Scotch is often perceived as a spirit of prestige. It can symbolize class and elegance when displayed on a home bar. It can even be a bit of a power move when you take it off the shelf and pour it for guests. A big reason why Scotch shines with this aura is price: High-end bottles can famously fetch hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and this can color perception of the category as being too exclusive.

Here’s the thing, though. Scotch is a whisky for the masses — which is a good thing because Scotch is delicious. While the exorbitant bottles grab attention, a host of excellent and cost-effective Scotches exist in the shadows, waiting for discerning palates to pick them up and enjoy with friends. To demonstrate this, we asked 15 bartenders to share their thoughts on the Scotch that provides them the most bang for their buck. As a bonus, these bottles will also impress your pals if you choose to share. It’s still Scotch, after all.

The best bang-for-your-buck Scotch, according to bartenders:

  • Balvenie 14-year Caribbean Cask
  • Harleston Green Scotch
  • The Famous Grouse
  • Kilchoman Machir Bay
  • Monkey Shoulder
  • Loch Lomond Original Single Malt
  • X by Glenmorangie
  • Glendronach 12 Year
  • Highland Park 12
  • Tomatin 12 Year Single Malt
  • Bowmore 12 Year
  • Compass Box Orchard House
  • Loch Lomond Glengarry Blended Scotch

Balvenie 14-year Caribbean Cask is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

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Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask. Yes, it may require more of the buck aspect than my grandfather’s stash of Dewar’s White Label, but the bang-to-buck ratio is tenfold due to its perfect mix of simplicity, approachability, and complexity. The first Scotch I ever tasted was a hard introduction to Big Peat, and I was revolted and intrigued at the same time. Years later, the Balvenie 14 was introduced into my life and it showed me just how versatile the Scotch world is.” —Shane Mastroine, bartender/bar manager, Table 45, Cleveland

Harleston Green Scotch is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

Harleston Green Scotch is a great well. Harleston Green is a blend of carefully selected single malts aged three, four, and five years from Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands, and Campbelltown. The result is a Scotch that expresses the unique characteristics of Scotland’s many whisky regions in a wholly original way. This is a blended Scotch of exceptional character and is great for mixing or sipping because of its flavor profile and pricing, which exceed the expectations of most sipping connoisseurs. In other words, it’s a great value.” —Mary Stanley, owner, The Turtle Restaurant/Turtle Enoteca, Brownwood, Texas

The Famous Grouse is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

The Famous Grouse is a low-priced whisky that is very versatile. Most often used as a house Scotch and for cocktails, it also makes a great sip on the rocks or with soda. It has notes of malted butterscotch, citrus, and candied fruits. It finishes nicely with some sweetness and char notes. For years, famous Grouse has been my go-to Scotch for a large-format cocktail program.” —Jonathan Stanyard, owner/consultant, The Bitter Gringo

Kilchoman Machir Bay is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

“I enjoy Kilchoman Machir Bay. It acts as a decent introduction to an Islay Scotch for those leary of smoke in their glass. It’s a good sipping Scotch for sure. Definitely not something you want to over-dilute with water because it is very soft and clean, even with the peaty profile. Its alcohol by volume isn’t staggering, either, so it doesn’t burn the palate out!” —Stephen Rowe, co-owner, Dario, Minneapolis

Monkey Shoulder is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

Monkey Shoulder. The whisky has its own character with rich, bold flavors which come from different regions of Scotland. This region produces the spirit with its unique versatility. Its master blender has their own blending and distilling techniques to extract maximum flavors, character, and viscosity. Monkey Shoulder can be consumed straight or on the rocks, and also could be a critical spirit in the making of cocktails like a Penicillin, Rob Roy, and Boilermaker. It retails for $30 to $35 per bottle compared to the $40 [price tag] of most single malts, and it’s ranked among the best Scotch brands, even among Gen Z Scotch drinkers.” —Izler Thomas, head mixologist, Tiya, San Francisco

Loch Lomond Original Single Malt is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

Loch Lomond Original Single Malt is dated in whisky history as far back as 1772, and it’s by far one of my [favorite] Scotches! It’s a semi-heavy peat rounded with honey and slightly nutty, soft fruit flavors. It’s a simple sipper or can be transformed into cocktails with the approachable, silky palate it provides. It ranges from $25 to $35 on a shelf, but drinks at a much higher quality.” —Henry Ottrix, beverage director, Lucina, Denver 

X by Glenmorangie is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

“I think that X by Glenmorangie does a solid job of honoring the tradition of Scotch and making it not only affordable, but also approachable. First off, the distillery itself is synonymous with good juice. Second, this bottling was blended and made with the intent of mixing, which, in my opinion, translates to a spirit that contains all the staple elements of Scotch. The floral notes are vibrant with a hint of burnt orange and vanilla. It has a slightly richer profile than ‘traditional’ Scotch, but the classic hint of salinity and smoke are still detectable. The finish has a light spiciness and definitely a slight toasted bread note. An excellent way to get a Scotch that covers all bases without breaking the bank.” —Alex Pisi, bar director, The Wells/The Duck & The Peach/La Collina, Washington, D.C.

“I want to say Monkey Shoulder. It’s smooth, and a little creamy. It’s great neat or on a rock and makes for a great cocktail, like a Blood and Sand. It has great spice notes: vanilla bean, orange peels, sticky toffee. It pairs great with smoked meats, spicy food, or even bitter chocolate, and we love its versatility with spirits. For the price point, it makes for a great bang for your buck!” —Engracio Clemena, beverage manager, La Societe, San Francisco

“My current go-to is Glendronach 12 Year, which runs about $55. It’s an incredibly complex whisky with notes of fruit and rich maltiness, and it’s balanced with a gentle salinity that makes you want to keep sipping. It’s a perfect regular sipper or nightcap, but if you want to splurge for special occasions, they also have an insane lineup of older and cask-strength whiskies of different finishes that will blow your mind!” —Erin Hayes, bar & beverage consultant and co-founder, Black Lagoon Pop-Up

Highland Park 12 is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

Highland Park 12-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky provides an exceptional bang for your buck. This Scotch is well balanced, starting with bright notes of ripe oranges, carrying through to smoky cinnamon and baked fruit notes, and finishing smoothly with warm, round honey flavors and a touch of heather-rich, peaty smoke. For such a complex and delightful spirit, Highland Park 12 is priced very affordably and mixes well with a variety of flavors from strawberry to wasabi to decadent red meat. Versatility, nuance, exceptional craftsmanship, and affordability make this an excellent choice for a spirit connoisseur looking to maximize their buying power and their sipping enjoyment.” —Sarah Kornegay, bar supervisor, The Katharine Brasserie & Bar, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Tomatin 12 Year Single Malt is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

Tomatin 12 Year Single Malt. In Durham, N.C., where I am based, a bottle costs me $39, which is a steal especially when you consider that North Carolina is a control state. Finished in a combination of bourbon barrels and sherry casks, it’s super smooth and easy to drink with notes of vanilla, and you can taste the oak. It’s a great entry-level Scotch for anyone looking to explore the category or for bourbon drinkers looking to make the transition. You would be hard-pressed to find another liquid in this category at a comparable price point.” —Adrian Lindsay, bar manager, Missy Lane’s Assembly Room, Durham, N.C.

Bowmore 12 Year is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

“I’m going to say Bowmore 12 Year. This is a classic Islay Scotch with well-balanced peaty notes, lovely citrus notes, and honeyed characteristics. It’s a great Scotch for sipping on the rocks but also plays nicely in cocktails. While it isn’t as inexpensive as perhaps a blended malt Scotch price-wise, I personally think you could treat yourself to a cocktail made with Bowmore 12 every once in a while without eating away at your budget.” —Alex Jump, co-founder, Focus on Health

Compass Box Orchard House is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

“An affordable and accessible whisky is one that takes you on a journey but doesn’t finish with notes of sticker shock and expressions of remorse. For something bright and accessible, I find myself reaching for Compass Box’s Orchard House. Very fruit-forward and flirty, it has a price point that does not punish you for trying a unique offering or just stretching your legs into a new Scotch expedition.” —Sean Fitzmaurice, owner, Reserve 101, Houston

“I like The Famous Grouse. It’s versatile enough to ménage with the most aromatic bitters and vermouths without getting boxed out, and can shack up with weightier syrups like orgeat and citrus as shaken possibilities. It’s classic, affordable, and plays well with others.” —Josh Gandee, host, no proof podcast

Loch Lomond Glengarry Blended Scotch is one of the best bang-for-your-buck Scotches, according to bartenders.

“My go-to cocktail Scotch would have to be Glengarry Blended Scotch from Loch Lomond Distillery in the Highlands. It is named after Alexander Ranaldson Macdonnell of Glengarry, one of the last great highland clan chieftains, who many described as bold, adventurous, and refined. It is hard to find a blended Scotch that is produced well, carries character, and is below $20 a bottle. This bottle does all that. It has notes of toffee, soft fruits, and citrus with a slightly peaty finish. This Scotch will impress your friends and family without leaving a hole in your bank account.” —Bruce Polack, beverage director, The Regular, Denver

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