A good bottle of Scotch whisky can cost you $300 or it can run you under $50. What we’ve learned — through tireless trial and error (you’re welcome) — is that price does not always correspond to the quality of spirit. Some of our favorite bottles of Scotch are great deals that you can get no matter where you are in the country.
In setting out to write this piece, we wanted to know what someone in the Scotch whisky industry thought about bottles under $50, which is why we reached out to Cody Fredrickson of Las Vegas’ Scotch 80 Prime. Why Fredrickson? Well, first of all, his title at Scotch 80 is literally “Scotch Master.” So, right off the bat, we figured he knew what he was talking about. Fredrickson is in charge of one of the largest collections of Scotch whisky in the world, the collective value of the bottles being right around $3 million.
Needless to say, he’s had some Scotch in his time.
Below, you’ll find Fredrickson’s picks for the best Scotch under $50. Remember that the price of the bottle may vary slightly depending on where in the United States you are.
Then, when you’ve picked up a bottle or three, it’s time to learn how to make some essential Scotch whisky cocktails.
The name Lasanta comes from the Gaelic word for “warmth and passion.” The whisky is aged for 10 years in American white oak ex-bourbon casks and then extra-matured for two more years in ex-Oloroso and PX Sherry casks from Jerez. Expect warm spices mixed with orange and butterscotch.
Highland Park 12
Smoky and sweet on the nose as well as the palate, this is the core of the Highland Park line. Named Viking Honour, it is an homage to the cultural history of Orkney (the Vikings, if you hadn’t picked up on that one), where the Scotch is made.
The Balvenie Double Wood 12
The Balvenie Double Wood spends the first decade of its life in ex-bourbon barrels and hogsheads before being transferred and left for nine more months in ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Next, the whiskies are married in oak tuns for three to four months. The result is sweet fruit and honey on the nose, mellow spice and nuttiness on the palate, and a long finish.
Jura 10 Year
Jura’s flavor comes not only from the 10 years spent in ex-bourbon casks (and time spent finishing in ex-Oloroso sherry casks) but the sea air that comes off the waters around the island. Pepper and dark chocolate on the nose lead to ginger and coffee on the palate.
The Macallan 12 Year
Matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks, this single malt whisky is full-bodied and redolent with vanilla and dried fruits. The body is a smooth blend of fruits, oak, and spice followed by a long finish. The Macallan 12 Year exhibits all of the hallmarks that make a sherry cask-aged whisky great.
Compass Box Oak Cross
A blend of whiskies from three single malt distilleries, all of the whisky is first aged in American Oak before being transferred to hybrid casks that feature heavily toasted French Oak heads. This results in a whisky with fruity elements and a toasted oak backbone.
Glen Moray Chardonnay Cask
Coming out of the northernmost Speyside distillery, Glen Moray’s Chardonnay Cask finish is first aged in ex-bourbon casks before being finished for eight months in French Chardonnay casks. The resulting Scotch is light in color and character, with plenty of sweet fruit notes that have an undercurrent of caramel sweetness to them.