Scotch has long been considered the drink of gentlemen but you cannot just jump into a $300 bottle to see if you like it.  Scotch can be very expensive so here is a list of the best scotches for beginners that will cost around $50.  These are all highly recommended and a great introduction to drinking scotch.

I have done a few weeks of research in this area and reviewed a lot of forums and websites to create this list.   Over time, I hope to try all the bottles below but I suspect it will take me a few years to do it.  I tend to only have a glass on weekends since I started Intermittent Fasting and getting into health.

The ratings I provided are between 1-5 and I will only give a rating if there are several separate sites recommending it with a rating and review.  If there were just a few, then I left the rating blank (but included it here as I continue my review).  I will update the list as needed.

Glenmorangie Original 10 Year Old

  • Rating:  4.0
  • Average Price:  $45

This was my first taste of scotch and the clear winner in my reviews.  This one had about two times as many recommendations as all the others and a great price.  Prices vary depending on where you live and here in New Jersey, the prices around me were about $10-20 more then the rest of the country.  This bottle lasted me 6 months and I had to go out and buy another..

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Highland Park 12 Year

  • Rating:  3.5
  • Average Price:  $48

Highland Park 12 Year Old remains one of the gold- standard malts for other distillery bottlings to aspire to. With a delicious sweetness (heather-honey is their preferred description) and a warming, silky mouthfeel, this is a whisky that never lets you down. “The greatest all-rounder in the world of malt whisky”. Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion

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The Glenlivet French Oak 12 Year Old

  • Rating:  4.5
  • Average Price:  $36

Uniquely finished in French Limousin Oak, from the Dordogne region of France, renowned for bringing flavours to fine wines and cognacs. An elegant 12 year old with a balanced dry, nutty and spicy oakiness.

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Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

  • Rating:  3.5
  • Average Price:  $29

I just bought this bottle last weekend and looking forward to trying it.  I am not expecting it to be as good as the Glenmorangie but looking forward to trying a different blend.

Monkey Shoulder is a mix of three different Speyside single malts and is great with mixers or just on its own. Smooth, sweet and very easy to drink.

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Macallan 12-year

    • Rating: 3.5
  • Average Price:  $50

Deliciously smooth, with rich dried fruits and sherry, balanced with woodsmoke and spice. Described by F Paul Pacult, the renowned international whisky writer, in his book Kindred Spirits as ‘simply the best 12 Year Old single malt around’.

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Ardbeg 10 Year

    • Rating:
  • Average Price:  $51

For peat lovers, Ardbeg 10 Year Old is probably the highest-quality ‘entry-level’ single malt on the market, and the distillery many Islay connoisseurs would choose as their favourite. A whirlwind of peat and complex malty flavours.

Whisky Bible Awards 2012: Best Single Malt Scotch of the Year, 10 Years and Under

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Laphroaig Quarter Cask

  • Rating:
  • Average Price:  $50

A vibrant young Laphroaig whose maturation has been speeded up by ageing in quarter casks. This shows soft sweetness and a velvety feel when first tasted, then the intense peatiness so unique to Laphroaig comes bursting through. A terrific whisky and great value.

Whisky Bible Awards 2012: Runner-up Best No Age Statement Single Malt Scotch of the Year

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Aberfeldy 12

  • Rating:
  • Average Price:  $41

I had this the other day and was totally surprised with how smooth it was.  I loved it so much, I bought a bottle on the spot and it is a standard in my bar today.

A fruity, clean and polished malt with a touch of honey and spice, Aberfeldy 12 Year Old is an excellent introduction to this Highland distillery. Aberfeldy’s main claim to fame is as the heart of the excellent Dewar’s blend but whiskies like this are putting it firmly in the spotlight.

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Bowmore 12 yr old

    • Rating:  5.0
  • Average Price: $45

Bowmore 12yo has a place in many hearts as Islay’s ‘medium-peated’ malt. A pronounced iodine character with plenty of pepper, the current 12yo bottling is a welcome return to the classic Bowmores of the 1960s and ’70s, with the emphasis on tropical fruit and smoke. A deserved runner-up in our Whisky of the Year 2014-15 blind tasting.

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 Aberlour 12 Year

    • Rating:
  • Average Price:  $45

Aberlour is always a good choice – one of the best value Speyside malts around. This double matured version is a mix of traditional oak and sherry casks and is rich and fruity with delicious Christmas cake notes.

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Kirkland Signature 18 Year

Highland Single Malt Scotch

  • Rating:
  • Average Price:  $40

The Kirkland was a last minute add as I have had several people recommend it to me but I have not seen it on any review website.  Since Kirkland is not a brand easy to get (you need a membership to the club), I have included it here without a review.  We do plan to get a bottle over the Summer and will personally test it and give it my review compared to the other brands.

The 18 year and 24 Year is supposed to be under the $50 mark but I do expect to pay more here in New Jersey (where everything is more expensive).  I will update you with more details later.

Should You use a Decanter?

Several people have asked me if they should order a decanter for their scotch.  I always reply “it depends”.

The historical reasons why gentlemen of the past used decanters in their bar set was not to impress their friends.  It was actually the opposite.  The purpose of the decanter was to hid the quality scotch they were serving as not to brag or be a show off about how much money they were spending on their guests.

A gentlemen purpose is to always make your guests feel welcome and at home.  Hiding the cost of your scotch (but not the quality) was a way to enjoy quality drinks with your friends without costs becoming an issue.

I do sometimes recommend decanters for several reasons

  • To have a pleasant display on your bar.
  • To hide the brand of your scotch.
  • Makes your scotch last longer.

The last one about making your scotch last longer is a tricky one to explain.  Every time you open your bottle, air gets in.  You can increase your shelf life by reducing the number of times you introduce new air inside your bottle.

By separating my scotch into 2 bottles, I can drink out of one while keeping the other one air tight and preserved better.  After I am done with the first batch, I refill it with the second half.  It is better if you can have a smaller decanter because the less air in the bottle, the better.


Here is the one I bought.  It is beautiful and lead-free Italian made glass and the price was perfect.  The biggest problem for me was it was really too large (I wanted something that would hold about a half of bottle (about 400 ml).  Overall, not bad and it looks great.

Conclusion

What would you add to remove from my list of the 10 Best Scotches for Beginners?  Let me know in the comment section below.  Also let me know if you use a decanter and the reason for having one.  Do you know a better way to make scotch last longer?