, foolishly, my first encounter with peat – but if you have or develop a taste for peat it’s up there among the best. It’s on the drier end of the scale which serves to emphasise the peat even further. Everyone in the room will soon know you’re drinking Laphroaig too.
    Talisker 10yo – it shows its youth, but it also shows excellent complexity of flavour and well balanced peat. Possibly an even better introduction to the effective use of peat than the Bowmore Legend; I thought I didn’t like peat until I bought one of these. Yum.

    Cheap single malts I didn’t much care for:
    Glen Moray 16yo – bleh. Easily forgettable.

  4. Lindsay says:

    I suppose I didn’t actually say much about the flavour, unless there was peat. Unfortunately this is all from memory, but hopefully my level of enthusiasm for each comes across. If anything, “lively” usually equates mostly to fruity flavours, especially acidic ones like citrus. The Aberlour’s a bit unique in that it’s got some nutty flavours that I didn’t pick up in any of the others.

  5. Eric says:

    Some good drams on your list, but there are several more I would offer for consideration and addition to your list of good malts under $50!

    Balvenie 12 Double Wood gives a wonderful experience of Speyside traditions bringing in flavors from both bourbon and sherry cask aging.
    Old Pultney 12 – a great northern Highlands distillery under-recognized. Nicely fruity and spiced, richly warming.
    Talisker 10 is fantastic, a lightly peppery-peaty dream
    GlenDronach 12 is a nicely sherried, well-developed expression
    Clynelish 14 is another fruity, dense fantastic northern Highlander
    Longrow CV comes from Springbank and is their “peated” version. You can still find it under $50

    and, as on Lindsey’s list, if you’re an Isaly fan, the good news is that you can pick up something from almost all of the distilleries for under this limit….or extend a bit for the Lagavulin 16 which you can sometimes find for a little north of $60….well worth the increase!

    Lastly, try the Kilchoman if you get a chance; might be a little over $50, but brings in flavors reminiscent of Port Ellen…at a fraction of the price of true PE!

    • Little Teapot says:

      Balvenie 12 Double Wood is hands down the best scotch I’ve yet to taste, and that was several years ago! It has substance, rich and oh just slightly sweet enough from that body the sherry gives it that allows it go down much smoother comparatively to many other scotches I’ve encountered. I keep getting disappointed over these years trying others and find myself going back to Balvenie 12 even when I’m considering a “cheaper” buy.

    • Bob says:

      Just wondering where Eric is getting Lag for “a little north of $60′?

  6. Dan says:

    Was at my usual store yesterday and was shocked that prices went up yet again. Balvenie doublewood used to be about $54, now it’s over $60. Caribbean cask 14yo was intoduced at $60, now it’s $67. Their 15yo single cask is hovering near 90 bucks! That’s one of my favorites. Ouch.

    I managed to get out of there with a bottle of redbreast 12 irish (for st.patty’s) for around $54. I really like balvenie, but damn, I don’t understand what’s going on with those prices.

    • Jim says:

      I wonder if exchange rates are to blame? I haven’t been following pricing changes and there wasn’t any big news that I’m aware of. Maybe taxes in your state? I know they went up in Maryland.

    • new to scotch says:

      The guy at my liquor store informed me that the rise in scotch prices had to do with the crop where they were made. Last year was a bad crop year so the prices on the crop went up so we are now seeing the price of our scotch go up.

      • Jim says:

        I think prices are going up because of popularity, not as a result of a particular crop (malted barley) being more expensive this year. Also, Scotch whisky has to be aged at least 3 years so even if your guy were right, it’d have to have been a bad crop three+ years ago.

  7. Sparky says:

    The word on pricing …. Just like real estate, Asian billionaires are driving up the prices – sometimes three or four hundred percent – as scotch supplies are somewhat limited, and they can afford it. The marketplace bears the price.

  8. Lindsay says:

    A couple of hundred people are driving up prices worldwide? Damn those Asian billionaires!

  9. Andrew says:

    If you like a slightly peaty single malt for a reasonable price try ledaig from the island of mull.

  10. Sean says:

    Ledaig 10 year – Fascinating expression, personally. It’s unusual, as it has peat and oak notes, but there’s this… something, I have yet to identify what it is, that gives it a uniqueness as far as peaty scotch goes. It’s in the 40-50 range I believe.

    Craggenmore – I personally wasn’t very impressed with this one. It had a presence to it, but the “flame” overpowered what I think would have been a good scotch. That said, it wasn’t exactly bad, it’s just not on my list of things to regularly sample.

    Glen Moray 16 – I second another reviewer’s commentary on this one. I seem to recall that the 12 was actually pretty decent, for what I kind of classify as a “beginner scotch”. Not terribly complex, and nothing to object to either.

    Glenmorangie – This distillery is generally doing it right, and has been a joy. The Original is a wonderful expression, and I’ve also found the La Santa to be extremely satisfying. Sherry notes give it an awesome sweetness, but there’s still a wonderful oak to it, so it doesn’t lose it’s presence. I have likened it in my mind to a slightly cheaper Macallan 12, just a little younger, and so not as mellow.

    Glencadam 10 – It’s been a little while since I’ve had this one, but I recall enjoying this expression a great deal. Similar to Glenmorangie Original. I don’t think it had the same kind of impact however as Glenmorangie however. It might have something to do with the price. I recall paying 70$ for it, but found it online for 45, so perhaps I’m getting ripped off, and the online stores are simply that much cheaper? Don’t know for certain.

    Recommend strongly against
    Glenrothes Select Reserve – It’s as though they combined tequila and scotch in one bottle. I don’t know how else to describe it, but everyone who has been introduced to it has wholeheartedly agreed with that assessment. I personally found it to be an abomination, and everytime I look at the bottle a chill of disgust runs down my spine. Your milage may vary though. To be fair, it’s entirely possible that perhaps it was just a bad batch. There is an oaky undertone to it that I find appealing, but I just can’t get past the obvious tequila overtones. Very strange. I also can’t speak for anything else they’ve produced, so perhaps their other offerings are less tequila like.

    Thanks for the lists everyone. I’ve extracted a few and added them for future reference.

    • Little Teapot says:

      I’m so glad to finally find somebody else with something bad to say about Glenrothes. I was excited to bring home a 3 bottle sampler, only to find they were some of the most vile kerosine laden drinks I’ve ever had with no redeeming qualities!

  11. Robert says:

    No Jamesons?? Pretty weak list.

  12. Lindsay says:

    I think there might be a hint in the title of the post and the question it poses Robert…

  13. Michael Rozelle says:

    While my absolute favorite bottles are a’bunadh and Ugedail, since the subject is inexpensive forays, while not single malts I would highly recommend Black Bottle, and for fun Pig’s Nose and Sheep Dip.

  14. Wayne says:

    Hi Jim,

    Another option to maybe consider adding under your cheap, blended options is that of Bells Special Reserve.

    When I was first introduced to scotch someone suggested this as a very cheap, but decent, option.

    In South Africa you can get a bottle for about R200- (under GBP15), similar pricing to your cheaper Johnny Walker and Chivas options but quite impressive for a blend.

    Wayne

  15. Bruno says:

    I will second the Balvenie Doublewood 12. Trader Joe’s sells it for the lowest I’ve seen
    anywhere $39.99. My fave but price keeps increasing is not necessarily cheap but absolutely love is the Balvenie 15 single barrel (Great, great one).

    Tomatin was nice, cheap and fine $26+ at Bev Mo
    Old Pulteney was cheap and will do fine, sharp but kinda light finish

  16. Grant says:

    Glenmorangie original is nice, but in Alberta Canada it runs $58/bottle

  17. Voytek says:

    What’s wrong with you guys?
    You’re just talking about brands owned by multinationals and hedge founds. It’s like going for a date to macdonalds.

  18. Lindsay says:

    Voytek:
    How about you contribute and list some good quality, independently produced, cheap Scotch single malts.

    And “Mcdonalds”? Don’t make me laugh. Are you seriously suggesting that some of the whiskies listed above (for being good quality and good value) are in fact poor quality, purely because they’re owned by somebody?

  19. Voytek says:

    Lindsay:
    Good point. I should be more precise. I enjoyed recently cask strength Caol Ila and they belongs to Johnny Walker and Diageo. I understand we sadly can’t escape from corporations but buying from distilleries owned by smaller companies we support diversity and art of making whisky.
    I think we should talk about affordable not cheap whiskies.
    My favourites are:
    Tobermory 10 and Bunnahabhain 12 both below £36. And Clynelish 14.
    Recently more distilleries does quarter bottles. Very good idea. 20cl is enough to get familiar with whisky and probably buy one which is too expensive in full size.
    Try to look for ones bottled at least 46%. In that strength they doesn’t have to be filtered so more goodness goes into the bottle.
    Independent bottlers are good idea too. Can be risky but with a bit of research you can find a gem. Connoisseur Choice can be hit and miss but Signatory are really good (opinion of professional, not mine) and you can buy products of distilleries who do not have their own brands or even from those that are silent for years. Flora and Fauna are good too.

  20. Beth says:

    No disrespect to anyone intended, but comparing the large companies that own the distilleries in Scotland to MacDonald’s shows that the writer doesn’t live in Scotland. It is true that many of our distilleries, sadly, are no longer privately owned, but are owned by Diageo, Pernod Ricard, etc. If you want to buy only whisky from independent or small companies, you are cutting out some lovely drams. Also, even if the distilleries are owned by multinationals, in many cases, the distilleries are left to do what they have always done, and that’s to make great whisky – if they didn’t, they’d lose money, and multinationals don’t like losing money. It is in their interests to keep the quality high. I live in Scotland (on Speyside) and have known people who work for some of the distilleries. Rather than being a tragedy, in fact, there have been cases of distilleries being bought over and things actually improving because suddenly there was money for investment, so quality can go up rather than down – think dark cloud/silver lining. It is sad to have so few independent distilleries, but we are getting more every year just now!

    Last but not least, comparing the distilleries owned by the big companies to MacDonald’s is funny – if Big Macs tasted as good as The Glenlivet 18, I would eat there every day instead of once every few years!

    As for inexpensive whiskies – wow, are they getting hard to find or what?! Just now I have Aberlour 10 and Laphroaig 10 open (depending on my mood!) – got them both on sale, Aberlour for £20 UKP and Laphroaig for £28.50 – I even got my Glenlivet 18 on sale (just before Father’s Day lots of whisky goes on sale here). I tend to generally buy less expensive whiskies – budgets are a bugger, but bills have to be paid!

    • Jim says:

      No disrespect taken, I don’t live in Scotland and unfortunately we don’t get many of the smaller privately owned distilleries in our stores. I wish we did!

      And comparing them to McDonald’s is absurd, I agree 100%. Thanks for the comment!

  21. Colonel Travis says:

    Shieldaig 18 from Total Wine is a great value. Definitely recommend you try it if you’re close to that store, I think they’re the only ones who sell it.

    • Jim says:

      I’ll check it out, we have a Total Wine near us (they actually bought one of the best stores in the area too, didn’t change a thing). Thanks Colonel Travis!

  22. oahu says:

    Here are 2 more for around $25. Can’t go wrong:

    Speyburn – a 10 year old – serve it disguised and see how they like it.
    Tomatin – found even in supermarkets. Sherry cask – a lot of people like this one for less than $25.

  23. Andrew di Michele says:

    let me focus on that last paragraph…

    just bought the Glen Kirk 8 (year!)…for $17.99.

    had trepidations, but i like to roll the dice.

    this is an amazing dram for the price. in essence, you get an oaky bite/finish but very much slathered with a malty butteriness that i wouldn’t have complained to have paid $30+ for…

    quite the bargain…as is the Glen Ness 12 which i had a few months ago. at $21.99.

    now i am more confident about checking out the Glen Ness 8…about a dollar more than the Glen Kirk 8…

    cheers

  24. Voytek says:

    Andrew di Michele: where are Glen Ness 8 & Glen Kirk 8 distilled? Independent bottlings perhaps? Or vatted stuff?

  25. Andrew di Michele says:

    i’m not sure! got it at Total Wine…it’s been there for some time…says Charles Hamilton as has been discussed by others. importer is Saranty (out of White Plains, NY)…not sure about the Glen Ness. the 12 was pretty good.

    vatting sounds quite possible. very well done vatting i’d say.

  26. Ken says:

    I have tried Glenfidich 12, The Macallan 12, and Glenlivet 12, I preferred the Glenlivet. Then I tried the Glenlivet 18 and WOW. I’ve done many wine tastings before moving to scotch and the Glenlivet 18 at 95 dollars per 750ml hits all the spots on the tongue smoothly and evenly like a nice 300$ Bordeaux. I have not tried the Macallan 18 yet but I will be surprised if it is better than the Glenlivet.

    • Matt says:

      Ken,

      I’ve had both, and I can honestly say the Macallan 18 is tops for me. Although the Glenlivet 18 was no slouch. Both have their pluses and minuses, but the Macallan’s sweetness, smoothness, and touch of smoke really melts my butter. I’m sure you’ll love it just as much.

  27. My vote is for Glenlivet 12 yr. Price is right and perfect sipping Scotch. However, nothing wrong with the blends! Love Johnny Walker Black and Red. The consensus on Glenfiddich 12 yr. is spot on. Another excellent affordable single malt.

  28. Jimbo says:

    Liked all the comments and I’m new to the taste of a single malt. My first generation is from the Old Country (Scotland), I’m born and raised West Coast Canada yet my first was a 12yr Glenfiddich. My Dad’s goto. I’ve expanded to enjoy the Glenlivet 12yr (price $75) my fav is the 18yr but over a 100 now is settle for the 12yr. The question I have is has anyone tasted the Blen Breton a realitively new distillery that recently went to blows with the old country about it’s name. Look it up it’s the only Single Malt in Canada made in Newfoundland — the other end of the country, and share what you think. The price is $88 / 750ml with no little tatesters too expensive to buy by chance.

    • Marc says:

      Glen Breton is made on the island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. I’ve had a few bottles and I like it! It’s pricey compared to other single malts but it’s worth trying at least a glass if you can find it at your local watering hole. I’m sure you can find some tasting notes if you like. The rare ice version is really good but even pricier than the regular one.

  29. Jimbo says:

    Sorry that should have been Glen Breton.

  30. Craig says:

    A absolute gem of a malt and not very well known is the tomintoul 16 year old! Tremendous value for money , £36 here in Scotland!

  31. Craig says:

    A absolute gem of a malt and not very well known is the tomintoul 16 year old! Tremendous value for money , £36 here in Scotland! Glen moray is also one of my favourites !

  32. Rob says:

    Hey Jim,

    It appears you live in the States and I could use your help. I live in St. Louis and want to put on a Scotch tasting with 4 bottles under $50. I need to make sure I can get these bottles, so I would really like your top 4 bottles you think I would be able to find. I would also welcome anyone else who would like to give me their list. I think for sure I am going to get Glenfarclas 12 and Aberlour 10, but I will consider something else. Thanks everyone.

    Rob

    • Jim says:

      I do live in the States, Maryland to be exact. So 4 bottles under $50 and you want to go with Glenfarclas 12 and Aberlour 10 to start – that means you have two Speysides.

      I looked up the name of a St. Louis liquor store (Randall’s) for pricing, sticking to your $50 limit, and I think you would do well to get the Laphroaig 10 so you have some Islay representation in there. Bowmore 12 is another good option, just touching your limit at around $48.99, and that is going to have smokiness too (again an Islay).

      If you want a little smoke but not too much, Highland Park is solid – it has sweetness and floral character plus some smoke and peat. It’s not on Islay and is the northern most of the distilleries.

      If smokiness isn’t your thing, give Auchentoshan a shot, it’s considered a Lowland (Glenkinchie is another one) and Lowlands are often lighter in flavor.

      Good luck and let me know what you pick!

  33. Dave_MashTun says:

    For a 4 dram tasting those are some good options. I always try to start with a “lite” dram (i.e. the Auchentaushan) and end with a peaty (smoky) one like the Bowmore mentioned. If you do this and have the Glenfarclas and Aberlour (I’d do the Aberlour before the Glenfarclas but it’s all personal preference) in between that that sounds like a good tasting!

    We actually have free tasting kits and tasting notes sheets on our website so feel free to check it out http://www.themashtun.co.uk/diy-tasting/

    Enjoy your tasting!

    sláinte mhaith 😉

    Dave

  34. steve says:

    Macallan 16yr is way better than the 10
    Lagavullin is overpriced – but is a great winter sipping scotch dark colour and more wood than a forest fire
    Tried aberlour cask strength and didnt rate it
    steer clear of dalwinnie, and glenmorangie.
    jamieson is worth a go – very consistent entry level stuff

  35. Jon says:

    Hello All,
    Jim’s site is so wonderful and a wealth of information.
    As a newbie in this subject, affordable Single Malt, recently, in sheer dumb luck, during a trip in Asia, I acquired and consumed a Glen Grant 10 yrs.
    It was my first experience in single malt and it was very nice.
    As the bottle said, smooth and seductively fruity. However, tt’s difficult to find it in the States.
    Any idea and suggestion for this brand?

    • Jim says:

      Hmmm, I don’t see Glen Grant often but when I do it’s in places with a very large selection of whisky. Your local beer and wine store won’t carry it I’m afraid.

      • Jon says:

        Glen Grant, as its website indicated, had been recently going through some type of change in management and company structure.
        In addition, due to the unique design of the distilleries, long and tall kind, the end result of the product is a smooth taste.

        I also discovred a Tomatin 12 yr and found it very enjoyable.
        Thank you everyone.

        Jon

  36. Jimbo says:

    Hey for those of you who can stomach Bowmore 12 I bow down to — I almost lost my steak dinner after ordering one of those while at a meeting in Jasper– had the same effect while after a ball game in Seattle some one had ordered for me. This makes me a little trepid to try new.

    • Jim says:

      Hmmm, I’ve had Bowmore 12 before and I didn’t find it as revolting, what about it did you dislike? Maybe if you identify that in some way you can avoid that profile in the future?

      • Chuck says:

        I love Bowmore 12 … it is peaty and smooth and sits easy on the palate. I tend to love very peaty Islay single malts – and often the peatier the better. But Bowmore is relatively mild and it doesn’t offend the most sensitive noses of those who love you!

  37. aaron hernandez says:

    i’m in my early thirties, and I’ve been a single malt drinker for about 10 years. I don’t keep a large collection, about 75 sealed “stashed” bottles of things I’ve found over the years that I really liked and about 40 sipping choices that includes some standards, some budgets, and some old favorites. I have Most of the contemporary choices from macallan, glenfiddich, glenlivet, glenmorangie, balvenie, talisker, and oban. I also have some different dun bheagan bottlings, a highland park, some ardbegs, a dalwhinne, a pair of aberfeldy’s, and a slew of $30+/- “never heard of that”s, as well as a couple of bottles that are just too expensive to open up. I am not saying any of this to boast of my vast reserves of brown gold, only to qualify my asserting of my choice in budget single malts.

    I fully agree that the glenmorangie original is a frontrunner, at $32 a bottle it can be enjoyed regularly on any budget, and it is truly a pleasurable drink. at 10 years it is a little young, but it is not immature by any means, strangely it is very mild. It is my top choice under $60, and for everyday sippin’.

    My second choice for budget single malt, is the “dram select 21 year” that is being offered for and average of $85 and as much as $120, but I have found it for $60 on sale at a local shop. after I took the first bottle home on a gamble, I returned the next morning to buy 8 more for the stash, It is good. smooth, mild, and warm. It is definitely worth every penny of $120, but at half of that I suspect It will be hard to find later as it is a limited bottling of 600 (I think). If you see this at less than $100, don’t hesitate, it is great.

    • Jim says:

      Thanks for the tip of Dram Select 21, I’ve never heard of it and based on the bottle, I’d probably never buy it. I’ll have to check it out, it’s definitely a great price for the age but as you said, the first one is a gamble. 🙂

      I still can’t find it here locally but I’ll keep an eye out!

    • C-4 says:

      You’ve got probably close to ten thousand dollars worth of Scotch stockpiled for some insane reason…but you’re NOT boasting…and 115 bottles isn’t a large collection…and a hundred bucks a bottle is a budget choice. Really? REALLY? Bottles that are “too expensive to open”? So you’re just keeping them to impress yourself with how expensive they are, is that it? Thanks for nothing. Get a clue, windbag. Your entire post did nothing but PISS ME OFF, when all I came here for was to read about reasonably-priced single malts. Jim probably won’t post this comment, and that’s fine, but at least he’ll see it, and know that at least one visitor was having a fine time reading all of the HELPFUL comments left by others until he came to this piece of infuriating puffbaggery.

  38. Blake Boardman says:

    Both the Speyburn 10yr.old and the Bradan Orach are very nice for under $30US

  39. Rick says:

    The Lismore speyside at Trader Joe’s (no age listed) is only $17, and is a great everyday bottle. It hits all of the usual Speyside notes, with a very smooth finish. It’s remarkably flavorful and smooth, in light of the fact that it’s likely to be a fairly young Scotch. I’d strongly recommend it to anyone who’s looking to try single malt Scotch for the first time, or really to anyone who’s looking for a good “all-around” dram to keep on hand. It’s definitely a “go-to” bottle.

    If you’re up for some smoke and peat (and not everyone is; Islay malts are a taste you either love or hate), then it’s hard to beat the value (in terms of enjoyment per dollar) of the Laphroaig 10 year old. Current price at BevMo is about $46, and it’s even cheaper at TJ’s (about $40, IIRC).

    Another favorite is the Balvenie Doublewood 12 year old. This is another Speyside malt, aged first in the usual bourbon barrels, and then finished in sherry casks. It’s smooth, a little sweet, and just a wonderfully complex and flavorful scotch. No peat or smoke here, but did I mention how smooth it is? A bargain at $42 (BevMo), and only $40 at TJ’s.

    Comparing the Balvenie Doublewood to the Lismore, I’d have to say that I like the Balvenie more; the flavor is fuller, more rounded, and has more depth. But, it’s more than double the price, so it better be! I’m more likely to share the Lismore a bit more freely, and keep the Doublewood for friends who have already shown an appreciation for good Scotch….

    In any case — you can’t really go wrong with any of these three, and they are all great “value” single malt Scotches.

    Personally, if I had to limit myself to just two whiskys forevermore, the first would hands down have to be the Lagavulin 16, as I’m a peat fan, and just love a smooth but smoky Islay malt. The Laphroaig 10 is a great budget alternative, and I’ll gladly drink it any time (especially when money’s tight), but the Lagavulin 16 is my number one choice.

    My second “forever whisky” choice would be a great Speyside. The current top of my Speyside list is the Glenlivet Nadurra 16, with the Balvenie Doublewood 12 running a very close second place.

    I’d happily subsist on my Islay (Lagavulin 16) and either one of those two Speysides.

    • Jim says:

      Rick – Thank you for such a detailed comment on your choices. I live in a state where grocers can’t sell alcohol so our Trader Joe’s don’t carry that Lismore Speyside – though it sounds like a great value at $17.

      I love love love the Balvenie Doublewood. So compared to a lot of other 12yo, it’s a few bucks on the pricier side, but it’s definitely a bargain at that price point. There’s a richness there that makes it stand out and I think comparing a $42 bottle vs. a $17 bottle puts the $17 at a huge disadvantage. 🙂

      I haven’t had Glenlivet Nadurra in ages, I’ll have to revisit (when I had it, I don’t believe there was an age statement), but if we ever ran into each other at a bar, we’d have some common favorites. 🙂

    • Chuck says:

      I wasn’t that impressed with the Lismore … grabbed it at Trader Joe’s and it is very drinkable but not a lot of body. If you like Islay single malts they have a great buy – not as complex as the more expensive ones – but under $20: Finlaggan.

  40. Chris says:

    First time to your wonderful site and a good article. I googled Best malts under 50 and your article came up! You are spot on with Glenmorangie. It’s a great introduction to this distillery.
    Looking forwarding to exploring this wonderful site… Cheers.

  41. Raj says:

    I love single malts. But can’t afford the $40+ price tags of all the brands that you have listed here. However, my local winery carries a small batch of inexpensive brands, under $25.00 for Islay, Highlands and Speyside. I say it is good value for money. I love a Laphraiog or Glenmorangie anyday but have to think about the dent it puts in my wallet.

  42. Ashwin says:

    You missed Oban mate….its one of the best i have tasted…

    regards
    -Ash

    • matt says:

      Oban has jumped in price around her to $60-$65 and it is well overpriced at that level. to me its a $50 bottle at best. not to knock oban cause i like it but $60 and up way to much.

  43. Justin says:

    if you can find Benromach 10, don’t hesitate! it’s becoming more available in the usa, and often near $40.

    • Jim says:

      Only $40!? Buy them out! My local spot carries it at $58.99+tax, which is a little high for me to “try out.” I’d definitely give it a run at $40/btl, but at 50% higher there are others ahead in line.

  44. Richard Hautanen says:

    I just bought a 750ml Glen Moray 12 for $18.99 (vs my “usual” Glenfiddich 12 which goes for $32.99 if I get it on sale). Not quite as good but still tasty enough, and surely the best value single malt I have yet found.

    • Jim says:

      Thanks for sharing your find! I’ve never had Glen Moray myself but the ratings on Connosr are pretty good (mid-80s) especially at that price point. I’ll keep an eye out for it but my local shops don’t carry it. Glenlivet 12 is a pretty good value at under $30 but you have to be OK with the spicy finish.

  45. Carl Hedlund says:

    The string of comments is pretty long so I didn’t read them all, but was surprised no one mentioned Bruichladdich Rocks. It is unpeated and sells for around $30. It has been my go to for mid-priced single malts and is perhaps the least expensive Islay I’ve seen. Comments???

    • Jim says:

      I’ve seen these in the store and the box/tube it comes in (that all of the Bruichladdich comes in) looks amazing, but I’ve never had it myself. It sells for around $47 here but I might give it a try.

  46. Bob Moro says:

    I’ve enjoyed all the comments. No one has mentioned Deanston, which I feel is an excellent bargain scotch without the bargain taste for under $35. And they make a Virgin Oak that has a delightful oak taste that I love, and it is usually sold for just $25. It has become my favorite scotch when you figure in the price and the unique taste. It is less refined than the more pricey brands, but I strongly recommend it!

    • Jim says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, I’ve never heard of them but I’ll be on the lookout on my next trip.

      • Chuck says:

        Thanks Jim for this site … I am late to discovering Scotch … but am doing my best (in my late 50’s) to catch up! I appreciate all of the suggestions and recommendations. I look forward to giving many of them a sip!

        • Jim says:

          Better late than never, right? I’m a few years in and I still feel like I’m brand new to it. The journey is part of the fun so savor it. 🙂

  47. Mauricio says:

    Great article, Jim. Drinking good scotch is always a pleasure but acquiring it is not so by any means, because of price and labels — way too many options, which is good, of course, but confusing nonetheless. Shelling down $40 on a bottle hurts the pocket but it seems to be the entry price for a good scotch. Personal taste is the key. I, for one, can’t drink blends. In fact, I had tried scotch several times before and never understood why I didn’t like it — they were blends. First time I had a single malt I woke up! Just picked up a bottle of Glen Ness 12 for $23 and simply loving it. Now I know the price will go up on this one soon and I’m helping to make it happen. That’s fine. I’m picking up 4 bottles tomorrow.

  48. Mcscootie says:

    It’s funny, I was just back in Scotland for a holiday and a bottle of JW blue was £135 a bottle, however dan Murphy’s here in perth, western australia sells it for $165. How things have changed !!

  49. wALT says:

    COSTCO has an 18 yr old Single malt and it’s great and only $32.00.

  50. Dan Perreault says:

    Tomatin is a very good single malt scotch that is around 29.99 in price. Very smooth tasty.

  51. Chris says:

    I actually bought my first single malt scotch over the holidays as a gift to myself! I have been on and off with JW Black over the years depending on finances (only one ever tried besides one Double Black very recently) and right now finances are good and improving. I like to look and have always dreamed of getting a JW Blue, but in recent months have at least looked on the shelves at some single malts.

    That holiday gift pack I bought was a Highland 12 with a 50mL bonus of Highland 18 for $42 at a chain liquor store. At first the bite shocked me a little but got used to it as the bottle drained over the days (the 18 remains unopened). After that, I went back to JW Black and was disappointed a little at the lack of “flavor”? (not sure this is the appropriate description) Anyways, as the JW Black emptied, I liked it more again, but decided to do more research into these single malts and discovered your site!

    I charged out and bought a Balvenie Doublewood 12 based on many high recommendations here (and found it for $37 at Sam’s Club). It turns out I may have been a bit hasty because I am not a fan of honey flavors in general, so got an initial shock, but even as this first glass finishes, I am accustomed more to it.

    My question is what should I try next? I am a fan of IPAs and especially recently Black IPAs, and based on reading more on your site, I was considering the Laphroaig 10. I also saw the poster above me talk about the Tomatin 12 which I saw at the Sam’s Club for $24 I believe. Thanks for any input from anyone–I’m new to this but have a bit of money to spend and willing to try anything!

    • Jim says:

      Laphroaig and Lagavulin are fine options for the next bottle, maybe find a local spot that serves it (it’s not hard to find if they have scotch) so you can try it before committing to a whole bottle? You’ll detect some similar flavors though, because JW is a blend and I know for a fact is has smokiness in it that would be completely absent from Doublewood.

      • Jacobus Maximus says:

        I tried a glass of Laphroaig 10 at a restaurant the other night. It was incredible. The last Scotch I had before that was Dewer’s (I had no idea what I was doing) and I said to myself “I think I’ll stick to Bourbon” (Knob Creek, etc.) Now I’ve changed my mind. I’m looking for something like Laphroaig, but less expensive. Sounds like I should check out Bowmore Legend…

        • Jim says:

          Ha, Dewar’s White is OK but you have to respect the price point. You can get 1.75L of Dewar’s White for like thirty dollars. 🙂

          I’m hardly a scotch snob, I enjoy bourbons and other whiskies for each of their personalities and characteristics. You really can’t beat Islays for smokiness and peat no matter how hard you try. Laphroaig 10 (I’m actually drinking their 2014 Cairdeas as I type this reply) is great, one of my favorites and won’t break the bank.

    • Jack says:

      Balvenie or Bowmore would top my list. Love the Legend as an every day option, but my “house scotch” is the Speyside Lismore. Nothing fancy but it does the job.

  52. Jonathon Cowley says:

    I just bought a bottle of Glenfiddich 15-year for UK£33 today (about US$45). It was delicious; smooth and warming in the back of the throat without the burn that usually accompanies cheaper spirits. Plus it came in a steel and red leather canister, which was quite fetching.

    If you can find them over there in the colonies; Jura and Tobermoray are good choices too. Both come in 10, 12 and 15 year, and the 10 year versions are still worth some attention.

  53. Aklein says:

    Totally clueless. Speyburn 10 is $27 and easily comparable to any of the $50-60 12 years.
    Also Kirkland has a 12 yr in a huge bottle for dirt cheap. Just as good as Johnny walker black or glenkinchie or livet 12. Better than laphroig.

  54. John says:

    I tend to think that sending more than $45 is a little extravagant, so I’m in the same boat here. I’ve tried Speyburn Bradan Orach and Deanston Virgin Oak and really like both. Auchentoshan Classic is also very smooth, sweet, nutty, and eminently drinkable. I don’t care for the smoky flavors from Islay malts, so I’m not likely to spring for a Laphroaig or Lagavulin. I want to take exception to those who would criticize McClelland’s. I’ve tried two of their varieties (Highland and Speyside) and found them both fantastic. Lots of fruit aromas and a delightful explosion of toffee and hazelnuts on the palate.

    • Jim says:

      I think everyone has to find what they enjoy, all of our palates are different. We have our entire lives to develop it and we find things we enjoy and things we don’t. Sometimes there’s a note we don’t like (like phenolics, which is the medicinal band-aid note you find in Islays from peat) and that can apply to anything… I try to avoid saying any particular thing is *bad* – only whether I prefer it. I’ve yet to try McClellands of any variety though, so I can’t speak o it from personal experience.

  55. Hogarth says:

    J-Dub –

    Edradour 10YO. What do you think of it?

    HH

    • John McR says:

      Edradour 10 is my absolute favorite…wonderful dessert malt, gives warm rich butterscotch and heather, toffee and butter. Perfect with a cup of black tea with honey and milk, and maybe a small cookie or biscuit on the side. A bit rough, rustic, but the richness makes like a nice warm tweed coat.

  56. South5 says:

    I had never tried a real whisky until the start of this year (2014). I started out with glenfiddich 12 single malt(£27), a good starting point, nice smooth and balanced. Also bought at the same time was The balvenie 14 year single malt (£39), again smooth and very palatable. Next I was given a two thirds full Laphroaig quarter cask(free to me but £34), I received it well and although it is not entirely to my liking it is exceptional in flavour and strength. Very Peaty, very smoky. I disliked this at first but helps understand the difference between the whiskys, strangely it keeps calling me back, love hate relationship going in there. Next was a bottle bought back from an old friend, auchentoshan springwood single malt (£37-£41) a four year old whisky that is immensely enjoyable with no smoke or peat. Explodes in the mouth with no bad aftertaste. After a trip to Gibraltar I picked up auchentoshan heartwood single malt (£27 no tax- £44 uk) this has more depth than springwood as it’s flavoured by rum and sherry casks, subtleties of flavour from both casks. Finally the bruichladdich “the organic scottish barley”, 50% alcohol make this one quick to hit you but leaves a very pleasant aftertaste, I bought it for £39.75 in Gibraltar bargain? Can’t find uk price for it.

    Overall I would reccomend in order of palatability; Springwood, the organic scottish barley, the balvenie, heartwood, glenfiddich. Quarter cask is a different league to all the others, so it’s not last. It’s in it’s own league elsewhere.

  57. Arthur Wood says:

    Jim, New on this site, My Son bought me three small bottles of 10yr,15yr and 18yr TOMATIN , so smooth, Where can I buy it ??

  58. JOHN says:

    As a devout rye drinker I finally discovered the joy of single malt scotch about 20 years ago. I started with Oban & quickly moved on to Macallan 12 yr. which became my go to drink until the price went out of sight. About 5 yrs ago I started drinking The Dalmore 12 yr as my nightly constitutional. I still find it exceptional, however the price continues to climb. In my search for drinkable single malts at a lower price point I have tried about 40 different bottles. Many were less than stellar. As prices of name brand single malts continue to climb I would recommend the following:

    Islay: Bowmore legend is acceptable, 12 yr is better. Laphroaig, Lagavulin & Caol Ila rule.
    Skye: Talisker rules. But you must love peat smoke. (Not for the faint of heart).
    Highland: While Tomatin & Glen Morangie are at a good price point, please treat yourself to as bottle of The Dalmore 12 yr. Damn good scotch.
    Speyside: Speyburn is remarkable for the price (I know I’m going to regret saying this). The Macallen rules.
    The best bottles I’ve ever had were Macallen cask strength (lotsa luck getting this) & Jonnie Green which was made from 5 top notch single malts ( a blend).
    I also have several bottles of Macallen 25 yr which I’m saving for a special occasion (should I live so long).
    For you scotch drinkers who are open to exploration, try Basil Haydens bourbon (a pleasant surprise).
    Enjoy gentlemen.

  59. Mike K says:

    I’d go Old Pultney ($30 – $35 at BevMo) for anything in the $35 or less range.

    Balvenie Doublewood 12 is always a pleasure (seems popular on this site).

    When I feel like spending $45 – $50 it’s going to be Highland Park 12. Probably the most balanced and interesting scotch I know of (and can afford). But I don’t consider $50 cheap.

    I’ve tried two bottles of Tomatin but it’s never grabbed me. I’m going to give TJ’s Lismore a try, at $17 with the good I’ve read about it…

  60. Janet says:

    Although my favorite is Macallan 12, I bought a bottle of Glenfiddich for the holidays (wanted to go a little cheaper knowing I’d likely be drinking more) and was pleasantly surprised … It was smooth, tasty & very easy to drink. I found something I enjoyed drinking while saving a little bit of money. Happy Holidays to me b/c Santa even put a bottle under the tree!

  61. Michael says:

    GlenDronach Is A Lot Older Than The Label Says
    The 12yo Original was released in 2009, so should’ve been at least partly distilled in 1997. Except that wasn’t a possibility. So the first batch of 12yo GlenDronach was already actually at least 14 years old. If you bought a 12yo in 2013, you actually got a 18 year old whisky. The same also works for the 15yo Revival, 18yo Allardice and 21yo Parliament. At certain peak moments you’re buying a whisky that is actually six years older than is stated on the bottle.

    http://wordsofwhisky.com/glendronach-is-a-lot-older-than-the-label-says/

    http://www.whiskyetc.nl/historisch-voordeel-the-glendronach/

  62. Bill says:

    I saw your article on the best cheap single malt scotch and thought to list my account after tasting Glenn Ness 12 yo. I’ve been a JW black drinker for over 40 yrs and wasn’t much of a single malt drinker until one of my sons introduced me to Bellevue. It spoiled me. The other day I went to Total Wines to restock my cabinet when I noticed the Glenn Ness 12 yo for less than $30. I was skeptical at first but decided why not give it a try and I was surprisingly impressed how well it tasted. Mind you it’s no Balvenie or MacMillan but it’s very good in my opinion and that my friends for a $30 bottle.

  63. Pingback: Best Scotch Whisky Gifts for Under $50 - Scotch Addict

  64. matt fredericks says:

    For the budget minded who enjoys a blended “The Famous Grouse” is very balanced and smooth drink I recently picked up a 1.75 L for $30.I prefer it immensely to JW Red or Dewars White label which cost more.
    “Glen Moray 10 y.o. ” as a single malt is your best bet under 40 bucks.I picked one up for $35 recently and that will always be my “go to” single malt.You won’t regret it.

  65. Jason Brown says:

    It seems like so many single malts are climbing in price. But my favorites are the Bowmore 15 (darkest), Dalmore 12 and Highland Park 12. However, I’ve recently discovered Monkey Shoulder, which is a blend but a blend of only three Speyside single malts (Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie). I think it tastes fantastic for a blend, and it’s only $30 for 750ml!

    • Jim says:

      Yeah, prices have been creeping up the last few years. Mix of popularity and supply? Who knows…

      Monkey Shoulder is a big hit in our Facebook group, it’s a great value and a great dram.

  66. Dick Beck says:

    This site is a happy discovery. I’m looking forward to reading about one of my favorite activities. I do prefer, however, to think of the single malts I usually buy not as “Cheap”, denoting inferior quality, but as “less expensive”. My quest is to find the malt (substitute wine, beer etc.) I like the best for the least amount of money.

  67. MARK FALLON says:

    TRY SHEILDAIG HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT— PURPLE & WHITE LABEL— I GET IT FOR ONLY $ 18.00 a bottle at TOTAL WINE– probably the largest store of wine, beer & spirits there is– so they can afford to sell it cheaper than your corner liquor store…. Their selection is IMMENSE…. This particular single malt is SO MUCH BETTER THAN any blend — like J. Walker, Cutty Sark, J & B, etc……It is very “peaty” on the nose, beautiful subtle “smoky” to the palate, with overtones that a “blend” cannot come close to, and ALL THE ” BLENDS” mentioned ( above ) including most other well known ” blends” COST MORE THAN not only Sheildaig, but many other single malts, which I think are much better than any blends, and TOTAL WINE has MORE single malts to choose from ( under $ 25 for 750 ML ) than ANY OTHER STORE THAT EXISTS ! ! ! ! I dare anyone to tell me that I am wrong ! ! ! !

  68. Dan says:

    Schooled in the highlands and had field trips to local distilleries. Enjoyed this thread. I’m a long time scotch drinker. Prices certainly are creeping up but new labels keep coming on the market at giveaway prices…eventually the prices shoot up (Aberlour for example). My current favourite for price and quality is JW Green label which is a single malt blend. Great idea that really works. Currently sipping Glen Ness.

  69. Eric Medler says:

    Auchentoshan …. did I miss a post with this lovely family of single malts…can be gotten for under $40 and is silky smooth. .. my daily single malt of choice. In my store they start in the mid $30s. I prefer the clasic … all are enjoyable

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