Spirits & Liqueurs Scotch

The Best Scotch Under $50

(photo illustration: Laura Sant).

You know who knows best which bottles to buy? The people who pour and sell drinks—that’s who. We asked dozens of top bartending and spirits industry professionals to tell us which bottles they love and why.

Heads up: The numerical order below is not organized by importance or quality; it’s an alphabetical list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary from state to state.

  • Aberfeldy 12 Year ($45)

    “It’s a beautiful and well-rounded single malt that has been finished in bourbon casks.”—Christine Wiseman, bar manager at Los Angeles' Broken Shaker

  • Arran 10 Year ($49)

    “This scotch is unusual, approachable and a confoundingly generous value. This is great for someone who drinks a lot of single malt and will appreciate something that’s a bit off-the-beaten-path.”—Chaim Dauermann, co-owner at New York City's Stay Gold

  • Black Bottle ($26)

    “You can't really beat the price point on this everyday sipper that packs a lot of flavor.”—Michael J. Huebner, beverage director at Denver's Zeppelin Station

  • Bowmore 12 Year ($45)

    “While I love an iodine-rich peat bomb, I know that style of whisky is an acquired taste. Bowmore 12-year-old has it's fair share of peat and beach bonfire notes, but that's beautifully balanced with heaps of confectionary notes and concentrated waves of orchard and tropical fruits—unbelievable depth and balance for the price.”—Joaquín Simó, partner at New York City's Pouring Ribbons

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  • Compass Box Great King Street Artist's Blend ($40)

    “I admire what this distillery consistently puts out in high-quality spirits, although not a big name in terms of consumer appeal. Within the bar community, Compass Box is a gem. Great King Street Artist’s Blend is a beautiful blend of unique flavors of stewed pear and hints of vanilla aged in ex-bourbon barrels. It’s perfect for the holidays neat or laid over a large cube.”—Joseph Pereira, bartender at Las Vegas' Electra

  • Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend ($40)

    “It’s one of the best blended scotches for the money—a touch of every flavor.”—Adam Fortuna, assistant general manager and sommelier at Grand Rapids, Mich.'s Reserve Wine & Food

  • Cutty Sark ($20)

    “For blended scotch, it’s one of your most accessible, light and wildly inoffensive.”—Max Green, owner of and head bartender at New York City's Blue Quarter and Windmill

  • Dewar's 12 Year ($33)

    “This whisky delivers in a truly elegant fashion, and I love the retro packaging.”—Hemant Pathak, bartender and bar manager at New York City's Junoon

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  • The Famous Grouse ($28)

    “It’s great to use in cocktails—a light but sharp finish on the palate.”—Lucinda Sterling, managing partner and bartender at New York City's Middle Branch

  • Glencadam 10 Year ($45)

    “It’s soft, delicate, clean and extremely easy to sit down with and enjoy in succession.”—Joshua-Peter Smith, bar director at San Francisco's Mourad

  • Glenfarclas 12 Year ($49)

    “It has a ton of fruit in it from the oloroso sherry cask maturation, which also gives it great texture.”—Brian Means, bartender at San Francisco's Pacific Cocktail Haven

  • Glenfiddich 12 Year ($49)

    “It’s a standard of what I believe all single malts should be measured against—complex, elegant and round, with a soft creamy finish.”—Pereira

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  • The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve ($43)

    “This is a very approachable scotch for the beginner scotch drinkers. It’s very smooth and versatile and can be enjoyed every day.”—Wiseman

  • Glenmorangie The Original ($43)

    “While Glenmorangie's flagship bottle may be readily available in all markets, it has always been a consistently solid product and great approachable scotch to boot, one I've used many times to convert the few scotch haters in my life.”—Jamie Boudreau, owner of and bartender at Seattle's Canon

  • Gordon & MacPhail The MacPhail’s Collection Highland Park 8 Year ($45)

    “This bottle comes from one of my favorite distilleries in Scotland. Aged in sherry and bourbon barrels for just eight years, it's a great expression of what can be done with grain and no chill filtering.”—Nick Detrich, co-owner and bartender at New Orleans' Manolito

  • Highland Park Magnus ($39)

    “It’s a super affordable single malt—light subtle smoke and great for sipping in a cocktail.”—Green

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  • Johnnie Walker Red Label ($26)

    “This is an unpopular opinion among bartenders, but I don't care. At a blind spirits tasting, every bartender rated this as a super-high-level scotch, which is what hundreds of years of spirits blending accomplishes.”—Nathaniel David Smith, bartender at St. Paul, Minn.'s Hodges Bend and ambassador for Teeling Irish whiskey

  • Laphroaig 10 Year ($46)

    “It’s such a great standard in the peaty Islay category. We love to make Old Fashioned cocktails with it or by adding a little to a cocktail to add a little smoky taste. Can't get enough.”—Yani Moraitis Frye, owner, operator and head bartender at Detroit's Bad Luck

  • Monkey Shoulder ($43)

    “A blended scotch made of single malts, this scotch is great for the opposite reason why we love Laphroaig. Monkey Shoulder is a great balanced scotch perfect for mixing up an Old Pal or scotch sour.—Frye

  • Naked Grouse ($32)

    “It’s an excellent blend of juice from Macallan and Highland Park that sees time in a first-fill sherry cask.”—Huebner

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  • Pig’s Nose ($30)

    “It’s nutty, fruity and balanced and works well with citrus.”—Sterling

  • Sia ($46)

    “If scotch is new to someone and that person wants to learn, I cannot think of a more delicious and approachable one than this brand. Stone fruit appeal with subtle notes of honey and tangerine. Also, it has layers of depth to it. Neat!”—Pereira

  • The Singleton of Glendullan 12 Year ($35)

    “Speyside is my go-to category these days, and this is a great introduction for people who want to expand past the Macallan line of drinks.”—Patrick Marran, bartender at New York City's On the Rocks

  • Shackleton ($39)

    “It’s a blend scientifically engineered to taste like a malt, with a good story behind it—definitely my home decanter whisky.”—Marran