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7 Best Scotch Whiskies for Scotch & Soda

Discover the 7 Best Scotch Whiskies for a Scotch & Soda Cocktails that you can buy today!

This roundup only considers affordable and widely available whiskies as there is no reason to spend top-dollar in a Scotch to make cocktails.

Smokehead Islay Single Malt

smokehead-islay-single-malt
NoseSmoke, orange, caramel
PalateSmoke, honey, rubber, charcoal, mineral
FinishShort to medium, smoke, pepper, caramel
Alcohol content86 proof (43% ABV)
How to drinkCocktails
Similar toArdbeg 10, Laphroaig 10
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The nose kicks-off with smoke up-front but as you let it breathe it gives way to hints of orange and caramel.

On the palate, Smokehead feels a bit thin lacking in texture. Flavor is moderately smoky at first, followed by honey sweetness, along a note of burnt rubber, charcoal and just a bit of the mineral note of Islay whiskies.

The finish has a medium length, with more faint smoke to it, along some barrel spice and a touch of caramel.

Islay (pronounced “ai-luh”) is a little island west of Scotland in which most of its population is involved in whisky production as it’s home of brands such as Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, among others.

Islay Whisky is famous for fiery, heavily smoky single malts better suited for well-traveled aficionados.

Smokehead is neither fiery nor heavily smoked.

This is a sweet whisky, restrained on the smoke and attractively priced making a good option for those who are curious about this type of whisky and as a Scotch for smoky cocktails

Johnnie Walker Double Black

double-black
NoseSmoke, vanilla, tar, barbecue sauce, citrus, malt
PalateCharred oak, peat, caramel, vanilla, salted butter
FinishCharred, oak, peat, vanilla, citrus
Alcohol content80 proof (40% ABV)
How to drinkRocks, Cocktails
Similar toGold Label, Black Label

The Double Black is the smokiest Johnnie Walker label.

A good option for those who have already tasted the Black Label and are willing to step it up a bit with a smokier and more tasty pour with some notes uncommon to Scotch Whisky.

This is a whisky that demands a certain degree of expertise to fully appreciate as the heavy smoky notes might overwhelm an inexperienced drinker.

The Double Black is a pleasing whisky that will be welcomed by aficionados fond of smoke and oak char.

Nose delivers smoke up-front, as you let it breathe vanilla, orange and malty aromas pop-up. There is also something that smells like tat and BBQ sauce.

On the palate, the Double Black has a good creamy body. This whisky delivers a blast of charred oak and peat up-front.

Once you get through the first layer of charred oak and peat there is a reward of caramel sweetness, along vanilla and salted butter.

The finish is long and somewhat warm, but not harsh. With more peat and charred oak to it and a tad of vanilla and orange zest.

Dewar’s

dewars-white-label
NoseApple, peach, oak
PalateHoney, cereal, vanilla, smoke, oak
FinishCaramel, vanilla, oak spice
Alcohol content80 proof (40% ABV)
How to drinkRocks, cocktails
Similar toCutty Sark, Red Label

Scotch whisky at this price level tend to be harsh and taste like nail polish but the Dewar’s White Label is surprisingly smooth, sweet and mellow.

This is one of the best Scotch Whiskies to make cocktails, in particular highballs or Rob Roys.

The nose is subtle and pleasant bringing notes of apple, peach, a bit of barley and oak.

On the palate, the Dewar’s White Label is super smooth and sweet, with notes of honey and caramel at first, followed by vanilla, toasted barley, a bit of smoke and just a tad of oak.

The finish is short-lived, with very little to no warmth, leaving an aftertaste of caramel, vanilla and oak spice.

Dewar’s is a surprisingly smooth and sweet dram. “surprisingly” because whiskies at this price range tend to be not that good, TBH.

Now you know why Dewar’s is so popular in the United States where it is frequently used as a mixer to make cocktails.

If you want to improve the Dewar’s add a few drops of water and let rich floral notes emerge and make this whisky more enjoyable.

Monkey Shoulder

monkey-shoulder
NoseMarmalade, vanilla, baking spice
PalateMalt, vanilla, orange, honey, oak
FinishShort, caramel, oak spice
Alcohol content80 proof (40% ABV)
How to drinkCocktails
Similar toAberfeldy, Copper Dog

The nose brings a marmalade aroma, with hints of vanilla, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.

On the palate, the Monkey Shoulder feels smooth and creamy with very little heat on the first sip. Hints of vanilla, orange and honey pop-up, followed by a bit of oak spice bitterness.

The finish is short, with a tad of caramel and more oak spice bitterness to it.

The Monkey Shoulder becomes better when adding a drop of water as it becomes sweeter, while subduing the oak spice note.

Monkey Shoulder is an easy whiskey, good choice for those new to whisky looking for something approachable and affordable and makes one of the best Whiskies for beginners.

Where this whisky shines is in cocktails as its flavor profiles mixes incredibly well in any cocktail.

Famous Grouse

famous-grouse
NoseApple, caramel, barley
PalateCaramel, citrus, honey, smoke
FinishMalt, citrus
Alcohol content80 proof (40% ABV)
How to drinkAdd water
Similar toDewar’s, Jameson

The Famous Grouse has been the best-selling whisky in Scotland since 1980.

It is superior to most Scotch blends in this price range. A simple whisky but it is smooth and lacks the overpowering bitterness that is found in other budget blends.

Nose is faint, with subtle notes of apple, caramel and barley.

On the palate, the Famous Grouse provides caramel sweetness up-front, with notes of honey and sherry, followed by a hint of orange.

It has a mineral note and a tiny tad of smoke bringing balance to the sweetness.

The finish is short-lived, leaving a malty aftertaste behind, with a bit of oak spice, orange and caramel.

Nothing spectacular or remarkable, yet nothing bad about it. Just a serviceable whisky that drinks nicely with a dash of water as the Scots been drinking whisky for the ages.

This an affordable whisky making an easy everyday drinker with no challenging notes. Now you know why is it so popular in Scotland.

The Famous Grouse is widely improved when adding a dash of water. Just a few drops of water break the dram allowing rich floral notes to emerge whilst tuning-down alcoholic notes.

Chivas Regal 12

chivas-regal-12
NoseApple, vanilla, lemon curd
PalateApple, malt, oak, caramel, pepper
FinishShort, pepper
Alcohol content80 proof (40% ABV)
How to drinkHighball
Similar toJack Daniel’s, Jameson, Chivas 18

The nose is full of apple juice aroma, along notes of vanilla and lemon curd.

On the palate Chivas Regal is quite light with not much body, it has oak notes with a touch of caramel and hints of green apple, cinnamon and black pepper.

Finish is short and light with peppery notes and a bit of heat to it, but not harsh.

Nothing special or remarkable about the Chivas 12 but nothing terrible.

I would not drink it neat as I feel it somewhat peppery and bitter but it makes a decent dram to mix with soda making an enjoyable highball.

The taste is not bright, but everything that is needed from a Scotch whisky is present and its price makes it appealing.

Not the easiest whisky but when mixed with soda it becomes quite competent.

Kirkland 12 Year Blended Scotch

kirkland-blended-scotch-whisky
NoseOak, fruit, vanilla
PalateSmoke, vanilla, citrus
FinishPepper, oak
Alcohol content80 proof (40% ABV)
How to drinkCocktails
Similar toKirkland Bourbon

This is something you can only buy in Costco but its well worth giving a shot as it has a decent taste and is super affordable.

This whisky is a blend of single malt and grain whiskies aged for a minimum of 12 years.

The Kirkland blended Scotch is an alternative to the Johnnie Walker Black Label as it has some of its notes.

The nose brings oak at first, followed by a fruity note and a touch of vanilla.

On the palate, it feels somewhat thin lacking in body. It hits with gentle smoke up-front, followed by vanilla, a tad of orange zest and a subtle peppery note.

The finish is sort, it becomes a bit peppery and bitter but with very little warmth to it.

Definitely not a sipping whisky as it lets you down on the finish but quite competent when looking for a Scotch to make cocktails.

Best Whiskies for Scotch & Soda: Buying Guide

Prices are approximate and stated in USD:

ScotchPriceProof
Smokehead Islay Single Malt$5686
Johnnie Walker Double Black$4980
Dewar’s$2980
Monkey Shoulder$3780
Famous Grouse$2480
Chivas Regal 12$3780
Kirkland 12 Year Blended Scotch$27*80
*offered in a 1.75ml bottle

Scotch & Soda: Recipe

Foolproof recipe that requires no skill at mixology:

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces of Scotch Whisky
  • Club soda
  • Garnish: lemon twist (only if you want it to look good)

Preparation method

  1. Add the Scotch Whisky to a highball glass topped with ice.
  2. Fill with club soda and stir briefly to combine.
  3. Garnish with an optional lemon twist.