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Some whisky lovers might say the words “cheap" and "Scotch" don’t belong in the same sentence. It’s pretty hard to argue with the sentiment, as making a good Scotch whisky requires quality ingredients and time—lots of time.
Rather than cheap, aficionados should look for value. The old expression "You get what you pay for" mostly holds up, but the goal in shopping for a quality bottle is to seek out every hard-earned penny’s worth of flavor to maximize enjoyment to the last drop.
Whether you’re browsing for classic blends or rich single malts, there are modestly priced bottles to be found online or in your local shop, and there should be no trouble finding the good stuff for around $20 to $50. That's right, you don't have to empty your wallet for a decent dram.
Here are the best cheap Scotch whiskies to drink.
Best Overall: Johnnie Walker Black Label
Sure, it’s ubiquitous, but there's a reason you can find Johnnie Walker Black Label at just about every airport, bar, and liquor shop in the world: It's iconic. It's also reasonably priced, featuring a blend of dozens of Scotch whiskies, the youngest of which is 12 years old, from spirits behemoth Diageo. Vanilla, tropical dark fruits, butterscotch, and a good dose of smokey char make this bottle a classic.
Best Under $25: Dewar’s White Label Blended Scotch Whisky
While you’ve most likely ordered Dewar’s White Label from a flight attendant, it’s a good call to keep a bottle on the shelf at home, too. Created in 1899, this highly affordable blended Scotch whisky possesses solid archetypical flavors. Smoky and savory, this expression offers up nice notes of honey, citrus, and tree fruit against a cascade of char. If you'd like, you certainly can sip it neat, but Dewar’s also makes quite the refreshing highball with soda and lemon.
Best Under $30: The Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky
Originally created to celebrate Queen Victoria’s first official visit to Scotland, The Famous Grouse has long been the best-selling whisky there and is named for the country's national game bird. It’s easy to drink, too, thanks to included portions of The Macallan and Highland Park. While there’s barely a whiff of smoke, this whisky is sweet and buttery with a dash of fruit, honey, and subtle floral notes. It’s not hard to see why this bottle is a Caledonian favorite.
Best Single Malt: Glenmorangie Original 10 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
While there are more affordable single malts on the market, few of those expressions pack as much flavor into a bottle for the money as Glenmorangie Original. The Highland maker ages the spirit in ex-bourbon barrels for a decade in the tallest pot stills in Scotland. The result is soft and supple, with riffs of juicy tree fruit, citrus, and vanilla—straight magic in a glass. Sure, Glenmorangie Original tastes like it should cost a tidy sum, but thankfully it doesn’t.
Best Cask-Finished: Dewar’s Caribbean Smooth Rum Cask 8 Year
"Smooth" isn't one of the most substantial adjectives one could use to describe whisky, as all good-quality drams should possess minimal alcohol burn. That said, Dewar’s Caribbean Smooth Rum Cask 8 Year is a fine bottle. The label takes its traditional eight-year blend and finishes it in rum barrels for six months to make way for tropical features, including caramelized brown sugar sweetness and Caribbean fruitiness layered against classic Dewar’s smoke. Sip it neat, on ice, or let the tropical flavors inspire a fun cocktail.
Best Mixer: Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch Whisky
The folks at William Grant & Sons set out to create Monkey Shoulder as an elevated base for whisky drinks—and they succeeded. The curious Scotch whisky is a melange of Speyside single malts and no grain spirits, and its name is derived from a repetitive stress injury that workers would get from hand-turning the malting barley. While it was born to mix, it’s a rich whisky loaded with citrus, honey, vanilla, spice, oak, and a faint hint of grass, so it can easily stand alone.
Best Smokey: Ardbeg Wee Beastie Single Malt Whisky
For the budget-conscious Scotch lover who really wants a taste of smoke, enter Ardbeg Wee Beastie. This Islay single malt meanders up to the precipice of what we would call affordable, but it’s worth the extra coin. It’s a young whisky, only aged a brief five years in ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks, but it still packs in the flavor. Of course, there’s a good dose of peat smoke, but it also boasts chocolate, salt, pepper, iodine, and anis with cocoa on the finish.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Nicholas McClelland is a passionate whisk(e)y drinker who has written about spirits for Men’s Journal, Fatherly, and Inside Hook. His bar is deep with rare single malts, hard-to-find bourbons, and ryes, but he doesn't believe there's anything too precious to share with friends.