Scotch is a special whiskey for special people. And yes, you are a special person, and yes, scotch is for you! This peaty whisky hails from Scotland and has a rich taste marked by fermented, peated barley. This whisky is known for being enjoyed straight and being expensive. So does that mean the scotch cocktail is a waste of time? Absolutely not! However, we don’t always want to spend $70 on a bottle to mix into a cocktail. Use this guide to help choose the best brand for you cocktailing needs without blowing your budget on one bottle.
Blended scotch comes in a few different forms: Blended Scotch, Blended Malt Scotch, and Blended Grain Scotch. We’ll go over the differences in these later, but just know that they all make great cocktails. here are a few of my favorite bottles for mixing into Rob Roys and Penicillins.
The Famous Grouse
The Famous Grouse is one of the most popular bottles out there, and it is particularly well loved in its home country of Scotland. Founded in 1800, the Famous Grouse has been perfecting its product for a long time, and it shows. This bottle is my favorite for mixing into cocktails because it has a unique character that stands firm by itself, but it plays well with other ingredients from fresh citrus to spicy vermouth to rich cordials.
Full and golden, this whisky has tasting notes of citrus peels, warm spices, and candied fruit. With only a hint of oak and peat, this version is extremely approachable to new Scotch drinkers because it lacks the aggression of more heavily aged styles. This scotch is ideal for any cocktail that calls for a blended whisky, and I particularly like it in a scotch sour.
This scotch is supposedly “smooth as a pig’s nose” which is why it bears the name. I’m admittedly not familiar enough with pig noses to confirm the truth of that statement, but this scotch is a truly good bottle for cocktailing and enjoying in a highball with soda water and lemon.
Pig’s Nose is certainly a beautiful scotch, and it is smooth, but it’s not what I would classify as a beginner’s blended scotch. It still packs a nice smokey punch, making it a great choice for someone who is already a scotch “neat” drinker who is looking to start making scotch cocktails. Young and clean with notes of salt and butter, this bottle is one of my favorites and not just because of the wonderful, very regal looking fella on its logo.
Monkey Shoulder Batch 27
Monkey Soulder is a favorite of bartenders everywhere, and for good reason: it’s the product of some seriously great products. Single malts from the Balvenie, Glenfiddich, and Kininvie distilleries are sourced and matured in different oak barrels until master distillers taste each individually. They then select 27 barrels to be blended together to create this magnificent bottle fo scotch.
This scotch is wonderful for cocktails, especially sours that use heavy ingredients such as bitters and Amari. Creamy and woody, this scotch is ripe with vanilla and butterscotch, finishing strong with candied fruit and cinnamon notes.
Single Malt Scotch
Single Malt scotch is exactly what it sounds like: scotch that has been made from a single malt at one distillery. Single malt scotch tends to be a high quality whisky that can sit on the more expensive end of the price range. However, there are more affordable versions of this style, especially in smaller bottle sizes.
Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year
The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 year is one of my favorite scotches to drink by itself. Called DoubleWood because it’s aged in two different kinds fo oak casks, this scotch is rich, peaty, and complex.
This scotch has a slightly sweet body that is enriched by spice and oak. Buttery, strong, and deliciously smooth, this is my first choice of bottles to introduce whiskey drinkers to the Scotch family. It has a nutty flavor complemented by dried fruit and apples with a long finish.
Macleod’s Islay Single Malt Scotch
Macleod’s Islay Single Malt Scotch is admittedly not my favorite scotch to drink by itself, but there is no denying its value. This medium bodied single malt has the characteristic smokey notes of a single malt, which makes it ideal to float on top of a penicillin.
This scotch is medium bodied with a strong nose and lighter finish. It has a prominent peat flavor that is underscored by nutmeg and dried cranberry, however the flavor drops away in the second half of the taste. For the value, this is an excellent single malt to use for cocktails, especially citrus based scotch cocktails that need a stronger nose.