Spirits & Liqueurs Scotch

The Best Scotches for Less Than $100

Image: 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.

  • Ardbeg 10 Year ($61)

    “Ardbeg is a great peated Islay that still manages to stay complex and interesting from beginning to end.”—Travis Sanders, bartender at Pennyroyal in Seattle

  • Auchentoshan The Bartender’s Malt ($61)

    “I’m not just saying this because my name is on the bottle or because part of this blended single malt whisky has Auchentoshan aged in my native Minnesota’s own oak but because this dram is completely worth the effort to track down and sip or even mix in a cocktail as it’s designed. High proof instills more flavor, along with the smallest touch of smoke balanced with sherry casking, and it’s made from whisky stocks spanning six decades. This is truly a phenomenal whisky for the bartender or scotch lover in your life.”—Nathaniel Smith, creative director of bar and drinks at Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Minneapolis

  • Aultmore 12 Year ($57)

    “One of Dewar's Last Great Malts release program, this resurrected and elegant bottling can make a scotch lover out of any of your whiskey with an ‘e’ friends who usually steer away from Scotland.”—Smith

  • The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year ($80)

    “The best marriage between a scotch and rum, this elegant scotch delivers both the quintessential flavors you want in scotch plus a lovely sweet finish from the rum cask.”—Cari Hah, bar manager at Big Bar in Los Angeles

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year ($67)

    “Finished in both bourbon and sherry casks, Balvenie has a great balanced flavor that’s perfect for a scotch lover.”—Sanders

  • Bowmore 12 Year ($56)

    “My time in Scotland taught me that smoke is more than just pungent notes; like barbecue, it also carries other notes along your palate for longer. In Bowmore 12 Year’s case, there’s tropical fruit that surprisingly dances on your tongue, and a great introduction for a gift to someone not quite sold on peat yet.”—Smith

  • Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie ($65)

    “It’s a great entry-level Islay, with subtle peat smoke, perfect for an evening sipper on the rocks.”—Sanders

  • Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Heavily Peated 10 Year ($70)

    “Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Heavily Peated Islay Barley has the most elegant peat that builds on your palate and lingers.”—Hah

    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • Compass Box Spice Tree ($70)

    “This whisky is a truly unique and well-made spirit loaded with various fruits and spices. Fortunately, it still comes at a reasonable price, but it hardly matters since it can be so hard to find a shop that can keep it in stock.”—Erick Castro, owner of Polite Provisions in San Francisco and bartender at Boilermaker and Raised by Wolves in New York City

  • The GlenDronach Peated ($73)

    “A little peat and a little oloroso sherry, and you have a beautiful marriage of flavor for a great bottle to sip on.”—Sanders

  • Highland Park 12 Year Viking Honour ($55)

    “With the price of scotch and aged spirits in general getting so high, the under-$50 category seems to shrink with each passing year, but Highland Park 12 Year is just one of those bottles that always delivers at a good price.”—Castro

  • Lagavulin 16 Year ($90)

    “This scotch manages to toe the line between peaty and lightly sweet, finishing dry and long.”—Hah

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • Laphroaig Quarter Cask ($67)

    “I’m not going to say that this bottle is for everybody. In fact, I would say that it’s quite the opposite, but that’s part of its charm. When you’re in the mood for Laphroaig, nothing else comes close, and as a bonus, it’s a great accent in cocktails.”—Castro

  • Laphroaig 10 Year ($61)

    “I have probably never used another scotch for cocktails as much as Laphroaig 10 Year, and that’s saying a lot. Whether adding smoke to your sour or an olfactory element to an Old Fashioned or using it as a base spirit—one of our most popular cocktails is a Mexican-influenced Laphroaig cocktail called the Santa Muerte, with spiced grapefruit cordial, lime and Mexican lager)—Laphroaig is polarizing but perfect for both a home or cocktail bar.”—Smith

  • Talisker 10 Year ($57)

    “This is a great classic whisky that’s smoky and salty with a balanced sweetness at the end—great for any occasion and in cocktails.”—Sondre Kasin, principal bartender at Undercote in New York City