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20 Best Scotch Whiskies for Beginners (2024 Edition)

Best Scotch for Beginners

Last Updated on March 8, 2024 by Lydia Martin

As someone who just started with Scotch whisky, the gentle spirit comes in various types, flavors, and prices. 

We understand that it can be intimidating to be surrounded by similar bottles, and you may need help with where to start. 

Good thing you came to the right place because we curated a list of the best Scotch for beginners. Keep reading. 

Top 20 Scotch Whiskies For Beginners (Must-Try) 

20. Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Man Holding Bottle of Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Average Price: Roughly $83.99 

Alcohol Content: 43%

Why We Like It:

Caol Ila is one of the newest distilleries in the Islay Region, and it is one of the distilleries in partnership with Johnnie Walker [1]. 

The Caol Ila is an excellent entry-level whisky that brings freshness and lightness to your palate. 

You can expect some hint of smoke, fruity flavors, and an herbal scent of damp grass, peppermint, and lemon peels that gives a decadent drinking experience. 

We noticed some boiling sweets and enough oil that stands out against other Islay whiskies.

It also has a long black pepper finish that lingers as you sip it glass after glass. 

19. Highland Park 12 Year Old

Highland Park 12 Year Old Bottle with Box and Glasses on top of Wooden Barrel

Average Price: Roughly $59.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why We Like It:

Highland Park 12-Year-Old is a single malt Scotch whisky aged in European and American sherry-seasoned casks for twelve years to develop its color and flavor profile [2]. 

The fine Scotch whisky is impressive and ideal for beginners because it is packed with an approachable flavor profile. 

“Highland Park 12 has a very nice organic smoke aroma… and makes peated scotch much more approachable than more phenolic offerings.”

-Tom Levron, California Bartender 

It is one of the single malts covered with rich fruit cake spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves that will surely please your taste buds. 

If you are not a Scotch drinker, the 12-year-old single malt can be your crossroad because of its more approachable tasting notes. 

18. Glenmorangie Original 10 Year Old

Glenmorangie Original 10 Year Old bottle and a Glass

Average Price: Roughly $45.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why We Like It:

Glenmorangie was first released around 175 years ago, and it is one of the Scotch whiskies ideal for beginners because of its mellow tones and tasting notes. 

The Glenmorangie 10-year-old holds our attention because of its complex layers of flavors, from creamy vanilla to orange and honey. 

It has a nice peat smoke and subtle hints of sweet vanilla because it has been aged in bourbon casks for ten years. 

Unlike other Scotch whiskies, this 10-year-old single malt does not have a high price tag for its age and flavor. 

17. Aberfeldy 12 Year

Aberfeldy 12 years Bottle with Canister and Glass

Average Price: Roughly $45 

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why We Like It:

Aberfeldy 12 Year is an excellent starter for Scotch whiskies because it introduces what a Scotch tastes like compared to bourbon or Irish whiskey.

Bourbon drinkers will find it approachable because of its caramel and vanilla-like tasting notes but with a whisper of smoky flavors at the end.

We noticed the honeyed apples, milk chocolate, and dried fruit notes on our first sip.

It has nice peaty flavors that will make the beginning of your whisky journey enjoyable. 

16. The Famous Grouse Smoky Black

Man Drinking Bottle of The Famous Grouse Smoky Black

Average Price: Roughly $28.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why We Like It:

Like other whiskies, this Scotch whisky is heavy on smoke and peat because of its rare peat malt used in the distilling process. 

It is made from malted barley instead of lead grain, which gives softness and drinkability to every sip. 

Despite its bold and deep tasting notes, we are surprised by its versatility and approachability. It has  

If you have never tried Scotch whisky, Scotch drinkers will agree that this malt whisky will make you want to explore the whisky world and its wide array of expressions. 

15. Glenlivet 12 Year

Glenlivet 12 Year bottle on a Wooden Table

Average Price: Roughly $49.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why We Like It:

Glenlivet 12-Year is one of the best Scotches you should take advantage of if you are a novice Scottish whisky drinker. 

The Scotch whisky comes from the Speyside region and has perfectly balanced and delicate-tasting notes of pineapple, cereal, and pear on the nose and palate.

Glenlivet 12 Year is a single malt (from a single distillery), and it is first matured in traditional oak before aging in American oak casks for distinctive sweetness. 

The green apple, dried fruit, and brown sugar-tasting notes are interesting.

With a couple of ice cubes, the drink’s taste profile opens up, giving a well-balanced fruity flavor. 

14. Auchentoshan 12 YO Single Malt

Man Drinking Bottle of Auchentoshan 12 YO Single Malt

Average Price: Roughly $59.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why We Like It:

Auchentoshan 12 YO is an excellent Scotch for beginners because it has incredible characteristics and tasting notes that novices will appreciate. 

If you are a rum and bourbon drinker, single malts like Auchentoshan are ideal for you.

The single malt has a complex flavor profile and will not punch you with smoke and peat.

It has a tempting aroma of caramelized toffee and almonds. The hints of lime and tangerine will make you want to explore other expressions from the brand. 

13. Johnnie Walker Black Label 

Bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label and a Glass

Average Price: Roughly $39.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why We Like It:

Johnnie Walker Black Label is a combination of thirty to forty malts [3], and even if you are a non-whisky drinker, this brand is pretty famous. 

The black label whisky is one of America’s favorites for its quality and depth of flavor.

It has impressive complexity and smoothness, making it a great base liquor for cocktails.

You can enjoy Johnnie Walker Black any way you like, but it gets along with different mixers like soda, water, and coke. 

12. Ardbeg 10 Year Old

Close Up Shot of Ardbeg 10 Year Old

Average Price: Roughly $64.77 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 46%

Why We Like It:

Ardbeg 10-Year-Old is a cult-favorite single malt whisky with heavily peated tasting notes but a very drinkable Scotch. 

We like the mellow notes that complement the aggressive smoky flavor profile of the whisky after aging in oak casks for ten years.

The smoke gradually fills the palate bringing warm, creamy vanilla and toasted marshmallows.

We noticed some tarry smoke and dry espresso as it deepened and lingered.  

11. Glendronach 12-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky

Glendronach 12 Years Old Bottle and a Glass

Average Price: Roughly $69.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 43%

Why We Like It:

The Glendronach 12-Year-Old Single malt has a rich flavor profile after maturation in the Pedro Ximenez cask and then in the Oloroso sherry cask. 

This deep amber-red whisky boasts rich oak, raisins, soft fruits, and sherry sweetness from a sherry cask.

It has a medium-length finish which is best for novice drinkers. 

Thanks to its maturation in sherry casks, the whisky comes out with a fruitier and sweeter taste profile. 

10. Dalwhinnie 15-Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Man Holding Bottle of Dalwhinnie 15-Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Average Price: Roughly $82.49 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 43%

Why We Like It:

Dalwhinnie 15-Year is a perfect introduction to Scotch because it offers easy drinking and a clean taste profile.

As we sip the Scotch drink over ice, we notice the full honeyed sweetness, vanilla, and citrus-tasting notes.

It has lingering notes of caramel and some baking spices at the finish. 

9. Bowmore 12-Year-Old

Bottles of Bowmore 12-Year-Old on top of wooden barrel

Average Price: Roughly $64.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why We Like It:

Bowmore 12 is an Islay Scotch whisky that boasts puffs of smoke and honey. It offers a perfectly balanced and complex taste profile that is easy to drink and enjoy. 

As we opened the bottle of Bowmore 12, the trademark peat smoke of the whisky gushed through the nose.

Thanks to its mellow and delectable taste, we enjoyed sipping it neat. 

If you are a fan of bourbon whiskey, Bowmore 12 is a great bottle to start when venturing to Scotches [4].

It has a great sweetness that you can enjoy with vanilla and caramel on the side.  

8. Talisker 10-Year Single Malt Scotch Whiskey

Hand Holding a Box and Bottle of Talisker 10-Year Single Malt Scotch Whiskey

Average Price: Roughly $74.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 45.8%

Why We Like It:

Talisker is from the Isle of Skye, famous for its premium quality and peaty-heavy water used for distilling. 

The golden whisky has a rich fragrance of green apple, spice, smoke, and sea spray. 

In addition, the whisky has lovely hints of pepper and mineral, which is excellent for a novice Scotch drinker. 

7. Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster

Douglas Laing's Rock Oyster Bottle and a Canister

Average Price: Roughly $49.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 46.8%

Why We Like It:

Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster is a good-entry level Scotch for its complex and versatile tasting notes. 

As you sip it, it will remind you of the sea breeze, which makes it an excellent example of a coastal whisky. It is salty and sweet with a smoky finish. 

You can sip it neat, but a splash of water can bring out other whisky flavors. 

6. Laphroaig 10 Year

Laphroaig 10 Year bottle on Top of Wooden Barrel

Average Price: Roughly $64.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why We Like It:

Laphroaig is a ten-year Scotch distilled and produced by skilled and passionate Master Distillers.

It is an Islay whisky known for its smoky and bold taste with surprising sweetness. 

If you are new to Scotch, you will find Laphroaig interesting because of its vast smoke and hint of sweetness from an ex-bourbon cask.

It is a full-bodied whisky that leaves a playful dance between sweet and salty on the palate. 

5. Bank Note 5 Yrs Blended Scotch Whisky

Bank Note 5 Yrs Blended Scotch Whisky Bottle and a Glasses on Desk

Average Price: Roughly $21.72 (Drilzy)

Alcohol Content: 43%

Why We Like It:

It is an affordable option for Scotch compared to other bottles on the list, but it boasts a depth of flavor and sweet richness on the palate. 

It combines 40% finest malt whiskies from Highland and Speyside and 60% purest grain whisky from Lowland Scotland. 

4. The Balvenie 14-Year-Old Caribbean Cask

The Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask Bottle and a Glass

Average Price: Roughly $93.49 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 43%

Why We Like It:

If you are willing to spend more for yourself, consider Balvenie 14-Year-Old as one of the excellent Scotch for novices. 

After maturing in traditional casks, the spirit is finished in ex-Caribbean rum casks for additional flavors. 

While it can be expensive, the result is an exceptional whisky with rich notes of fruit, toffee, caramel, and a lingering finish. 

3. Chivas Regal 12-Year Blended Scotch Whisky

Bottle and a Box of Chivas Regal 12-Year Blended Scotch Whisky

Average Price: Roughly $36.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 40%

Why We Like It:

Chivas Regal has established an excellent reputation for being a premium Speyside whisky. The luxurious flavors of the whisky can make your drinking experience more indulgent. 

Chivas Regal has remarkably smooth and complex flavors. It features sweet honey notes, crisp orchard fruits, vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel. 

2. The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Year Old

The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Year Old Bottle and Box

Average Price: Roughly $80.84 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 43%

Why We Like It:

If you are hunting for a nice bottle of Scotch, you’ve undoubtedly seen the bottle of Macallan Sherry Oak. 

Despite its world-famous reputation and luxurious taste, the whisky is surprisingly affordable and can be consumed neat, on the rocks, and mixed into cocktails. 

It is sweeter than other Scotches, but its sweetness makes it more enjoyable to drink. In addition, it has a nice balance of smoothness, oak, spices, and fruity flavor. 

1. Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch

Bottle of Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch and a glass

Average Price: Roughly $36.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 43%

Why We Like It:

Monkey Shoulder is an excellent choice for cocktail-loving men who want to try Scotch. It is rich, complex, and smooth, thanks to the Speyside whiskies used. 

You can also sip it neat or with ice, but its versatile taste makes it more palatable for those not yet ready for the full intensity of fine whisky. 

Monkey Shoulder features vanilla, spice, and smoke that is elegant on the palate. Also, it is affordable, so you can keep an excellent stock on your home bar. 

What To Try After Tasting The Best Scotch For Beginners 

Now that you’ve warmed up your taste buds with the best Scotch whiskies for beginners, here are different whiskies that we highly recommend you try next: 

  • Bunnahabhain 25 Year Old
  • Deanston Virgin Oak
  • Kilkerran 12 Year Old
  • Glenfarclas 17 Year Old

They are well-aged Scotches and can be enjoyed because of their bolder and rich palate profile. 

We understand that it can be tempting to jump straight to the most expensive Scotch that you can afford and find, but it’s a good thing to enjoy each bottle at a time. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the smoothest type of Scotch whisky?

Blended is the smoothest type of Scotch. They are flavorful, fruity, smoky, and rich.

However, please avoid the cheapest options because they are a waste of money. 

What is the smoothest Scotch whisky to drink straight?

The Macallan Sherry Oak 12-Year-Old is the smoothest Scotch whisky to drink straight.

It is sweeter than the average Scotch, which makes it easier and more enjoyable to drink straight. 

How do beginners drink Scotch whisky?

Beginners should drink Scotch with a splash of water. It can add up to the flavor and gives a more approachable taste profile. 

Also, slowly introduce your palate to the smokiness of the spirit.

Is Scotch a good beginner drink?

While Scotch whiskey can be enjoyed by beginners, its diverse range of flavors and regional variations may pose a challenge for some palates unfamiliar with the complexities of whiskey.

However, exploring lighter and milder Scotch options or those with a touch of sweetness can be a good starting point for beginners.

Where do I start with Scotch whiskey?

Begin your Scotch whiskey journey by exploring different regions and styles. Opt for a single malt from a well-known region like Speyside, known for its approachable and fruity whiskies.

Additionally, consider trying blends that offer a balanced and versatile introduction to the world of Scotch.

What is the best whiskey for beginners?

For beginners, it’s advisable to start with whiskies that have a smoother and milder profile. Irish whiskies, such as Jameson or Bushmills, are often recommended for their approachable and easy-drinking nature.

Bourbon, like Maker’s Mark or Buffalo Trace, with its sweeter notes and lower peat levels, is also a good choice for those new to whiskey.

Which brand of Scotch is best?

Determining the “best” brand of Scotch is subjective and depends on individual taste preferences.

However, some well-regarded Scotch brands for various preferences include Glenfiddich and Glenlivet for those favoring Speyside whiskies, Laphroaig and Ardbeg for those desiring a peaty experience, and Macallan for those appreciating rich and sherry-influenced expressions.

How do you pick a good Scotch?

Choosing a good Scotch involves considering personal taste preferences and exploring different styles. Factors to consider include the region of production, peat levels, age, and cask types used for maturation.

Sampling whiskies at whiskey tastings, reading reviews, and seeking recommendations from knowledgeable sources can help you identify Scotch whiskies that align with your flavor preferences.

It’s also beneficial to start with entry-level expressions from reputable distilleries and gradually explore more complex and aged offerings as your palate develops.

Final Verdict: Best Scotch For Beginners

If you’ve been eying other types of whiskies, this is the best time to try Scotch whiskies as they come in various types and prices.

Chivas Regal, Douglas Laing, and Johnnie Walker are some of the good Scotch whiskies for beginners as they are affordable and give an approachable palate profile. 

But if you want the best Scotch whisky in terms of price, type, flavor, and availability, Monkey Shoulder ticks all the boxes. 

It has a reasonably standard Scotch whisky taste that will help you develop an elegant palate for whiskies.

References:

  1. Caol Ila Distillery to be transformed and linked to Johnnie Walker Edinburgh attraction
  2. The Effects of Aging on Liquor
  3. Why Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky Doesn’t Deserve Its Bad Rap
  4. Scotch Whisky
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