The 5 Best Single Malt Scotches for Beginners

For those who have yet to be initiated into the wonderful world of scotch, choosing a starter bottle can be intimidating. Not only do you have to pick from dozens of brands with unpronounceable names, but you also have to find a good bottle that isn’t too expensive—who wants to spend upwards of $100 on a bottle if you aren’t sure you’ll even like it?

To make the foray into single malt bliss a little easier, here are five whiskies that hover around $40-$50, and range from mild and fruity to malty and spicy.

At just $40, this bottling from Glenmorangie is extremely well priced, especially considering the fact that it is aged for 10 years. It’s one of the lighter scotches produced in the Highland region and its mild fruity flavors make it a great choice for first time scotch drinkers who aren’t yet ready to drink a campfire in a glass.

The Glenlivet’s 12-year-old offering is an especially great scotch intro for those who are already dedicated bourbon and rye drinkers. It’s juicy, citrusy and honey-flecked up front, but be prepared for an unexpectedly zesty finish.

If you like richer bourbons and ryes, this 12-year-old bottling from Orkney distillery Highland Park will capture your imbibing imagination. It’s a lovely balance of smoke, oak and sherry flavors, with just a touch of brine. It costs a little more than these other bottlings, but its silky texture is worth the price.

Bourbon lovers, try this Lowland scotch on for size. Auchentoshan’s American Oak bottling is matured solely in ex-bourbon barrels, giving it many of the same vanilla and fruit notes commonly found in bourbon. Its under-$40 price tag doesn’t hurt, either.

This Speyside scotch gets its name from the bourbon and sherry casks in which it’s aged before bottling. Not smoky or too heavy on the palate, Doublewood channels the flavors of holiday cookies. It’s delightfully nutty with hints of baking spices, chocolate and honey.