As far as spirits are concerned, Scotch whisky is one such liquor that has always set itself apart from the fray. Drinkers either love or hate it. There’s no middle ground, simply because a good Scotch isn’t here for mass appeal. As drinkers we’re a loyal bunch, either finding our preferred region and sticking to it or keeping a decanter of our favorite vintage on the bar cart. Call us proud, stubborn, elitist, we don’t care. Because deep down we know what’s in our glass far outweighs what’s getting drunk by those with little taste.
And just like various tiers of booze available out there, Scotch hosts vintages and price points suited for specific occasions. There are the inexpensive, casual pours for simple enjoyment, the more pronounced pours for close friends, celebration-worthy single malts to toast the lives of others, and the private stash- reserved for yearly indulgence. Here, we’re entertaining the celebratory tier of Scotch out there; the under $200 price point. And while there’s plenty to choose from in the world of Scotch whisky, as fans, we figured we could narrow things down a bit to the 12 best Scotch whiskies under $200 for your enjoyment. So go ahead, take a scroll, and pick up a bottle of the good stuff. Because life is worth celebrating.
Old Pulteney 21
Distilled at the most northern mainland distillery in Scotland, this single malt garners a reputation unlike many others of its kind. It’s smooth, with some claiming it drinks like a cordial, and was rated best whisky in the 2012 Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. It boasts a beautiful citrus palate with a satisfying butterscotch finish that will leave you craving that next sip before you even set your glass down.
Highland Park 18
Herbs, fruits and floral notes. If that accurately describes what you’re looking for in a Scotch whisky then look toward this 18-year vintage from Highland Park for answers. Ripe floral notes and honeyed fruits hit the nose upon introduction, while fruit preserves mixed with wintery spices like cinnamon and allspice wrap themselves around the palate during that first sip. And with a long-lasting and sugared finish, this Highland Park isn’t something you’ll let out of your sight that easily.
Islay Scotch is great for those who wish to taste the sea. And with the Bunnahabhain 18 year, that’s exactly what you’ll be getting. It boasts a salty tang alluding to the cold and unforgiving North Atlantic Ocean, but with hints of honeyed nuts, rich toffee, and notes of leathery oak to keep things balanced. But with a finish of salt and sherry, it’s clear this Islay isn’t trying to hide behind anything, and we’re perfectly okay with that.
The oldest of our list, this 25-year is the single malt for those who enjoy sherried whisky. On the nose is a bit of menthol, chocolate and sherry followed by a mildly spicy and smooth tasting experience with additional allusions to hazelnut and dried fruit making their way into the mix. The 25-year finishes strong as well, with a bit of smoke, cocoa, and oak to bring things home.
A floral offering indeed, Tomatin offers this limited edition whisky that’s been aged in six bourbon casks and one sherry butt for 21 glorious years. The result? A bouquet of fresh fruit including notes of peach, kiwi, and gooseberries all making their presence known amongst the subtle smoke and oak finish. Truly a must have Highland whisky for those special occasions.
Balvenie 21 Portwood Finish
Taking after-dinner drinks to the next level, this 21-year vintage is simply sublime thanks to the final maturation in port wine barrels. Everything you could ask for regarding a smooth and delicate pour is present. It features notes of white peach on the nose, dark fruit, raisins, and floral honey on the palate, and slightly bitter cocoa to finish everything up. It’s graceful, humble and functional as a digestif in and of itself.
Made in limited quantities each year, the Laphroaig 18 is a prime example of what a well-made Islay Scotch should offer. On the palate, the initial smokey hit you take is quickly overcome by notes of floral accents and oak nuttiness that leaves a lingering sweetness and lasting impression on whoever is fortunate enough to get their hands on a bottle. Dangerously enjoyable.
Consistently placing among international spirit competitions, it’s hard to suggest this 21-year Speyside is anything less than delicious. With a rich nose full of pine and sandalwood, followed by a palate of nuttiness, winter spices, and sugar we’re confident you’ll find solace in this bottle of joy. Perfect for special occasions, or simply enjoying a glass or two after a long week.
Dalmore King Alexander III
The distillers over at Dalmore went all out in their attempt to create a Highland whisky that’s a cut above the rest. It’s a sextuple-wood bottle from the distillery, including maturation in Madeira, Sherry, Marsala, Kentucky bourbon, pork casks, and French wine casks. An outstanding feat of blending by Master Distiller Richard Paterson. It boasts notes of chocolate, vanilla, and tropical fruit on the nose, along with winter berries, spice, and allusions to liqueurs such as Gran Marnier and Frangelico on the palate. Clearly fit for a king.
As a Lowland Scotch, each batch of Auchentoshan is triple distilled and aged over the course of 21 magnificent years in spent bourbon and sherry casks. The result? A rich and flavorful palate featuring notes of creamy vanilla, oak, and gooseberries. We doubt it could get any better in the world of Lowland single malts, buy hey, market research is half the fun.
From one of our personal favorite distilleries comes yet another beautiful Islay Scotch full of peaty and earthy tasting notes complemented by deep herbal aromas. We’re talking black pepper and peat oils along with bitter chocolate. An infusion of salt and smoke immediately takes control on the palate while cocoa and chili, along with more peat make this Scotch one you won’t soon forget.
Macallan 18 Year Fine Oak
A notable single malt indeed, Macallan rarely steers you wrong with their offerings. Take this 18-year for example, joining in their Fine Oak range. Here, it’s all about the carefully crafted balance between the aged sherry notes and bourbon oak elements including vanilla and citrus. A touch of ginger, toffee, and chocolate orange also grace the palate while lingering oak rounds out the finish for this highly sought-after 18-year.