15 Popular Scotch Brands To Buy In 2024, Ranked

When you decide to put money down on a bottle of scotch, you want to be sure you're making it count. Of course, this can be challenging if you don't have much experience with scotch and aren't entirely sure if you'll like what you purchase. Some bottles of scotch are quite expensive, after all, whether or not the price tag is justified. Conversely, just because a brand sells its scotch at a more accessible price doesn't mean it is inherently sub-par.

Since there are countless scotch brands to consider — with labels describing the aging process to flavor notes to alcohol content — it's best to know what you're looking for before heading out. We've compiled a list of well-known brands of scotch to help guide you while scanning a liquor store's shelves. After considering numerous factors, including taste, type, affordability, history, and more, here are 15 popular scotch brands to buy in 2024.

What to look for when buying scotch

Given the wide array of scotch brands on the market, it's helpful to understand this spirit category prior to purchase. For starters, there are six different types of scotch to choose from, including single malt and blended varieties. Scotch whisky varieties differ based on the grain (or grains) used, the precise distilling method, and how long it's aged (as well as the manner of aging). Many brands also use distinctive distilling techniques and ingredients, which, in turn, impacts a scotch whisky's flavor profile and intensity on both the nose and palate.

Furthermore, the region of Scotland where a scotch is produced reveals hints to its likely flavors and drinkability (and is also telling of its character). Scotch produced on Islay, for instance, is often peated — and is apt to taste quite smoky as a result. In this sense, whether you plan to drink the whisky by itself — either neat or on the rocks — or use it to mix cocktails should be considered when making your scotch selection, as well.

Beyond the type of scotch, the region it was produced, and its age statement, be sure to also consider your personal price range. The cost of scotch brands mentioned in this article range from under $30 for a 750-milliliter bottle, to several hundred (or several thousand) dollars for a similar-sized bottle.

15. Johnnie Walker

You don't have to be a scotch drinker to know Johnnie Walker. The brand's iconic logo has been one of the most recognizable symbols in the spirits industry for more than a century, and its iconic square-shaped bottles continue to stand out among competitors on store shelves. It's so prominent that you can find Johnnie Walker virtually anywhere from a high-end cocktail bar to inside an airplane.

All of the signature whiskies in the Johnnie Walker lineup are blended scotches — meaning they're made by mixing different types of whisky together. This has always been the plan for the brand since this method ensures a consistent product with every batch. Additionally, Johnnie Walker's variety of products are sold by color, with labels named Red, Black, Gold, and Blue (among others) to distinguish the age and blends.

Now, while the world-renowned Johnnie Walker Blue Label is undoubtedly an ultra-smooth, premium whisky, its high price tag isn't quite justifiable considering it's still a blended whisky. It belongs on this list, of course, given its immense popularity. Plus, its lower-priced Red Label and Black Label expressions are both straightforward and great for mixing. But all in all, Johnnie Walker remains an introductory scotch brand at its core, and ranks number 15 as a result.

14. Monkey Shoulder

Experienced scotch drinkers may argue that single malts reign supreme when compared to blended scotches (which should be reserved exclusively for mixing). However, many scotch fans prefer to enjoy the spirit when mixed with other ingredients, so blended varieties have a place in scotch drinking. With that in mind, no scotch may be better for making mixed drinks than Monkey Shoulder — which was actually created specifically for that purpose. 

Monkey Shoulder was founded in the early 2000s by William Grant & Sons – a longstanding producer in the scotch industry — and is a blended malt whisky made up exclusively of single malt scotches. Because of its absence of single grains, Monkey Shoulder has a well-rounded body that allows it to remain dominant when mixed into a cocktail. Its sweet honey notes and rich malt are cut by subtle smoke for a well-balanced, complex blended whisky fit for enjoying any way you like.

Monkey Shoulder's functionality, simplicity, and balance are accompanied by a very accessible price point. If you prefer scotch-based mixed drinks, Monkey Shoulder is a great choice for your home bar. It's not necessarily the best for drinking neat, though, nor is it better than the scotch brands ranked higher.

13. Glenmorangie

Glenmorangie is another scotch that's a great introduction to the spirit. The brand has a rich history belonging to the Highland region dating back to 1843, and its range of single-malts offers an approachable and pleasant way to ease into the category. And if you're wondering why the brand's mascot is a giraffe — an animal that's nowhere to be found in Scotland – it's because the distillery's stills are the same height as the animal. Hence, it became the brand's spirit animal.

The range of Glenmorangie whiskies starts with the Original 10-Year and progresses to an 18-Year expression. Each bottle of Glenmorangie will provide the light and soft texture and the fruity, citrus-forward flavor notes common in Highland scotch whiskies. Simply put, Glenmorangie makes classic-tasting Highland single malts.

Its straightforwardness and lack of complexity may be a tad boring to any scotch drinkers with experienced palates. But that simplicity is what makes Glenmorangie a great option for scotch beginners (or anyone who simply wants an all-time greatest hit). Even though we can't rank it higher than 13th, this remains a reliable and timeless brand of scotch that won't disappoint or break the bank.

12. Glenfiddich

Speaking of Highland single malts, none are more fundamental than Glenfiddich. Since Glenfiddich 12-Year was the world's best-selling single-malt scotch whisky in 2017, as well, it's quite clearly one of the most popular brands, too. Of course, the brand's signature 12-Year expression is just one of many bottles in its catalog, and there are four other bottles in its signature series alone. The brand also sells a Grand Series, an Experimental Series, the Travel Exclusive, and the Time Reimagined, which includes a whisky that's been aged for 50 years.

Glendiffich was founded in 1887 by William Grant, who built the distillery himself with his bare hands (and his children's assistance). Glenfiddich has been making scotch ever since — and has done so with its own private spring water source. This makes for a distinctly unique whisky that stands out as a prime example of what a patiently aged, Highland single malt should taste like. The price tags on its flagship bottles keep them accessible and fair. We may prefer the higher-ranked scotch brands, but with its classic profile and wide variety, you also can't go wrong with Glenfiddich.

11. The Glenlivet

The Glenlivet is another classic scotch whisky brand that you're likely to find at any place where spirits are sold. The Glenlivet is a Speyside scotch, which is a category defined by distilleries located on the River Spey. These whiskies share many characteristics with Highland scotches because of the similar geography, but Speyside scotches have a certain brine and delicateness that sets them apart.

Of all the Speyside scotches on the market, The Glenlivet 12-Year is one of the most famous. A primary example of this scotch category, the brand's flagship whisky is super smooth, effortless to drink, and a great introductory scotch for newcomers. Outside of its signature bottle, The Glenlivet also produces whiskies of varying ages and aging methods. Its Caribbean Reserve, for example, is aged inside ex-rum casks, which makes for a very unique take on the spirit that is even more fruity, spicy, and bright.

One of the best parts of The Glenlivet is its general affordability. The distillery has been making scotch since 1822 and remained one of the most popular scotches on the market since that time. It's an undeniably reliable option even if it misses our top 10.

10. Ardbeg

Ardbeg is the first scotch brand on this list from the isle of Islay — a region known for its rich peat and smoky character. Peated scotch isn't exclusive to the region, but it's fair to say Islay does it best.

First opened in 1815 by John Macdougall, Ardbeg is one of the oldest distilleries on the isle of Islay, and the brand's signature bottle has always been its 10-Year expression. Ardbeg prides itself on this particular bottle being one of the peatiest scotches on the market. Its character is bold and unwavering, which is favorable to some scotch drinkers. But it's undoubtedly forceful in comparison to other peated scotches.

Regardless, Ardbeg remains one of the most popular Islay scotches for a reason. Other bottles in the lineup include an 8-Year, a 19-Year, and a 25-Year, among others. Unfortunately, Ardbeg's scotches also tend to come with a high price point in contrast to similar brands and bottles, so it slots at number 10.

9. Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich is one of the younger brands of scotch on this list, only hitting the market in 2001. Another Islay scotch, it takes great pride in (and care of) the unique terrain and resources that contribute to its whisky. In fact, in 2020, Bruichladdich was granted a B-Corp certification – a standard only given to a handful of distilleries that represents a commitment to balancing profitable business with societal purpose.

Bruichladdich earned this certification by making its whisky mindfully and operating with environmental awareness. For example, Bruichladdich only uses barley grown organically on Islay and converted its entire operation to 100% green energy. Of course, the brand's whisky is nothing to overlook.

Though it's an Islay whisky, the brand's flagship bottle, The Classic Laddie, is actually unpeated. This unique Islay expression puts the isle's barley on full display instead of its peat. Other bottles in the Bruichladdich brand include an 8-Year unpeated whisky, as well as 10 and 11-Year expressions. All of the brand's signature whiskies are also 100-proof, so it's a fairly potent scotch brand — and more than worthy of a middle spot in our rankings.

8. The Singleton

The Singleton is another younger scotch brand on this list — though the distillery is as historic as they come. This brand's whiskies are made at the Glendullan distillery in Dufftown, an iconic location for making scotch. The distillery was opened in 1897 and at one point transported its casks of whisky through a private railway. Fast forward over a century, and the Singleton 12-Year was launched in 2006.

The history behind this brand shines through its whisky. The Singleton includes 12-Year, 15-Year, and 18-Year expressions and is one of the more affordable Speyside whiskies on the market. This may be the main reason this brand is so notable: You don't have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to try a whisky that's aged for 15 years. This luxury — for new scotch drinkers — would normally come at a much heftier cost, but not with The Singleton.

The Singleton is also a great scotch to use in cocktails and is one of the few non-blended scotches that actually encourage the practice. These whiskies are soft and citrus-forward with rounded notes of honey and toffee, making them a great base for mixed drinks as well as sipping neat. Consequently, we're slotting it right in the center of our list.

7. Laphroaig

There may be no peated scotch as iconic or popular as Laphroaig. The Laphroaig distillery dates back to 1815 and is seated on the coast of the isle of Islay. The distillery has access to its own private peat beds, too, so replicating this scotch is virtually impossible. The peat is briny, salty, and very robust, making for a brawny whisky that's pleasurable in its intensity.

The signature bottle of Laphroaig is its 10-Year expression. This affordable Islay scotch is a fundamental expression of the realm of peated whisky. The point where Laphroaig comes up short in comparison to its competitors is its lack of variety. Laphroaig 10-Year Single Malt is an industry titan, yes, but in order to enjoy other expressions by the brand, customers have only a very expensive 25-Year expression to consider.

There are special editions and limited releases (like the Cask Strength, and the annual Cáirdeas edition for its "Friends of Laphroaig" program), but a varied diversity is definitely lacking. However, the signature Laphroaig 10-Year remains one of the best Islay scotches on the market, and is enough to earn it a number seven ranking.

6. Talisker

This next scotch brand makes its whisky in a sort of in-between area of scotch regions. The Talisker Distillery is located on the coastline of the Isle of Skye, which is technically part of the Highlands, but its unique peat, barley, and seaside influence make it a perfect cross between the Highland and Islay. The Talisker catalog consists of its signature 10-Year, 11-Year, 15-Year, and 18-Year expressions, along with a variety of other special releases.

The distillery is the oldest on the Isle of Skye, and it has been producing excellent whisky since 1830. Its unique location makes it one of the most remote distilleries in Scotland, which translates to an equally unique whisky that morphs multiple classes into one.

Talisker is a great brand of scotch for those who like peated whisky but find Laphroaig 10-Year to be too bold for their liking. Talisker remains a Highland single-malt in that it's honey-rich and soft, but its subtle peat and mellowing smoke put it into a new category. Talisker, especially its 10-Year, is still an affordable scotch brand. Any one of its bottles is guaranteed to be distinct and exceptional, even if it just misses our top five.

5. Aberlour

Aberlour is another Speyside brand of scotch and offers a diverse catalog of single malt whiskies matured in different types of wood and for varied lengths. The brand's flagship bottle is its 12-Year Double Cask. This whisky is matured in both traditional oak casks and sherry-seasoned casks, which results in a classically soft and fruity Speyside scotch with hints of dry spice for extra layers of depth.

Aberlour also offers the same double cask maturation in 16 and 18-Year expressions, each with more character and complexity the older they are. The most popular bottle in the Aberlour lineup, however, may be its A'Bunadh, which is the Gaelic word for "original." This is the brand's cask strength expression, which is bottled at just over 60% ABV. This whisky packs quite the punch, but its expert maturation keeps it balanced, rich in flavor, and still silky smooth.

The A'Bundah was inspired by the original whiskies made by the brand's founder, James Fleming, who apparently thought of dilution as a deficiency. Of course, you can't go wrong with any of the Aberlour products, so it kicks off our top five. Its flagship bottle is available for a very fair price, as well, considering its double-cask, 12-year-long aging process.

4. Ledaig

This next scotch brand is one of the few (and best) that calls the Hebrides its home. Ledaig is made at the Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull, a distillery that was opened back in 1798 by John Sinclair. Initially, Sinclair was only granted a permit to open a brewery, but, lucky for us, he was eventually able to secure the distillery permit he set out for.

Despite the distillery's long history, Ledaig only hit the market in 2019, as the Tobermory Distillery was closed for decades following Prohibition in the U.S. and the Great Depression. After it was bought in the 1990s and renovated, it finally began distilling, maturing, and bottling its whisky once again. The Ledaig brand under the Tobermory distillery is its peated one, producing a core range that includes 10-Year, 18-Year, and its Rioja cask-finished Sinclair Series.

The peat in Ledaig is potent and robust, but this whisky remains very smooth and bright (with its Hebridean barley and malt shining through the dense smoke). These whiskies are super complex in both aroma and flavor and remain affordable options. For a distillery that is just getting back on track, its scotch really is something to behold. You can't go wrong with Ledaig (which is true of the top three scotch brands, as well).

3. Lagavulin

Lagavulin is one of the most iconic brands of scotch out there. Its close proximity and long-lasting rivalry with Laphroaig have pitted the two against one another to determine which Islay distillery stands on top. With its wider range of whiskies, super rich yet balanced peat, and cherished celebrity endorsement, Lagavulin does come out on top (and kicks off our top three scotch brands).

The Lagavulin Distillery was founded in 1816 by John Johnston right on the coastline of Islay. It reaped the benefits of miles of open peat beside it and access to the water running through the peat from the Solan Lochs — all of which contribute to Lagavulin's complex and timeless character.

The brand's most common and famous expression is its 16-Year, a bottle that may be a more expensive buy but one that's guaranteed to be the best that Islay has to offer. Other expressions include an 8-Year and the special edition 11-Year Offerman Edition, created in collaboration with actor Nick Offerman, who portrayed a Lagavulin-loving Ron Swanson on the sitcom "Parks and Recreation." Other limited releases have come and gone throughout the years, but what makes Lagavulin so great is that it sticks to what it does best: an iconic Islay scotch that will remain a leader in its category indefinitely.

2. The Balvenie

Coming in as the runner-up on this list is The Balvenie — a brand of scotch with a vast catalog of whisky driven by the unique wood that matures it. The Balvenie is a Highland brand that's proud to have made its whisky the same way for more than a century. The distillery still employs its own coopers for barrel making as well as grows and malts its very own barley.

What really sets The Balvenie apart, however, is its emphasis and experimentation with wood. One of its flagship bottles is the 12-Year Double Wood, a whisky that's aged in ex-bourbon casks before being finished in Oloroso Sherry casks from Spain for an additional nine months. This practice of wood-finishing was actually pioneered by The Balvenie's former malt master, David Stewart.

The Balvenie catalog includes many other bottles, including the 21-Year Portwood edition, and a 16-Year French Oak. Of all of The Balvenie's sought-after bottles, however, it's the 14-Year Carribean Cask may be the most esteemed. This whisky is rum-cask-finished to intensify the fruity notes, which are held in check by a proof of 86. This is one of the very best scotch whiskies money can buy, and it is often available for less than $100.

1. The Macallan

The number one spot on the list goes to a brand of scotch that simply symbolizes excellence. The Macallan was founded in 1824 in the Highlands — close to the River Spey — and its distillery sits on a 485-acre property. The scenery surrounding this operation is a reflection of how spectacular the whisky is. The Macallan markets itself as a Highland single malt, but its close proximity to the River Spey results in a harmonious fusion between the two categories.

The two flagship bottles of The Macallan brand are the Double Oak and Sherry Oak, both of which come in 12-Year, 18-Year, and 30-Year expressions. Another popular bottle is the Triple Cask Matured, which is aged in both European and American ex-sherry casks and ex-bourbon casks for an intensely diverse flavor profile. There are plenty of other luxury bottles available from the Macallan, too, including the M Collection, Rare Cask, and Estate series.

In addition to its Highland malt and barley, what makes whiskies by The Macallan great is attention to wood. The distillery even employs its own master of wood. This position oversees and ensures the utmost quality in the selection, seasoning, toasting, and filling processes that start in North America and Spain and end in Scotland. The character that comes through these casks can only be found at The Macallan, which is what makes it so renowned, celebrated, and the best scotch brand to buy in 2024.

Methodology

We based our rankings of scotch brands based on a variety of factors. This includes the type of scotch produced by each brand, the variety of expressions and bottles offered, the cost for a brand's various expressions, its overall popularity in terms of sales and general availability, as well as the brand's history.

We relied almost exclusively on our own first-hand experiences with tasting and simply each scotch brand when assembling this list and the rankings order. The rankings and recommendations are reflective of the author's personal opinions and preferences when it comes to scotch whisky brands.