We Asked a Whiskey Expert to Help Us Find the Best Scotch

Everything you need to know to pick the perfect bottle for any price point, experience level, or palate.

best scotch

TechPluz.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites, as well as to other websites that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program. Why trust us?

Whether you're just getting into scotch-drinking or looking for the perfect gift to treat the whiskey lover in your life, selecting the right bottle can sometimes be a bit of a headache. What's up with all these different regions? Does great scotch have to be pricey? And what the hell is the difference between scotch, bourbon, and whiskey, anyway?

We chatted with Nicolas Villalon, National Brand Ambassador for The Macallan, to get some answers to all of our burning questions, as well as his expert recommendations for the best bottles of Scotch for newbies.

So, what is the main difference between scotch, bourbon, and whiskey?

"While there are basic similarities between these three spirits, each has characteristics and manufacturing practices that make them unique. First of all, whiskey is the main category into which bourbon and scotch both fall. Whiskey by definition is a distilled spirit that's made from grain. The main difference between Scotch and bourbon is geographic: Scotch is whisky made in Scotland, while bourbon is whiskey made in the U.S.A. Scotch is made mostly from malted barley, while bourbon is distilled from corn."

Does great Scotch have to be pricey?

"A great Scotch can mean something different to everybody, depending on what suits your taste buds. The Macallan, for example, places great emphasis on its exceptional oak casks, which contributes to its overall price tag. Oak casks are the single greatest contributor to the outstanding quality, natural colors, and distinctive aromas and flavors. In fact, up to 80% of the flavor of a whisky is derived from the cask it's matured in."

What should newcomers to scotch be looking for on the bottle when making a purchase?

"First, I would look for words that give you an indication of strength and flavor. For beginners, I would look for descriptors such as 'gentle' or 'light'; words like 'smoky' or 'peaty' will tend to describe fairly full-bodied whiskies. Second, I would look at the descriptions of the nose, palate, and finish to determine if the flavors align to your palate. Finally, look at whether the whisky was aged in American oak casks or sherry casks, as this can give you an understanding of the more nuanced flavors."

Now that you're feeling more informed about how to find the right bottle, let's get you boozed up! Shop a few of Nicolas' expert recommendations below — plus a few of our own personal favorites — to find the absolute best Scotch for beginners.

1 Aberfeldy​ 12 Single Malt Scotch Whisky



Fruity and clean with sweet notes of honey, Aberfeldy 12 is an approachable yet totally unique single malt Scotch perfect for newcomers to the category. This Scotch has an initial syrupy sweetness similar to a liqueur upon first taste, but the finish is dry, crisp, and just slightly spicy. Perfect for an after-dinner dram.

More: 12 Authentic Gifts for Whiskey Aficionados

2 Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky​
Monkey Shoulder



Touted as the world’s first triple-malt Scotch, Monkey Shoulder is a delicious and cheeky blend of three Scotch whiskies from Speyside (though the master distillers won't disclose the full secret recipe). Because the blended whiskies are matured in bourbon barrels (which adds a touch of sweetness), Monkey Shoulder has a smooth caramel-like quality that makes it the perfect addition for summer cocktails or boozy punch recipes.

3 Oban 14 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky



Figgy-sweet, but also smoky and complex with just a touch of sea salt, Oban is our standby bottle to keep at home for a nightcap. It's light enough to appeal to scotch-drinking newbies, but it finishes with a lingering woodsy smoky warmth, striking the perfect balance for newcomers and aficionados alike.

Keep this bottle for your own collection — it tastes like a really good kiss from someone who has a little whiskey on their breath.

4 The Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve Single Malt Whisky
The Yamazaki



Fresh, fruity, and packed with a distinct savory flavor due to the mizunara (Japanese oak) matured whisky in the mix, The Yamazaki Distiller's Reserve is unlike any other single malt, and it's sure to spark conversation after one sip. Many reviewers pick up deep incense-like notes that develop over the course of a tasting.

5 Highland Park 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Highland Park



Beyond being incredibly reasonably priced, Highland Park 12 Year Old is one of the most well-balanced and all-around crowd-pleasing session Scotch bottles you can buy. With a perfect balance of heather-honey and smoke, Highland Park makes a reliably great gift for whiskey lovers, and it's accessible enough for newcomers to the world of scotch.

6 Isle of Jura 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Isle of Jura



Light-bodied, sweet, and just slightly smoky, Isle of Jura 10 Year Old is an approachable and quality scotch ideal for newcomers. Its gentle smokiness and warming honey finish make it a particularly delicious ingredient in scotch-based classics like a Penicillin or in rich and creamy cocktails.

7 The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
The Macallan



Aged in both American oak and sherry oak casks, the Macallan 12 Year Old DoubleCask strikes a nice balance between light and floral; woodsy and rich.

As Nicolas further described, "American oak tends to have delicate flavors of vanilla, citrus, and oak, whereas in sherry oak you'll notice flavor profiles of ginger, dried fruit, and cinnamon. These two cask styles are present in our Double Cask 12 Year Old, which is great for a light, pre-dinner drink."

8 Glenlivet 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
The Glenlivet



One of the most popular single malts and a staple in many collectors' liquor cabinets, The Glenlivet is soft, sweet, and delicate — rich with notes of vanilla, lemon, toffee, and honeysuckle. We think The Glenlivet tastes best on the rocks with a lemon twist, but it's certainly smooth enough to sip neat, too.

9 Glenmorangie 10 Year Old Original Scotch Whisky



The O.G. of Scotland's Highland Region, Glenmorangie 10 Year Old is a classic choice that'll get some solid nods of approval among any scotch-drinking contingent. It's sweet, medium-bodied, and just slightly spicy without any overwhelming smoke. If you're serving an anti-peat crowd, go for Glenmorangie.