The Best Scotch Whiskeys For Bourbon Drinkers, Ranked

It’s time to retire the notion that fans of bourbon and Scotch aficionados can’t appreciate both categories. Sure, you have some who will staunchly refuse to broaden their horizons, but as the urban philosopher Jadakiss once poignantly noted, “Options [are] a beautiful thing.” There’s real value in knowing what you like and abiding by that, but we also rob ourselves of joy by foregoing the rewards of having an open mind.

Some bourbon fans may want to explore Scotch but don’t know where to begin. Perhaps you’re looking for a Scotch that closely resembles the flavor profile you already enjoy in bourbon. Or maybe you’re curious about what the world of Scotch has to offer and you’re not quite sure what to expect or where to begin. No matter where you fall on the Scotch curious spectrum, this is the list for you.

While some bourbon fans have an aversion to peat — the partially decomposed organic matter that lends many Scotches that campfire flavor — your mileage may vary. I’ve encountered plenty of bourbon drinkers who swear by the brooding signature smokiness of certain Scotch offerings, despite how much of a departure it is from American whiskey’s sweeter flavor profile. We’ll include a bit of both below, so you can discover your own preference along the way.

Now, without further ado, let’s rank the 8 best Scotches for bourbon drinkers in 2024.

8. The Balvenie DoubleWood Aged 12 Years

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ABV: 43%
Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

The Balvenie DoubleWood’s 12-year whisky kicked off the “double aging” craze back in 1982 and remains a hallmark single malt whisky for beginners to this day. After the unpeated whisky has spent 12 years in ex-bourbon casks, it’s transferred to European Oak sherry casks and rested for another 9 months.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Nectarines and a faint bit of lime wedge greet the nose at first pass. The influence of youthful oak, lemongrass, and honey soon begins to emerge along with accents of bright cherry aromas and plum flesh from the sherry cask.

Palate: On the palate you can expect to find notes of orange pith to go along with some honeyed cornbread, a bit of chocolate, and a touch of the light butterscotch that bourbon drinkers will be more familiar with. Be advised that there’s also a touch of smoke in the background, though it isn’t off-putting or exceedingly evident.

Finish: The finish has decent length and the tamest influence of smoke lingers throughout while the honey and nectarine flavors serve to mellow it out a bit.

Bottom Line:

The Balvenie DoubleWood 12-Year expression is a winner because of how approachable its flavors are for anyone more attuned to what is typically found in bourbon. It bridges the gap nicely with stone fruit notes provided by the sherry cask along with hints of butterscotch from the ex-bourbon barrels. All told this is a solid whisky that can appeal to both crowds.

7. The Dalmore 12

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ABV: 40%
Average Price: $80

The Whiskey:

The entry-level bottle in The Dalmore Principal Collection, this 12-year-old Highland single malt is aged first in ex-bourbon barrels and then in Oloroso sherry casks. The whisky does feature coloring — a legal practice in Scotch whisky — and is chill-filtered.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Brandied cherries jump out of the glass along with Mānuka honey, a delicate waft of smokiness, and pumpernickel. Over time the cherries morph into more of a raisin aroma and some vanilla pod notes that become more prominent.

Palate: Buckwheat and Mānuka honey hit the palate along with the flavor of crimson raisins right out of the gate. Mulling spices really help to prop up that raisin-like flavor that pulses throughout each pour.

Finish: On the finish, the mulling spices surpass those raisin notes and they’re joined by a hit of dark chocolate and it ends on a slightly drying note despite having a viscous mouthfeel that borders on being lush before you swallow.

Bottom Line:

The Dalmore 12 takes elegant packaging and pairs it with an equally refined whisky that deserves a serious place of reverence in any bourbon drinker’s liquor cabinet. The notes of cherry and honey will be instantly familiar but it also has a level of finesse seldom seen in 80-proof bourbons. If you’re looking for a Scotch with dark, sweet notes that don’t cross over into the brooding peat-heavy territory of typical Islay expressions — this is the whisky for you.

6. Bunnahabhain 12-Year Whisky

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ABV: 46.3%
Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

The original member of Bunnahabain’s Core Range was originally launched back in 1979. Double matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, without chill filtration or added coloring, this entry-level whisky really showcases what Bunnahabhain is all about.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: There’s a faintly fudgy note to kick things off before the bright red berries brought on by the sherry cask have their say. After a few swirls the nose develops a more grassy aroma to go with chunks of pear and a gentle salinity.

Palate: Cherry and citrus notes emerge in earnest, but there’s a more elusive vanilla flavor combined with the maltiness that entrances once discovered. As this sits in the glass it develops a flavor more in line with apple cider, complete with a bit of nutmeg and a touch of smoky char.

Finish: The finish is a bit curt, but it serves to elevate the distinct interplay between notes of cocoa, red berries, and malt. You’re not left with muddled lingering flavors but rather there’s a crisp succinctness that encourages repeat sips.

Bottom Line:

Like the two previous offerings, Bunnahabhain 12 Year is double matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks showcasing a balance plus a depth of flavors that is easy to appreciate and impressive for its age. The added kick in ABV helps those flavors better distinguish themselves and lends itself well to bourbon drinkers accustomed to more heat on the palate.

5. Lagavulin 16

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ABV: 43%
\Average Price: $88

The Whiskey:

A classic Islay offering, Lagavulin’s flagship 16-year-old expression is perhaps the must-have Scotch in any whisky fan’s liquor cabinet. Ex-bourbon and (say it with me) ex-Sherry casks work their magic to reign in this powerful peaty pour which debuted in 1988.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Iodine, dense smokiness, simmering bacon, and dark chocolate begin to unfurl upon first whiff. Inhaling deeply you’ll begin to note white peach, candied orange peels, and Brazil nuts filling the air around the glass. Indeed, it’s a very complex and powerful medley of aromas.

Palate: The peaty smokiness of each pour greets the palate but soon you’ll find your senses awash in the secondary flavors. Clove-studded orange wheels, drizzled with dark chocolate and buttressed by ginger candy begin to coat the tongue. Take a third sip and discover charred green pepper, and some faint butterscotch plus the salinity from the nose begins to take root.

Finish: Lengthy and with an impressive show of balance despite the powerful influence of peat found on the front end. Look for gentle barley notes beneath the burly top layer of savoriness and smoke.

Bottom Line:

Lagavulin 16 features a decidedly peat-forward flavor profile but that’s no reason to be afraid! Bourbon drinkers are no strangers to bold flavors, and many will embrace the brashness of Lagavulin 16’s meaty, savory notes while also discovering a level of nuance below the surface that proves peaty whiskies aren’t all smoke and mirrors.

4. Glenfiddich 14

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ABV: 43%
Average Price: $70

The Whiskey:

Glenfiddich, meaning “The Valley of The Deer” needs little introduction. For their 14-year expression, the Speyside stalwart ages its whisky in ex-bourbon casks before finishing it in charred new American oak barrels – the same kind of casks used to age bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Aromas like Mexican vanilla extract and bruised pear provide the initial impression of light sweetness. There isn’t any caramel or brown sugar but there is an array of honey, toasted barley, and an underripe banana note.

Palate: On the palate this pour comes across as creamy with orange zest, the influence of oak, and toasted almonds. Over time those oak tones gain ground and there’s even a bit of crème brûlée and graham cracker.

Finish: The medium-length finish is where the aforementioned oak tones are most impressive. That oaky character is bolstered by the distinct sweetness of pastry shells and a mellow citrus aspect as well.

Bottom Line:

Glenfiddich 14 is one of those classic Scotch expressions that are ubiquitous in the United States and seemingly tailor-made for its audience. While certain other expressions toe the line of being approachable for American palates, Glenfiddich 14 fully embraces that challenge with its use of ex-bourbon casks AND virgin American oak casks that follow the footsteps of bourbon production. The resulting liquid showcases the adaptability of this sleek Speyside distillate.

3. Compass Box Hedonism

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ABV: 43%
Average Price: $140

The Whiskey:

Compass Box Hedonism, the brand’s first expression, is one of the leading representations of blended grain whisky on the market today – so much so that in 2023 the brand announced it would be pivoting to become an annual limited release. The blend changes every year, based on the availability of well-aged grain whisky components to play with, and though it hasn’t yet been updated for 2024 you can typically find the breakdown of each blend on the company’s
website.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Mellow, billowing smoke combines with grilled pineapple, and caramel chunks to fill the air once this whisky escapes the bottle and enters the glass. Nutmeg can also be found in concert with the aroma of a sugar-torched lemon wheel.

Palate: On the palate the peat is gentler than on the nose and the tropical fruit notes are dialed up a degree with some allspice, black pepper, and sticky toffee notes balancing it all out.

Finish: The finish seeps into your palate and hangs around for a good amount of time revealing vanilla pod, apricots, and clove in excellent balance.

Bottom Line:

Since founding Compass Box in 2000, John Glaser has turned the Scotch world on its head by innovating with each bottling of Hedonism. Grain whiskies that are 30+ or even 40+ years old have been utilized throughout the brand’s history and even though those are much harder to come by these days, the quality has remained high.

Despite the fact John Glaser stepped down from Compass Box in February of this year, fans new and old will surely still enjoy Hedonism’s first annual limited edition.

2. Bruichladdich 18

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ABV: 50%
Average Price: $195

The Whiskey:

Bruichladdich 18 is an unpeated Islay Scotch that primarily utilizes ex-bourbon plus a small number of Sauternes and Port casks in its maturation profile. Non-chill filtered and free of additional coloring, Bruichladdich 18 is also unique in that each varietal of the barley used is fully traceable from farm to bottle.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Honeyed wheat toast and the faint indication of smoke clear the way for a touch of hazelnut and chocolate wafer cookies on the nose.

Palate: On the palate each of those notes is amplified with notes of lemon cake and confectioner’s sugar joining the mix. It has a supple and silky mouthfeel that rewards “chewing” and only extends the pleasure of each sip.

Finish: The chalky cocoa note comes through on the palate as does a bit of tropical fruit — think grilled pineapples — and the hint of smokiness reemerges to offer some delicate balance to the sweeter and earthier notes.

Bottom Line:

Bruichladdich 18 offers an expert level of finesse, deploying sweetness and smokiness with impressive restraint which leaves space for more savory nutty aspects to shine in equal measure. While Bruichladdich 18 displays the hallmarks of quality Scotch whisky, it also offers complexity and depth of flavor that will deeply impress bourbon fans the world over.

1. Aberlour A’bunadh

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ABV: 59.6%
Average Price: $115

The Whiskey:

Aged exclusively in Oloroso Sherry butts – which helps provide that beautiful ruby glint to the liquid – Aberlour A’bunadh is one of the most highly recommended Scotch whiskies for bourbon drinkers. Non-chill filtered and undiluted, the sweetness of the sherry and the high octane ABV help explain why American whiskey fans gravitate towards A’bunadh — which means ‘of the origin’ in Gaelic.

Tasting Notes:

Nose: Red raisins and figs burst out of the glass with a rich nutty aspect that soon follows. Mulling spices, candied walnuts, and sticky orange marmalade add further heft to A’bunadh’s substantive bouquet of aromas.

Palate: Orange blossom, black cherry, and candied ginger splash across the palate. This pour has a robust and viscous texture, which helps to ease the punch from the proof and provides a runway for the flavors to blossom.

Finish: Semi-sweet dark chocolate and red raisins offer allure to go with the oomph of black pepper, cinnamon, and tobacco leaf on the lengthy finish.

Bottom Line:

Is it the proof or the sherry sweetness that makes Aberlour A’bunadh so easy for bourbon drinkers to get into? The answer is both, and so much more. From the rich color and the full-bodied texture to the sumptuous display of aromas and flavors, this Speyside single malt can turn even the most avid bourbon aficionado into an appreciator of Scotch whisky.