Let’s get one thing straight. Scotch isn’t snooty. People are snooty. Scotch is delicious. Artisan in craft and spirited by nature, it wasn’t always shimmer and shine and pinky-out luxury. At its core, scotch whisky is something that’s unique to the region in which it’s distilled – allowing the drink to serve as a sort of fingerprint of the Scottish landscape. And wonderfully enough, there are options out there these days that won’t break the bank but still enable you to enjoy a glass guilt-free whenever the time is right.
Whether you’re cutting it with water, pouring it over ice, or mixing it up in a Rob Roy for a friend, scotch is one of those spirits with unique profile – one that’s certainly acquired over time. So, if you’re looking for some entry level options or some that are budget-friendly yet palate-forward, allow us to share with you some premier and readily available whiskiesout there that certainly won’t disappoint even the most discerning individual. Because, after all, while the expensive stuff is nice from time to time, financial responsibility beckons a bit of reality now and again. With that in mind, we went ahead and outlined some of the best scotch whiskies for under $40 to help put that reality on hold – however brief it may be.
CUTTY SARK PROHIBITION EDITION
Sitting on the higher end of the ABV scale, the Prohibition Edition sits at 50% ABV as opposed to their classic and more well-known expressions. That’s because this iteration is a fine tribute to the famed rum runner during the Prohibition Era, Captain William McCoy. And as far as tasting notes are concerned, lots of toffee and dark chocolate are present here – along with a touch of citrus on the nose. Each pour finishes mighty fine as well, complete with a bit of caramel and golden malt.
If there’s one scotch featured on this list that’s ideal for whiskey cocktails it’s got to be The Famous Grouse. Why? Because each batch is aged in both bourbon and sherry seasoned casks resulting in a flavor profile that’s full of vanilla, orange zest, dark chocolate, and sultana. That, along with a finish complete with orange and cinnamon, make this expression an ideal dram for easy sipping or mixing things up on a cool fall evening.
As a blended scotch, Monkey Shoulder is a fine option that compiles three separate malts from three Speyside distilleries. Meaning, this expression is also a great choice for mixing things up. The nose is full of marmalade, cocoa, and malt, boasts a palate rich with malt, toasted barley cloves and butterscotch, and a finish that’s medium length with spicy oak and touch of peppermint to close things out.
CHIVAS REGAL 12
First developed by the Chivas brothers back in the early 20th century, the brand is now well known throughout the industry for their high-end blended batches. Their Regal 12 is an outstanding option for the price point, offering up an aroma of vanilla, lemon, and custard on the nose, banana, creamy barley and allspice on the palate, and a finish full of light spice, black pepper lingering sweetness.
COMPASS BOX GREAT KING STREET
Named after the Edinburgh address for the Compass Box distillery, Great King Street is purposed to both please seasoned whisky drinkers and non-whisky drinkers alike. There’s nothing too over-the-top here. Instead, just a fine balance complete with a palate full of lemon, apple, spices and raisins, and a finish that’s drawn out with notes of jelly, spices, and shortbread. A cold-weather pour that’s for sure.
GLENMORANGIE 10 YEAR
As a well-known distillery throughout the guild of scotch enthusiasts, Glenmorangie rarely steers you wrong. Here, we have what the distillery calls “The Original,” a creamy and fruity spirit that’s full of lemon, nectarine, and apples on the nose, a balanced palate complete with vanilla, notes of tiramisu and toffee and a long yet gentle finish allowing those fruity notes to linger quite nicely.
AUCHENTOSHAN AMERICAN OAK
Straight from the Scottish Lowlands comes a spirit with a bit of an American attitude. That’s because American Oak – as you may have already guessed – is aged entirely in first fill American oak casks. The result is a scotch complete with a nose full of oranges, lemon, and toffee, a buttery palate peppered with notes of citrus and peaches, and lasting notes of grapefruit on the finish. A fine Lowland scotch indeed.
TAMHDU 10 YEAR
Combining the citrusy nature of a Speyside scotch with the full and dark fruity profile of a sherry cask is never a bad idea. So that’s exactly what Tamdhu decided to do when revitalizing this single malt back in 2013. The result is a palate full of caramel, pepper, oranges alongside milk chocolate, finishing off with notes of dry and spicy wood, spiced butter and barrel char to round things out.
BOWMORE SMALL BATCH
This certainly wouldn’t be a completed scotch list without the addition of an Islay single malt. Here, the Bowmore Small Batch is matured two times in first fill and second fill bourbon barrels which do a fine job of mellowing out the naturally smokey profile Islay scotch is known for. It’s light, offering plenty of honey coconut and of course vanilla notes on both the nose and the palate, with just enough light smoke on the finish to remind you of its origins.
ROYAL LOCHNAGAR 12 YEAR
If the dazzling undertones of sherry, rum, and the like just aren’t for you, and you’re looking for a good, clean, straightforward whisky, then we most certainly suggest picking up a bottle of this 12-year Highland single malt from Royal Lochnagar. It’s herbal with a touch of honey, and boasts a finish full of licorice and raisins, rounded out with a bit of vanilla. Some say it’s the best whisky you can buy for the price point, but we’ll leave that for you to decide.