The 10 Absolute Best Scotch Whiskies Under $30, Ranked

Finding a good cheap Scotch whisky can be tough. There’s a lot of junk on the shelf right next to gems. And the words “glen” or “loch” or “malt” on the label aren’t an indicator of quality on any level. You kind of have to know where the good stuff is and that’s where I come in. I’m lucky enough to get to sample tons of whiskies every year which means I tend to find the stuff that truly does stand out at every price point.

To that end, it’s time for a list of the best Scotch whiskies under $30. For this endeavor, I’m starting at the lowest end that you can really go with decent Scotch whisky in the U.S. From here, I’ll take on the Scotch whisky world in $10 increments while filing in the best Scotch whisky — blended and single malts — along the way. But before we get to all of that, let’s talk about the bottom-shelf stuff that clocks in under $30.

Let’s not kid ourselves with what Scotch whisky at this price point means — these are the whiskies that are made for mixing. These are whiskies that you cut with Coke, fizzy water, and/or into a cocktail. Most of them are built for that purpose only and have zero function otherwise. Let’s not pretend that there are some hidden gems listed below that are going to rival whiskies that cost $20, $50, or $100 more. Hell, there are whiskies that cost $10 more that blow these whiskies out of the water… but I’ll get to those next time, when I’m covering the best whiskies under $40.

Lastly, please note that price in whisk(e)y is a constantly moving target. These whiskies are priced according to my local Total Wine in Kentucky in January 2023. The price of these bottles may vary slightly higher or lower depending on whatever region that you live in. Okay, let’s dive in and find you a solid and cheap Scotch whisky for your bar cart!

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of The Last Six Months

10. Clansman Blended Scotch

Clansman
Clansman

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $13

The Whisky:

This blended scotch from Loch Lomond is as bottom shelf as you can get in the U.S. That said, this blend takes barrels of grain and malt whiskies from the famed Loch Lomond distillery and aims them towards a fruity and sweet nature before proofing and blending.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: A slight note of bourbon vanilla shines through on the nose with hints of citrus, almonds, and watered-down honey — kind of like stirring honey into a tepid glass of tap water.

Palate: The palate has a mix of dried fruits — raisins, prunes, and maybe dates — with more watered-down honey syrup, a touch of Almond Joy, and a hint of mulled wine.

Finish: The end leans into the dried fruit and mulled wine spices with a final note of what feels like smoked honey.

Bottom Line:

This whisky won Double Gold at the famed San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2022. Does that make it the best whisky from Scotland, of course not. It does however make it a decent blended scotch worth using as a base mixer for bolder flavors like Coke, ginger ale, or fruity lemonades.

9. Glen Ness Aged 12 Years

Glen Ness 12
Glen Ness

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $29

The Whisky:

This is sort of like a beginner’s whisky that utilizes malt whisky from the Highlands. The whisky is built to highlight the sweeter side of whiskies from the region.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: This opens with a touch of sweet honey that leads towards a hint of lemon peels, mild oak, and dried tobacco leaves with an echo of vanilla.

Palate: The taste has this nutty and honey vibe that’s kind of like Honey Nut Cheerios with the malt creating a backbone for the sip, as very mild hints of spice chime in.

Finish: The finish is pretty short, warm, and sweet thanks to that honey but, ultimately, slightly watery.

Bottom Line:

This is a simple mixing whisky. It’s easy-going and doesn’t have the steely astringency of many of the bottles around the same price point on the shelf right next to it.

8. Grant’s Triple Wood

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $18

The Whisky:

Willam Grant & Sons have a deep bench of whisky distilleries to draw their malt and grain whiskies from for this expression, which includes The Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Girvan (Scotland’s largest producer of grain whisky). The ripple with this blend is the triple barreling with new oak, American oak, and re-fill American oak, the latter two both being ex-bourbon casks.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The sip opens with clear butterscotch next to an almost tin can vibe with a hint of spicy and honeyed malts.

Palate: The palate is slightly fruity with apple core and stem notes next to more of that spiced malt and butterscotch with a soft mineral water note.

Finish: The end is malty but only just barely as the apple core, honey, and butterscotch fade away pretty quickly.

Bottom Line:

This is a great option if you’re looking for a standard highball whisky. Add a little fizzy water, ice, and a citrus twist and you’re all set.

7. John Barr Reserve Blend

John Barr Reserve Blend
John Barr Whisky

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $25

The Whisky:

This whisky was created back in the 1970s when Johnnie Walker discontinued Johnnie Red for a spell. The whisky is a blend of 40 Highland and Speyside whiskies that are up to 15 years old with a mild peat backbone.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: This opens with a nose full of apple hand pies with plenty of cinnamon spice, brown sugar syrup, and buttery pie crust next to a hint of light chocolate powder.

Palate: The taste leans more into a gingersnap warmth with an echo of Nutella that’s more hazelnut than chocolate and a slight touch of smoked apricots.

Finish: The finish leans into that smoked stone fruit but then sweetens towards a maple syrup note that’s short but impactful.

Bottom Line:

This is another solid bet for whisky and Cokes or standard highballs with good mineral water and a touch of citrus.

6. Copper Dog Blended Malt

Diageo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $25

The Whisky:

This is a release from Diageo that utilizes a lot of Speyside whiskies. Eight single malts are chosen for this blend to highlight the small region within the Scottish Highlands specifically.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: This is classic Speyside from nose to finish with apple and honey dominating the whole way through.

Palate: The palate adds a warm oaty malt and spice next to a very slight nuttiness and maybe a touch of orange marmalade. Imagine an oatmeal-walnut scone with a dollop of that jam on top and you’ll be there.

Finish: The end is short, spicy warm, and slightly honeyed.

Bottom Line:

This is very “Speyside” forward with all that honey and apple. Overall, this is built for making a nice highball with good fizzy water and a nice garnish.

5. Johnnie Walker Red Label

Screen-Shot-2020-11-20-at-9.54.32-AM.jpg
Diageo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $20

The Whisky:

Johnnie Walker’s entry point expression is also the best-selling scotch expression on the planet. The whisky is a blend from Diageo’s deep stable of distilleries around Scotland that’s specifically designed to be mixed and not taken straight.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose reminds you more of a sweet and citrusy Speyside or Highland whisky.

Palate: The palate holds onto those notes while adding a peppery spice and a hint of orchard fruits.

Finish: The end shifts towards Islay with a wisp of smoke as the sip fades quickly away while warming you with alcohol heat.

Bottom Line:

This is the original highball whisky from Johnnie Walker. This is built to be a mixer specifically so treat it as such. It does make a hell of a whisky and Coke.

4. The Famous Grouse

Famous Grouse

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $21

The Whisky:

The Famous Grouse is an old-school blend that got its start in a Scottish grocery store where grocers often blended their own whiskies to sell. The whisky is now a mix of single malts and single grains with a focus on parent company partners Highland Park and The Macallan.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a Christmas cake nose that’s spicy, fruity, and malty and supported by a note of citrus.

Palate: The palate keeps those nose notes rolling with an additional whisper of oak and a hint of malted cookies dipped in lightly smoke honey.

Finish: The end is short and creamy with a distant wisp of campfire smoke far off in the distance.

Bottom Line:

This is a nice step toward peatier blended malts. It’s very well-balanced and perfect for highball sipping.

3. Dewar’s 12

Bacardi

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $28

The Whisky:

Dewar’s blends malt and grain whiskies from over 40 distilleries with the famed Aberfeldy at its core. The whisky is blended and then aged for an additional six months in oak to marry all the flavors before proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a matrix of vanilla, oak, and caramel up top that leads towards malts and Christmas spices with an emphasis on nutmeg.

Palate: That vanilla gets very creamy and a sweet, almost peanut brittle edge arrives with a little dried fruit.

Finish: The mid-palate holds onto that sweetness as the maltiness and warmth come back for a fairly quick fade toward the finish.

Bottom Line:

This is edging toward “on the rocks” territory but truly shines as a highball whisky with a real depth to it. That said, you can also take a shot of this with a beer back (preferably pale ale or bitter) and you’ll be all set.

2. Glenmorangie X

Glenmorangie X
Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $29

The Whisky:

This single malt from the famed Highland distillery, Glenmorangie, is built to be the ultimate single malt mixing whisky. They don’t release much else about the blend, besides it being a mix of their iconic single malts “made for mixers.”

Tasting Notes:

Nose: The nose is full of grapefruit pith next to ripe pears and vanilla pods, all in equal measure, next to a hint of orange oils and maybe a little wildflower.

Palate: The palate builds on that orange towards a bright orange sherbert, a vanilla pudding creaminess, burnt sugars, light and sweet marzipan, and a touch of dark chocolate infused with red chili flakes.

Finish: The finish really leans into the spicy chocolate and gets slightly bitter as the spice mellows towards mulled wine spices and a touch more sweetness.

Bottom Line:

This is made to be mixed so mix it into your favorite Scotch whisky cocktails. Start with a penicillin and go from there. You won’t be disappointed.

1. Naked Malt

Naked Malt
Edrington Group

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $29

The Whisky:

The whisky in the bottle is a blend of sherry-cask-finished whiskies from The Macallan, The Glenrothes, and Highland Park. The whisky is then cut down to a very accessible 80-proof and then bottled in a nicely understated bottle.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a sweet malt buried under a buttery scone dripping with raspberry jam with a touch of light spice lurking in the background.

Palate: The sherry really kicks in on the palate with big notes of dates soaked in black tea next to creamy caramel, vanilla cake, and a touch of dry raisins.

Finish: The end doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves you with a lovely note of chocolate-covered cherries with a sweet/dry vibe.

Bottom Line:

This is the closest you’re going to get to a sipper at this price point. You can pour this over a big glass of rocks and it’ll be pretty tasty (a truly solid B). But you really want to mix this into whisky-forward cocktails or highballs more than anything else.