The Best Beginner Scotches For National Scotch Day
Photo: Pamela Webb / EyeEm (Getty Images)
July 27 is National Scotch Day. There might not be a better day in the whole year to finally try Scotch whisky for the first time. Whether it’s single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain, or blended Scotch, there’s a bottle waiting for you. There are over 130 Scotch distilleries in Scotland based in the six whisky producing regions of the Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Campbeltown, Islay, and all the other random islands (including Jura and Orkney).
With all of the whisky available from Scotland, you might feel overwhelmed and decide to just stick to your usual bourbon, rye, or Tennessee whiskey. We’re here to put your mind at ease and tell you that there are many great gateway bottles for Scotch whisky novices to get started with. Check out some of our favorites below.
The Balvenie 12 Doublewood
A perfect dram for after dinner, Doublewood is very complex and smooth because of a second maturation in former Sherry butts. The result is a whisky with subtle cinnamon spices, dried fruits, vanilla cake, and just a hint of peppery spice at the finish.
Photo: The Balvenie
The Macallan 12
Aged for a minimum of 12 years in oak Sherry butts, The Macallan 12 is one of the best gateway bottles. That’s because it’s full-bodied, tremendously rich and smooth with hints of dried orange peel, cinnamon, rich oak, and sweet sticky toffee pudding.
Photo: The Macallan
Located just a short drive from Glasgow, Auchentoshan is a must-stop for whisky fans. Also, its 12 year-old is a great bottle for beginners. This triple distilled, smooth sipping whisky is full of caramel sweetness, honey, and vanilla flavors.
Caol Ila 12
When it comes to beginner Scotches, it’s difficult to add a peated, smoky bottle from Islay. To us, peated whiskies aren’t usually for beginners. But, if you want to give one of these bottles a try, grab Caol Ila 12. Unlike some of the island’s smoke bombs, the smokiness is there, it’s just not over-the-top. It’s paired with sweet caramel and salty brine to make a well-balanced dram.
Photo: Caol Ila
Glen Grant 10
One of the most highly regarded bottles of the last few years, Glen Grant 10 is a reasonably priced beginner bottle. This complex, velvety whisky is bursting with tropical fruit, vanilla, sweet cream, and caramel flavors from aging in ex-bourbon barrels.
Photo: Glen Grant
Glenmorangie 10 Year Old The Original
If you’re only going to buy one bottle to get acquainted with Scotch, make it Glenmorangie 10. That’s because this whisky is perfectly balanced and smooth with hints of toffee, vanilla, rich honey, and just a hint of Christmas spices.
Highland Park 12
Highland Park should appeal to beginners for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it’s delicious and high quality. Also, this whisky from the Orkney Islands is a perfect combination of subtle peat smoke and fruit and floral sweetness from resting in former Sherry butts.
Photo: Highland Park
If you want to start your whisky journey with a blended Scotch, you can definitely purchase a bottle of Johnnie Walker, Chivas, or Famous Grouse and you’ll be more than happy. But, if you really want to ease your way in, you’ll go with Monkey Shoulder with its tropical fruit, vanilla, caramel, dried fruit flavors.
Photo: Monkey Shoulder