“Blended scotch” means a blend of one or more malt whiskeys with one or more grain whiskeys, and it is scotch of this type that dominates on the shelves of bars and liquor stores everywhere. Even some of the entries on the top shelf are blended scotch, rather than vatted malt or single malt, and this type of whiskey constitutes 9/10s of all the whiskey made in Scotland. At the end of the day, the numbers don’t lie, and no matter how much attention aged single malts get, blended scotch is the heart and soul of the Scottish whiskey-making tradition.
Keeping that in mind, in this article The Whiskey Reviewer looks at the five best blended scotches on the market. These are all entry-level and fairly ordinary choices, comprising the basics of reasonably priced scotch. We will tackle more rarefied blends, such as 12 Year Olds, in the future. For right now, we are focusing on the bottom of the ladder, the basic stuff that usually costs $20 or less on an American store shelf.
While this Top 5 list of the best blended scotch whiskeys links to our reviews where appropriate, it is not based on them. Instead, this ranking is a synthesis of the opinions of our current contributing writers, some potential future contributing writers, and you, our readers. If you wish to voice your opinion on future “Best Of” articles, please join our Facebook group.
The Top 5 Blended Scotches
1. The Famous Grouse: The scotch with the little game bird on the label was the consensus choice for the title of “Best Blended Scotch.” Our contributors liked it, many of our readers gave it high marks, and it also came out with the best rating of all the whiskeys considered (albeit only by a hair). It’s crisp, woody, and comes with a little spice and smoke.
2. Ballantine’s: Placements for the #2 and #3 slots on this list were very close. In-house, The Whiskey Reviewer staff was divided on whether Ballantine’s was better than Grant’s, and it was ultimately reader feedback that put the scotch on top, but only just. The only reason the two weren’t tied is because announcing a tie for second place in a Top 5 is a cowardly thing to do. Ballantine’s is a mellow scotch, with a sweet flavor underlined by musty peat.
3. Grant’s Family Reserve: As previously mentioned, Grant’s was a strong contender for the #2 slot. Even in the #3 slot, Grant’s has virtues that make it an ideal choice for newcomers to whiskey. The scotch has a clear, sweet and somewhat fruity flavor, with just a mild touch of peat and smoke.
4. Johnnie Walker Red: Johnnie Walker Red’s #4 rating is solid proof of what ubiquity can do for you. When The Whiskey Reviewer’s staff discussed basic blended scotch, this was the only one that everyone concerned was familiar with. Some like it with ice, some like it with water, and some use it only as a mixer, but Johnnie Red is everywhere, and that’s why it is #4.
5. Teacher’s Highland Cream: The Whiskey Reviewer had not taken a formal look at Teacher’s, but that doesn’t mean we were altogether unfamiliar with it. What really got it placed in the Top 5 (albeit at the bottom) was reader feedback. Simply put, of the 13 blended scotches we considered, seven lacked fans that were enthusiastic enough to rave about their favorite, entry-level, affordable spirit. Teacher’s was not among the unloved, and we took note of that.
Whiskeys considered, but not ranked in the Top 5: Bell’s, Cutty Sark, Dewar’s White Label, J&B Rare, VAT 69, William Lawson’s.