Ask any Scotsman, and they’ll tell you there’s no whisky that can hold a candle to a good Scotch.

Even the Irish, Canadians, and Americans who make their own whiskeys have to agree: Scotch really does set a high bar for fine liquor. It’s a true gentleman’s drink, one that’ll put hair on your chest and a fire in your belly!

If you’re new to drinking whisky, that level of potency may not sound all that appealing. But don’t worry: we’re here to help you graduate to drinking like a real man, going from light beer and Shirley Temples to sipping fine Scotch with the best of the lads.

Below, we’ll share with you a list of the top Scotch whiskeys for beginners to start enjoying right off the bat. None are overly pricey, and many of them are perfect for drinking on the rocks, neat, or even in a cocktail.

+RELATED READ: 15 BLENDED SCOTCH WHISKIES YOU NEED TO TRY

By the time you get through this list—either just reading it or, and I can’t recommend this highly enough, sampling each of the whiskeys—you’ll have a much greater appreciation for the subtleties and nuances of fine Scotch whisky.

Get ready to take those training wheels off and savor every sip of these fine Scotches!

Best Scotch for Beginners

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Bank Note 5Yrs Blended Scotch Whisky

Whether you’re a cocktail man or just looking for a whisky you’ll enjoy sipping, Bank Note is worth a try. It’s fairly affordable as far as Scotch whisky goes, but it’s got a well-rounded, full body that has just enough “weight” (flavor and potency) that makes it an amazing liquor to keep handy for any occasion—be it a wedding, funeral, or poker night.

The whisky is made using both grain whisky and a mature malt whisky that’s blended into something truly unique, complex, and distinct. The mature malt whisky provides a richer, deeper base with ample character, but the blend of grain whisky keeps it from breaking the bank. It’s unique as far as Islay whiskeys go, but for the price tag, it’s an absolute delight.

Specs

  • Barrel: Oak
  • Tasting Notes: Creamy vanilla nougat, milk chocolate, more grainy malts and a bitter and slightly astringent lemon zest
  • Proof: 86
  • Age: 5 years
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Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch Whisky

Johnnie Walker is a name even non-whisky-drinkers are familiar with, so it’s no surprise that it ends up near the top of the list. Black Label isn’t the most affordable Scotch whisky around, but it’s well worth every penny for the quality and depth of flavor that makes it one of America’s favorites.

Aged for at least 12 years, created using a blend of Scotch whiskies from all around Scotland, this whisky is renowned for its smoothness and complexity of character. It’s one of the trendiest Scotch whiskies, beloved by mixologists for its versatility and depth. Whether you drink it on its own or swirl it into a cocktail, it’s a true delight to your palate.

Specs

  • Barrel: Oak
  • Tasting Notes: Rich fruits, vanilla, creamy toffee with a smoky finish
  • Proof: 80
  • Age: Minimum 12 years
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The Famous Grouse Smoky Black

I guarantee you’ve never tried a Scotch whisky quite like the Famous Grouse Smoky Black. This whisky is heavy on the peat and smoke, thanks to the rare peated malt used in its distilling. It’s got a beautiful amount of body and deep flavor, but it’s surprisingly approachable with spectacular versatility.

The whisky is made using barley instead of grain as the lead grain, which gives it an inherent softness and drinkability that will set your palate singing with every sip. It gives just enough honey on the palate that you’ll enjoy its smokiness, and it’s a great introduction to the punchier Scotch whiskies you’ll eventually be drinking. Beginners will find this approachable and delightfully complex—perfect for newbies to enjoy their first sips.

Specs

  • Barrel: Oak
  • Tasting Notes: Dried fruit and spices (aniseed/cloves), smoky yet smooth
  • Proof: 80
  • Age: No age statement, but less than 12 years old
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Glendronach 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Get ready for a game-changing “sherry-matured whisky”, a type of whisky that matures in casks that once held sherry. Because of the flavors of sherry absorbed into the oak casks, the whisky comes out with sweeter, fruitier tasting notes—in this case, sweet raisined fruits and toffee. It only spends the last two years of its life in sherry casks; the first decade is spend in the standard refill oak casks used for most Scotch whiskeys.

With its distillery located in the Eastern Highlands of Scotland, Glendronach utilizes some of the oldest, time-tested methods for producing its liquors, which is why this bottle delivers peerless value for a slightly-above-average price tag. It’s a whisky you’ll absolutely have to try to savor the full, unique experience.

Specs

  • Barrel: Oak sherry cask
  • Tasting Notes: Toffee, cocoa, and sweet raisined fruits.
  • Proof: 86
  • Age: 12 years
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Chivas Regal 12 Year Blended Scotch Whisky

If you’re new to Scotch and don’t think you’re ready to swim in the deep end with all the smoke-heavy, peated variations, Chivas Regal is the perfect starter choice. It’s a “real man’s whisky” that won’t overpower your taste buds or burn its way down your throat. Just a smooth, enjoyable drinking experience down to the last drop.

This 12-year blended Scotch is made from a variety of whiskeys that have all been aged at least 12 years before bottling, and you’ll find that no two bottles are exactly alike. The flavors are sweet and fruit-forward—honeyed apples, vanilla, butterscotch, and hazelnut—and it’s one of the best Scotches you can drink on its own (though a splash of water will help to mellow it out if you’re not accustomed to full Scotch potency).

Specs

  • Barrel: Unspecified “variety”
  • Tasting Notes: Honeyed apples, vanilla, butterscotch, hazelnut, spice, barley malt, and banana chips.
  • Proof: 80
  • Age: Minimum of 12 years
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Bowmore 12-Year-Old

Bowmore 12-Year Old is a throwback to the classic Scotch whiskeys of the 1960s and 1970s, with plenty of character and surprisingly delicate fruit flavors. Thanks to the time it spends maturing in American sherry-seasoned casks, the Scotch brings forward tropical notes of peach, mango, and pineapple that contrast beautifully with its innate Islay smokiness.

It’s a medium-peated malt with just enough sweetness to balance out the richness and body, and a warm amber color that swirls beautifully in your glass. The soft, relaxing finish will be the perfect way to end your night of drinking with the lads.

Specs

  • Barrel: American sherry-seasoned oak casks
  • Tasting Notes: Pineapple, peach and mango, with plenty of smoke
  • Proof: 80
  • Age: 12 years
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Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch

Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch is an excellent choice for aspiring mixologists or cocktail-loving men who want a whisky that can be enjoyed in a mixed drink and on its own. It’s smooth, rich, and complex, thanks to the three Speyside single malts used in its blend (Glenfiddich, Balvenie, and Kininvie). It’s made for sipping neat, serving on the rocks, or even adding a dash of soda water to make it more palatable for newbies who aren’t yet up to the full intensity of fine Scotch.

With tasting notes of smoke, vanilla, and spice, it’s a fairly standard Scotch whisky that will help you develop a more elegant palate. And thanks to its brilliantly affordable price tag, you can always keep it stocked on your shelf.

Specs

  • Barrel: Former Bourbon casks
  • Tasting Notes: Spice, vanilla, smoke, orange
  • Proof: 80
  • Age: Unspecified (minimum of three years)
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Dalwhinnie 15 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

There’s a reason the Dalwhinnie 15 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky is given the nickname “The Gentle Spirit” by Scotch-drinkers: it’s just a simple, crisp Scotch that’s perfect for newbies. Don’t expect high complexity or too much smoke, but the lack of fullness and milder flavor profile gives it a freshness that you can enjoy even if it’s your first whiskey. Plus, the flavors are clear enough that you can really savor them as you work on refining your palate.

It’s definitely not cheap, by any measure—in fact, it’s one of the priciest Scotches on our list—but if you’re looking for a good upper-shelf whisky to get your lips wet, it’s worth the investment in your Scotch education.

Specs

  • Barrel: Ex-bourbon cask
  • Tasting Notes: Malt, honey, walnuts, vanilla
  • Proof: 86
  • Age: 15 years
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The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

If you’ve ever spent time around Scotch drinkers, you’ve seen a bottle of Macallan Sherry Oak 12-Year Old for sure. It’s the most famous sherry-seasoned whisky (made in oak casks that once contained sherry), thanks to its fruity flavors of dried fruit, warm spice, and lush vanilla.

Despite its luxurious flavor and world-famous reputation, it’s a surprisingly affordable bottle of Scotch. Drink it neat, on the rocks, or even mix it into cocktails to give your Scotch drinks a deeper, more complex flavor. It’s sweeter than your average Scotch, and thus will be a favorite among men who like a bit more sugar on the nose and palate.

Specs

  • Barrel: Sherry-seasoned oak
  • Tasting Notes: Smoke, honey, ginger, cocoa.
  • Proof: 86
  • Age: 12 years
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Aberfeldy 12 Year Scotch Whisky

Considered one of the best overalls Scotch whiskies for beginners, Aberfeldy 12 Year Scotch Whisky is the epitome of what a single malt should be—a strong standard against which all Irish, Canadian, and American whiskies can be measured. With dark honey sweetness and a delightful roundness of flavor, it’s an approachable Scotch that has just enough complexity to give you the full experience.

The unique distillation, fermentation, and maturation processes of this Scotch gives it a bit more honeyed sweetness than the standard Scotch, so beginners will find it’s easy drinking at a great price. It also makes a great base for your cocktails, and makes for perfect sipping during the chilly autumn, winter, and spring nights.

Specs

  • Barrel: Handmade oak casks
  • Tasting Notes: Honey, Vanilla, Pineapple
  • Proof: 80
  • Age: 12 years
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Glenlivet 12-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Glenlivet is a brand you can trust, and few Scotch whiskies will be as reliable and consistent as the 12-Year-Old Single Malt. Whether you drink it alone or pair it with a hearty meal, it’s rich enough to stand on its own two feet, with floral, fruity, and grassy notes evocative of its Speyside region.

The fruity flavor notes of green apples, pineapple, and citrus makes it far more refreshing than you’d expect from a Scotch, with just enough vanilla and honey sweetness to perk up your taste buds. It’s perfect for a hot summer day when mixed with a dash of soda and a pinch of lemon, but you’ll love it on pretty much any occasion. Best of all, it’s available quite literally everywhere Scotch whisky is sold and retails at a reasonable price for such high quality.

Specs

  • Barrel: Traditional oak and American oak casks
  • Tasting Notes: Green apples, honey, pineapple, vanilla, citrus.
  • Proof: 80
  • Age: 12 years
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The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Bring a taste of the Caribbean into your home with this unique Scotch whisky. Though it starts its life in the standard oak casks, it spends the last few years maturing in casks formerly used for Caribbean rum. The result is a whisky that’s creamy, rich, and sweet, with a surprising fruity freshness that brings out the rounded flavors of sweet oak and vanilla. From your first taste to the last swallow, it’s a truly delightful whisky.

Enjoy it neat to savor the taste, or add a couple of ice cubes and a splash of water to bring out the full flavor profile. It’s an absolutely one-of-a-kind whisky you’ll be glad you stocked in your mini-bar—perfect for drinking alone or showing off to friends.

Specs

  • Barrel: Traditional oak and American oak casks used for West Indian rum blends
  • Tasting Notes: Rounded with vanilla and sweet oak notes, with a fruity character that develops with time
  • Proof: 86
  • Age: 14 years
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Talisker 10 Year Single Malt Scotch Whiskey

Talisker is a name renowned among not only dedicated whisky drinkers, but all liquor-lovers who want to know their way around quality drinks. Known as the only Scotch produced on the Isle of Skye, this 10-year single malt Scotch is famous for its high quality and complexity, as well as the peat-heavy water used in its brewing.

The deep golden color is alluring right out of the bottle, and you’ll love the fragrances of smoke, spice, sea spray, and green apple. Though the flavor starts out sweet and apple-heavy, it quickly turns smoky, with hints of mineral and pepper that end in a light finish. It’ll warm you to your roots, and it’s perfect for any Scotch drinker looking for something with full body and rich flavors.

Specs

  • Barrel: Traditional oak
  • Tasting Notes: Charred oak, smoke, peppery, gentle fruit sweetness, and a hint of iodine.
  • Proof: 91.6
  • Age: 10 years
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Douglas Laing's Rock Oyster

If you’re a blended Scotch drinker, you’ll love what Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster brings to the table. Made using single malts distilled on the Scottish islands (including Islay, Arran, Jurra, and Orkney), this blended Scotch unleashes the scent of the fresh sea breeze, wind-swept beaches, hints of ash, and just enough coastal peat to make it a real man’s whisky.

There’s an interesting salinity to the finish that you won’t find in many whiskies, and the peppery finish gives it a nice little bite that will warm you up on a cold winter’s day. With flavors of spice, black pepper, vanilla, peat smoke, and oat cake, it’s a beautifully developed Scotch that will set your palate singing.

Specs

  • Barrel: Traditional oak
  • Tasting Notes: Oat cake, vanilla, spice, black pepper, peat smoke
  • Proof: 93.6
  • Age: 18 years
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Ardbeg 10 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Ardbeg is a name familiar to all Scotch drinkers, and it’s a great intro choice for newbies looking to get their whistles wet with quality Scottish whisky. Aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon American oak casks, this Scotch is mature, complex, and nuanced, with a beautifully balanced flavor profile that will sizzle across your palate.

The balance of spice and sweet vanilla is heavenly, and the peat-laden water gives it a delightful smokiness that contrasts the brighter flavors. No surprise, it’s won multiple awards—including the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2015—and was named “World Whisky of the Year” in 2008. It’s top quality at a barely-above-average price.

Specs

  • Barrel: Ex-bourbon American oak
  • Tasting Notes: Vanilla, spice, dried fruit, salt, smoke
  • Proof: 92
  • Age: 10
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Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Located on the northeastern shores of the Scottish island of Islay, Caol Ila is one of the newest distilleries bringing fine Scotch whisky to the wider world. It’s also the Islay home of Jonnie Walker, so you know the whisky is produced is of superior quality.

The Caol Ila 12-year is an entry-level bottle that brings lightness and freshness to your palate, but with a hint of smoke that makes for a truly rich drinking experience. The whisky is very fresh on the nose, with herbal scent of peppermint, damp grass, and lemon peels. It’s got good body, hints of boiled sweets, and enough tar and oil on the palate that it stands up against all other Islay whiskeys. Get ready for a long, peppery finish that will linger with you all night long and have you reaching for another shot, and another!

Specs

  • Barrel: Traditional oak
  • Tasting Notes: Boiled sweets, elegant smoke, oil, tar
  • Proof: 86
  • Age: 12 years
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Glenmorangie Original 10-Year-Old

Anyone who’s researched Scottish whisky will instantly be familiar with the Glenmorangie name. With more than 175 years of craft under its belt, the Glenmorangie Distillery makes some of the best Highlands Scotch, and this single-malt is no exception. It’s a supremely approachable and affordable Scotch that will compel first-time drinkers to keep on coming back.

It’s a creamy and dreamy Scotch, so balanced that it’s often served as an aperitif as well as a digestif. You’ll love how it’s not overly smoky or aggressive, and it’s so smooth-flavored that you’ll be able to savor the notes of vanilla, peach, orange, and honey.

Specs

  • Barrel: Ex-bourbon casks
  • Tasting Notes: Vanilla, flowery fruitiness, honey
  • Proof: 80
  • Age: 10 years

Tips For Beginner Scotch Drinkers

Don’t worry if you’re new to Scotch-drinking—it’ll be a delightful experience from start to finish, if you do it right.

Here are a few tips to help newbies get into sampling and savoring Scotch the right way:

Age matters – The average “affordable” Scotch whisky will be in the 10 to 15-year range (as you’ll see by our list below), and this is a good age range for newbies to start off with. However, keep in mind that older Scotches develop more complex flavors, mellow out, and grow finer with age. Whiskies aged 18+ years are always a more refined choice—and well worth the cost.

That being said, you’ll find that most single malt whiskies are best before they pass the 18-year age mark. The best “old” Scotches are typically blends, but your ideal single malt whisky age range is 10-18 years.

Start off non-smoky – Coal is often used to heat the barley that’s ultimately turned into whisky, but this can lead to a very smoky flavor. When combined with peat-heavy water, the result is a very intense, sometimes aggressively-flavored whisky that beginners might not enjoy.

Newbies, look for Scotches that are “unpeated” or “moderately peated”. That way, you can taste the subtler flavors without your taste buds being overwhelmed. Over time, you will likely come to love peated Scotch, but at the beginning, start out light.

Add a splash of water – If the Scotch is very intense right out of the gate, you can moderate it by adding a splash of water. Water not only softens Scotch, but can actually accentuate its more nuanced flavors and aromas. Plus, it’ll make the Scotch linger on your taste buds.

Smell before sipping – Yes, the aroma is a critical part of the Scotch-drinking experience! Your nose plays an important part in your ability to taste, so sampling the scents by breathing in deep will help to bring out the more intricate, complex scents—and ultimately the tastes.

Just make sure to keep your nose above the rim of your glass; too close, and the Scotch’s potency could overwhelm your keen sense of smell.

Avoid “the rocks” – Adding ice chills the drink, but a chilled Scotch is actually a less flavorful Scotch. The cold will actually mute the flavors and make them harder to detect with each sip, so you’ll have a harder time picking out the subtle notes and tastes.

Note: If you’re going to add ice, make sure it’s a large cube or ball that will melt very slowly. That way, you won’t water down the whisky excessively.

Sip, don’t gulp – Scotch is a gentleman’s drink, and gentlemen would never chug their whisky (only beer). Instead, you sip your whisky and take your time to savor every drop. You don’t have to get all fancy and swirl it around in your mouth if you don’t want to (though it’s the best way to explore the deeper flavors and nuances), but make sure to sip your whisky slowly so it won’t overwhelm your taste buds.

If the whisky is getting too strong, try taking a sip then inhaling a bit of air before swallowing. Like water, bringing air into your mouth will open up the Scotch and make it easier to taste the flavors.

Fight against peer pressure – There’s no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to Scotch. Your friends may have strong opinions about which Scotch is “best”, but that’s all it is, an opinion. At the end of the day, your goal is to find a Scotch that you enjoy, that sets your taste buds dancing in the way that brings a smile to your face.

That being said, accept the recommendations from your friends. They may have good taste in whisky, and their suggestions could lead you to a bottle of something you love. But if you don’t like it, no matter how much they rave or insist on it, move on until you find a Scotch that works for you.

+RELATED READ: 15 BLENDED SCOTCH WHISKIES YOU NEED TO TRY