There’s a lot of great Scotch whisky on the shelves these days. You have so many opportunities to try peated and unpeated malt, special oak cask finishes, cask strength offerings, blended this and that, and limited releases that it can all feel dizzying. Today, I’m going to help you cut through all the crap and call out the absolute best Scotch whisky — single malt, blended, or otherwise — at every single price point from $20 all the way up to $500.
For this list of Scotch whiskies, I’ve taken the number one whisky bottle from every one of my “best price point” Scotch whisky articles this year. That gives you 15 scotches to choose from. These whiskies really do range from simple mixers to some of the most sought-after and beloved (and awarded) whiskies in the world. In short, there might be a whisky on this list that becomes your “forever whisky.”
Since this is by price point, I’m not ranking these whiskies. The ranking is inherent in the price. As much as I love, say, the Glenmorangie 10-year, there’s no point in pretending it’d beat out Ardbeg 19 or The GlenDronach 21. One is made for making highballs and the other two are world-class sippers that transcend any category.
Lastly, this list gets into rare whisky that’s highly allocated (released only in specific markets to specific retailers, restaurants, and bars). Prices are going to vary depending on your region and what’s available there. Thems just the breaks, folks. Let’s dive in!
- The 50 Best Scotch Whiskies Of 2022, Ranked
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- The Absolute Best Scotch Whisky Between $60-$70, Ranked
- Single Malt Whiskeys From Around The World, Blind Tasted And Ranked
- We Blind Tasted Single Malt Whiskies From All Over The World To Find A Champion
$20-$30 — Naked Malt Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Average Price: $29
The whisky 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.
Nose: There’s a sweet malt buried under a buttery scone dripping with raspberry jam with a touch of light spice lurking in the background.
Palate: 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.
Finish: The end doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves you with a lovely note of chocolate-covered cherries with a sweet/dry vibe.
This is the closest you’re going to get to a sipper at this price point. You can pour this over a big glass of rocks and it’ll be pretty tasty (a truly solid “B” whisky). But you really want to mix this into whisky-forward cocktails or highballs more than anything else.
$30-$40 — Glenmorangie The Original Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 10 Years
Average Price: $36
The Glenmorangie is a classic Highlands single malt. The juice is created on the tallest stills in Scotland, which allows more spirit creation along the way as it’s boiled. The whisky then spends ten years mellowing in ex-bourbon barrels. Finally, the whiskey is vatted, proofed, and bottled.
Nose: The nose opens with soft grains next to a rush of dried fruits and supple leather with a floral hint that leans toward dry hibiscus and fresh woodruff.
Palate: The palate is gentle with hints of wet malts next to powdered dark spices, fresh honeycombs, and a thin line of vanilla oils just touched with orange zest and maybe a twinge of grapefruit.
Finish: The end arrives with a soft honeyed sweetness that feels like it’s drizzled over an orange cake with a hint of malted cracker graininess next to an echo of old apple chips.
This is a solid single malt that really does shine on its own. Yes, you can mix a mean cocktail with it, but you can also 100% enjoy this over a rock or two and feel like you’re drinking a really good simple Scotch whisky.
$40-$50 — Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey Aged 14 Years
Average Price: $46
Glenmorangie’s 14-Year expression spends 10 years resting in used American oak casks. Those barrels are vatted and the whisky is re-barreled into Quinta Ruban port wine casks from Portugal for another four years of mellowing before batching, proofing, and bottling as-is.
Nose: The nose draws you in with a sense of burnt orange layered into dark chocolate and then melted over a singed marshmallow with a hint of malted vanilla cookie tying it all together.
Palate: That dark chocolate drives the palate with a hint of waxiness and woody winter spice next to whole black peppercorns, fresh tangerine, and a whisper of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Finish: The dark chocolate, woody spice, bright orange, and sharp spearmint all collide on the finish with a sense of soft malted sweetness and faint old oak staves.
Delicious. It’s perfect neat, on the rocks, or mixed into your favorite whisky cocktail. This is an exceptional whisky at this price point.
$50-$60 — Ardbeg Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky Ten Years Old
Average Price: $56
This is Ardbeg’s signature bottle and a true gateway to the peaty style of single malt scotches. The real highlight of this expression is the peat smokiness filtered through sherry casking. The phenol count tends to be on the higher end with this expression, so you’ll know you’re drinking a smoky whisky from the first nose. But it won’t absolutely floor you.
Nose: The nose is classic Ardbeg with hints of BBQ smoker ash full of fat, tart red berries, lemon pepper, and a touch of creamy dark chocolate.
Palate: The palate follows the nose’s lead while layering in sea-salt brined pork fat, hints of bourbon vanilla, and an echo of Nutella.
Finish: The finish has that deep salted black licorice vibe leading to a slow fade through the peppery smoked fat, charcoal ash, chocolate nuttiness, and finally smoked red berries with a sweet/tart edge.
This is bold and fun whisky that’s wonderful served over a single large rock in a big ol’ rocks glass. That said, it also works nicely in a cocktail (think citrus and honey or even Coke). But if you want to get the full thrust of the Islay peatiness with that seaside smoker vibe, then stick with the big cube of ice.
$60-$70 — Johnnie Walker Green Label Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Average Price: $69
Johnnie Walker’s Green Label is a solidly crafted whisky that highlights Diageo’s fine stable of distilleries across Scotland. The whisky is a pure malt or blended malt, meaning that only single malt whisky is in the mix (no grain whisky). In this case, the primary whiskies are a minimum of 15 years old, from Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, and Linkwood.
Nose: Soft notes of cedar dance with hints of black pepper, vanilla pods, and bright fruit with a wisp of green grass in the background.
Palate: The palate really delivers on that soft cedar woodiness while edging towards a spice-laden tropical fruit brightness.
Finish: The finish is dialed in with hints of cedar, spice, and fruit leading toward a briny billow of smoke at the very end.
This is a whisky that’s so much greater than its equally great parts. This is one of the best blended malt whiskies you’ll ever find, full stop. It shines as a cocktail base and slaps as a simple everyday sipper. You can’t lose.
$70-$80 — Oban West Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 14 Years
Average Price: $79
This is a great gateway to both Oban and scotch, in general, to have on hand. The whisky is classically made and then matured in the Oban storehouses for 14 long years — all within a stone’s throw of the sea. The whisky barrels are then blended and proofed by Oban’s tiny distillery team (only seven people work there) before bottling.
Nose: Citrus, salt, and a whisper of briny peat smoke open this one up on the nose as this sense of dry orchard fruits at the end of fall mingle with soft honey drizzled over spiced malted crackers with a hint of smoked orange saltwater taffy lurking in the background.
Palate: That smoked citrus carries on as a foundation for mild winter spices as a note of honeycomb, hints of fresh pears, and plummy dried fruits with a fatty nuttiness mingle on the palate.
Finish: The oaky spice and extremely mild peat smoke meet at the end with a slight malty sweetness, old pear, and the faintest whisper of dried seaweed.
This is flawless whisky. It’s perfectly suited to neat or on the rocks sipping while also being a killer cocktail base. You cannot go wrong with this bottle.
$80-$90 — Cragganmore Distillers Edition Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Average Price: $88
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.
Nose: Fennel leads to dried fruits — sultanas, prunes, dried fig — and fresh apples on the nose with a hint of tartness and skin next to savory (almost oily) herb branches and leaves.
Palate: The taste, on the other hand, leans into sweet oak, pear candies, fresh figs, and a softness that’s almost hard to believe while this medley of caraway, fresh fennel, and sweet cardamom dance together on your palate.
Finish: The end is full of sweet fruits — think ripe pears, green tomatoes, and star fruit — and has just the right touches of soft oak, oily vanilla, and savory green herbs as it fades towards a final note of wet wicker right after a rain storm.
There’s something about the funky green herbal and orchard notes of this whiskey that keeps calling me back for more. It’s unique but nostalgic. It’s like silk but still full of surprises. It also truly blooms with some water added, leading you through herb gardens, fruit orchards, and creameries on a sunny day.
$90-$100 — Lagavulin Single Islay Malt Whisky Aged 16 Years
Average Price: $97
This is the most recognizable Lagavulin out there. The malts are smoked just down the road from the distillery at Port Ellen and the mash is crafted expertly by the sea at Lagavulin Distillery. The whisky then spends 16 long years mellowing in old American and Spanish oak before vatting, proofing, and bottling.
Nose: Imagine a beach fire that’s using dried seaweed as fuel next to mugs of honeyed black tea and a clump of wet moss on the nose.
Palate: The taste of this dram meanders through dried pipe tobacco smoke laced with hints of vanilla and tart apple while notes of briny caramel lead towards an oyster shell minerality.
Finish: The finish is pure silk as the seaweed grows wetter and the smoke sweetens towards that caramel, vanilla, and apple.
This is the perfect balance of approachable peated whisky and deep Islay flavors that are welcoming to all. Yes, this has deep peated vibes, but those are subtly layered into a bigger idea of this whisky’s orchard notes, creamy sweetness, and honeyed bitterness with a soft briny aura. It all just works, which makes this an essential advanced whisky to have on your bar cart. Plus, you need this around to make Smoky Cokeys — so don’t skip this one.
$100-$125 — Talisker Single Malt Scotch Whisky The Distillers Edition
Average Price: $119
The 2022 Distillers Edition is a classic Talisker that’s aged by the sea and finished for six months in Amoroso sherry casks. The whisky was distilled in 2012 and bottled at 10 years old. It was then finished in another Amoroso sherry cask, making it “double cask” matured.
Nose: 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.
Palate: 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.
Finish: 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.
This is as close to a perfect whisky as you can get at this price point. It’s sophisticated, dynamic, and delectable.
$125-$150 — Mortlach Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 16 Years
Average Price: $134
This tiny and iconic Dufftown distillery is the whisky aficionado’s distillery. The whisky in this bottle is distilled almost three times (2.81 times to be exact) through various types of pot stills. The juice is then aged for 16 years in sherry casks before it’s, vatted, proofed, and bottled.
Nose: You’re met with a bowl full of stewed plums with anise, clove, and cinnamon in the mix, next to a slight sense of dry moss.
Palate: The taste has a faint vanilla edge next to velvety honey, sharp spice, old leather-bound books, and a touch of bruised apricot.
Finish: The end is very long, holds onto the spice and fruit, and leaves you with a sense of creamy vanilla honey.
This is an expressive whisky that’s also very pointed. It’s clear-cut and bold at the same time. If you’re looking to really get into Scotch single malt, this is a must-try step in the right direction.
$150-$200 — Talisker Single Malt Scotch Whisky Aged 18 Years
Average Price: $194
This is a classic single malt that also happens to hold the title of “Best Single Malt Whisky in the World” from the World Whiskies Awards. The iconic whisky is rendered in Talisker’s bespoke stills and then spends nearly two decades resting in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels, like most of the true classic single malts.
Nose: The nose has a light yet clear sense of ripe plums, orange oils, buttery toffee, and an almost sour apple next to a distant whiff of briny campfire smoke from one beach over.
Palate: The orange oils remain on the palate as eggnog spices peek in gently, with hints of that butter toffee driving a rich silkiness.
Finish: The smoke remains in the distance as the spices warm your senses and the meaty fruit takes the edge off on the slow and satisfying fade.
The general consensus is that this is the “Best Single Malt Whisky in the World” and I have absolutely no desire to argue with that. This is my house pour. It should be yours too. It’s cliched but I have to say it — if you buy one bottle on this list, this should be it.
$200-$250 — Caol Ila Aged 25 Years Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Average Price: $218
This is the first official Caol Ila 25 Year that was bottled with a good dose of proofing water (previous 25-year limited editions were bottled at cask strength). This whisky is made from Caol Ila’s famed briny peated malts. The whisky spent 25 years mellowing right next to the sea on Islay until a few barrels were just right.
Nose: Smoked vanilla pods and salted black licorice lead on the nose with a sense of burnt toffee, burnt stout, and the darkest of chocolate cut with oyster liqueur, beach rocks, and a fleeting (almost inexplicable) sense of freshly mown lawn.
Palate: The palate is luxuriously silken with a soft salted toffee next to a whisper of bourbon caramel next to old leather pouches that held spiced pear tobacco and old maritime ropes with a touch more of that oyster brine.
Finish: The end has a balanced and subtle spiced maltiness that then leans toward the vanilla, toffee, and licorice candy sweetness with a hint of plum and apricot next to a soft summer sea breeze carrying a sense of blooming wildflowers.
This is one of the truly great whiskies in the world. It is perfect. It is delicious. It should be on your bar cart if you consider yourself a whisky connoisseur and have the means.
$250-$300 — The GlenDronach Parliament Aged 21 Years Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Average Price: $279
Don’t let the name fool you. The “parliament” in this case is the collective noun for rooks — a type of European crow that nests above the distillery. That dark essence is rendered in the whisky through 21 long years of maturation in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks exclusively.
Nose: There’s a lot going on with this nose, starting with blackberry brambles hanging heavy with ripe fruit leading towards a well-spiced oatmeal cookie, soft marzipan cut with hints of orange zest, a light sense of dark chocolate with a creamy edge, and soft vanilla cookies sprinkled with mint and lavender.
Palate: A sticky toffee pudding sweetness arrives (heavy on the black tea-soaked dates and nutmeg with a well-salted toffee drizzle) with flourishes of bitter dark chocolate notes and a sharp holiday spice matrix that leans into bark and berry botanicals with a dash of sweet nutmeg.
Finish: The end is very long and very velvety with hints of dark fruits, winter spice barks, soft marzipan, and a fleeting sense of a wildflower orchard.
This is a perfect whisky. No faults. It’s just delicious.
$300-$400 — Ardbeg Traigh Bhan Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky 19 Years Old
Average Price: $360
This is Ardbeg’s yearly release of special batches of 19-year-old peaty malt. The whisky is Ardbeg’s signature, heavily peated whisky that’s bottled during a “haar.” That’s a thick and briny foggy morning on Islay, which imparts that x-factor into the whisky before it goes into the bottle.
Nose: A soft smokiness comes from smoldering lime leaves that lead to a hint of sour cream bespeckled with fennel seeds and wrapped up in cold-smoked salmon with a hint of pine resin and black tea in the background of the nose.
Palate: The palate has this soft and sweet hint of grilled pineapple that works the taste toward salted dark chocolate fudge, orange zest, and dried lavender with a whisper of wet granite and sea-soaked charcoal.
Finish: The end has a slight sweet ash vibe that’s more fruity than peaty with a sense of seawater-soaked wood smoldering away and roasting some marshmallows.
Ardbeg hit a pinnacle with their 19-year Traigh Bhan yearly limited release. It’s a masterpiece of peated audaciousness and one of the best peated malts from Islay, full stop.
$400-$500 — Springbank Aged 18 Years Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Average Price: $449
Springbank 18 is a 50/50 single malt blend of whiskies that mellowed in both bourbon and sherry casks. The 18-year-old barrels are masterfully vatted, proofed, and bottled as-is.
Nose: The nose feels like it’s viscous with hints of thick golden syrup next to a slight earthiness, floral honey, meaty dates, and ginger cake with caramel icing.
Palate: The palate meanders through salted black licorice and walnut shells as smoked maple syrup leads to a mid-palate full of ripe and sweet red berries with a hint of the bramble underneath.
Finish: The finish becomes creamy like a malted chocolate milkshake with pencil shavings and wet BBQ charcoal on the back end.
This is funky perfection. It’s familiar yet new. It’s deep yet understandable. It’s really just that good. It’s also a pretty insane show-off bottle to have on your bar cart given the rarity of these bottles.