The Definitive Beginner Scotch Whisky Buying Guide

Find out what Scotch you should start your whiskey journey with with this quick beginner Scotch buying guide!

Definitions for Clarity:

Single malt Scotch is single malt whisky made in Scotland. To be a single malt scotch the whisky must have been distilled at a single distillery using a pot still distillation process and made from a mash of malted grain.

A blended scotch whisky is made by combining several single malts with wheat and/or corn whiskies in column stills.

If you really want to skip this list, here are the bottles:

The Glenlivet, Johnnie Walker Black, Chivas Regal 12, Glenmorangie 10, Glenfiddich 12, Monkey Shoulder, The Macallan Sherry Oak Cask, Highland Park 12, Ardbeg 10, Laphroaig 10

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Magic Vibrations says:

I have both Glenlivet and Glenfiddich and i really can’t tell the difference…

rsll510 says:

Awesome Job!!

Adam Farnsworth says:

Glenlivet was my first scotch, definitely my gateway drink 🙂

foodquig says:

Good choices for starting out on the first steps of a scotch whisky journey…

physics2112 says:

This is a wise move for the channel, a video that’s both educational and a magnet for clicks. I hope to see lists like this for Irish whiskey, rye whiskey, mid-level whiskey, and high-end bourbons.

great207 says:

Balvenie 12 double wood would be good too

Luke Tucker says:

I started off with Black Bottle and to this day its my favourite blend. I’d recommend it to anyone

Rafa says:

Making a beginner list is always a challege! I would recommend to start with whiskies like Glenfiddich 12 or Glenlivet 12 because they are both fruity (or winey) whiskies to start with (and they can be adquired in 20-35ml bottles hahaha) and from there, we can escalate to a more noticiable sweet oak and vanilla profiles from Glenmorangie 10 or Cardhu 12 to finish with the sherry monsters like Macallan. On the flip side of the coin I would recommend Johnnie Walker 10 as a very pleasant introduction to the peated whiskies, an easy drinker if you like your scotch on the rocks while Highland Park 12 can be a more balanced example from a single malt point of view… And then you go the peated monsters like Ardbeg 10 or Laphroaig 10. By the way, I would love to hear your opinion about Quarter Cask, is it worth if I like the Laphroaig plain expression?

Barry Fiedel says:

You choices were nicely thought out, from novice to something far less novice (in time I suspect). I particularly thought your comment on Highland Park was extremely relevant since there is the urge sometimes to jump to the older whisk[e]y and then you bypass some great experiences with the younger ones. And many of those younger ones don’t have that overdone cask palette but instead are more vibrant and energized. Great job.

Nico Juarez says:

I’ll replace the Laphroaig for te Talisker 10, I think is more salty. And add Whyte And Mackay to the blended scotch. Great guide, by the way.

Dreamer5211 says:

Hi , my first Scotch was Cutty Sark , the blended stuff , then I tried Dewars White Label , still blended. The a friend suggested perhaps a Single Malt would be more to your liking. 
In complete disclosure , at the time I had no idea of the difference , then I was offered a dram of single malt Scotch , we did the whole deal , nosed it , sipped it , added a wee bit of water to bring out even more notes. I said this stuff is great what is it , then he showed me the bottle of The Dalmore. That has been my scotch for many decades , in fact I have one of the last 12 year old`s in the original tall bottle / wrapped in The Dalmore paper / incased in a cylinder. The cost was $ 24.95 , now that same scotch , in a box and a different bottle sells for around 80 dollars. That last of the original will never be opened be me , perhaps someday I might entertain an offer , but for now I can appreciate the fact you once could get a very great scotch for a fair price. My other go -to spirit is one of your favorites , Woodford Reserve / Straight Bourbon. I truly can not see myself buying  a blended whisky or whiskey ( as the latter refers to Scotch ) again , however it would not be impossible , just unlikely.
Thanks for your videos , they are very enjoyable , cheers !! G.

Kappa Face says:

Glenfiddich 12 was my first. Then I tried Glenlivet 12, Dalmore 12 and now I picked up a bottle of Highland Park 12 and Speyburn 10. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bourbon neat but after watching a bunch of your reviews I think I will.

acelee632 says:

My first bottle was Balvenie Doublewood 12y and I highly recommend anything offering from them. Also, Glendronach > Macallan Sherry any day, esp price

Loco Pilot says:

Ardbeg 10 and Laphroaig 10 are too complex and smoky for a newbie. Being new to islay, what they will get is just medicinal and iodine! Bowmore 12 is a much better choice for islay beginner. Nice video!

cato says:

I think you might have mistakingly overlooked the 1972 Dailuaine Cadenhead’s bottling.

Josh Shriver says:

I had a pairing of monkey shoulder followed by ardbeg 10 last night because I only had about a dram of each left. I just wanted to make room for some new bottles, but I was surprised how well ardbeg followed it up. Going from the honey Carmel sweetness to that delicious grassy peat was really interesting

Stephen Lyon says:

I wouldn’t recommend Ardbeg as an introduction to Islay scotches. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of my favorites (probably my top 5), but I feel that lagavulin or laphroaig provide a milder introduction. I heard a reviewer once say that laphroaig is like campfire smoke, and ardbeg is like burning tires. However, I definitely agree on the Glen Fiddich – IMO it’s the perfect introduction; while not the most complex, it’s entirely inoffensive and will please any palate.

Adam Farnsworth says:

Man I love Monkey Shoulder! It’s a great low-cost scotch!

The Whiskey Dic says:

List of most requested replacements:

Shirosen says:

Bunnahabhain 12 was one of the first I tried, and it really amazed back then.

Malted In Montreal says:

Cheers Bill. Well done

Scotch Test Dummies says:

Great choices Bill!

Triplecap says:

You might amend your definitions and explain the difference between blended scotch (Chivas) and blended malt (monkey shoulder).  You left out the fact that blended scotch contains (usually large amounts of) grain whisky, a complete different animal from malt whisky.  Just a thought.

Gary Robinson says:

I think Aberlour 10 is a good starter scotch. Here’s a curveball. I really like Irish whisky. I recommend powers 12, redbreast 12 or green spot. Super smooth sweet and no burn.

Nihir Das says:

Where is Lagavulin and Talisker?

Paul Sousa says:

I tried Laphroaig 10 early in my Scotch life and discovered I love Islay malts as a result. The smokier and peatier the better. 🙂

Michael Hamilton says:

Man, this is a great list, but I would have to sub out the Macallan 12 for the Glenfarclas 12. For my palette that one provides a much richer flavor. Great list, going out to dinner with the wife later and I’ll have to try something new.

Juan Pablo Villarroel says:

Loved the video, that is a great list and I am happy to say I’ve tried most of the whiskies in it (where I live there are more scotches available than bourbons). My favorite one of those is the ardbeg ten. Also the Cardhu 12 (I think it’s 12) is in my opinion a great starter scotch.

JoelD says:

I JUST bought a bottle of Glenlivet 12 for the first time the other day (just on a whim). Didn’t like it actually. Maybe it’s too fruity and mild for me. Maybe it’s because I expect whisky to taste differently and so it tastes wrong to me…Anyway, but Ardbeg 10 is probably my favorite of the whisky I’ve tried so far! Really, really nice. I couldn’t say if it’s good for beginners or not because I’m just a hair above beginner myself (or maybe that’s an endorsement actually?). It’s interesting how completely different whisky can taste, in any case.

Ralph Becker says:

Not a bad starter list!
Suggestion: put the list in the video description.
I would also add a Glenrothes to the list. A very smooth and approachable for someone new to scotch.
Oddly, I have never tried Monkey Shoulder. I’ll have to give it a try some time.

Michael Wellman says:

Thanks for doing this.  I’m a bourbon guy.  I’ve been trying to find a scotch that I can enjoy but so far I’ve been underwhelmed by them.  They’re ok, but none of them have aroma and flavor that I love in a bourbon.  I’ve had Monkey Shoulder, Dalmore 12, Glenlivet Founders Reserve, Highland Park 12 and some smokey scotch at my friends house (that was the only bad one).  Is it me? or is it that I just haven’t found that right scotch yet?

Simple Diversion says:

This is a very solid list for beginners. Monkey shoulder was the first scotch I tried a while back, but Highland Park was my first love lol. Have had all of these except the chivas. Nice video!

Maxime Sabourin says:

How about Lagavulin?

Camryn Procter says:

First scotch I tried was Johnnie Black label. Keen to try some of the Islay whiskies.

Yi Ren says:

Balvenie 12 is a great place to start! I would also suggest the Johnnie Walker Green Label, which is one of my favorite from the line up.

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