Five Scotch Whiskies Under £50: Part 3 The Highlands

by Matt Chambers
at Whisky for Everyone

Welcome to part three

of the ongoing series about Scotch whiskies under £50. This price point is where most distilleries and brands have their first bottling or two in the core range. And where they sell the most.

Within the series we will look at some of the best value for money Scotch whiskies from the six different whisky making regions of Scotland.

This time we take a trip to the Highlands.


Region history

The Highlands is a vast area and Scotland’s largest whisky producing region. It covers a multitude of environments and terrains from rugged mountains to sweeping glens and exposed coastlines to tranquil lochs. Over 40 of the 140+ single malt distilleries call the Highlands home.

The whiskies are traditionally known for their robust, malty, and fruity style. However, given the diversity of the landscape and remote locations of some of the distilleries, you can find other styles also. These range from light and elegant from somewhere such as Glenmorangie, to soft and sweet at Dalwhinnie, to bold and rich at Glendronach, to lightly peated at Ardmore.

AnCnoc | Peated Sherry Cask Edition

AnCnoc (pronounced a-knock) is a single malt from the Aberdeenshire distillery of Knockdhu. This name was given to avoid confusion with Knockando in Speyside. Knockdhu translates as ‘black hill’ from the local Gaelic and is one of a handful of Highland distilleries to produce smoky whisky for a short period each year.

For this they use local Aberdeenshire peat. This is different to peat on Islay and the Western Isles and burns with a softer, sweeter, and gentler style of smoke. For this whisky initial maturation was in ex-bourbon barrels before a finishing period in ex-sherry casks from Jerez, Spain. Expect heather, damp earth and honeyed notes married with milk chocolate, dried fruits and dying bonfire embers.

Cost = £45

Fettercairn | 12 years old

Nestled in the rolling hills of east Highlands, close to the village of Fettercairn, you will find the distillery of the same name. This workhorse distillery has been there since 1824. But in the last decade it has really started gaining plaudits for its robust, fruity single malts. Prior to that it fed several blended Scotch whiskies, as many other distilleries do.

The 12 years old is the entry point into a compact core range and is a big, bold single malt whisky. Maturation in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels has created a splendid combination of aroma and flavour. Think of malted bread, oat biscuits and warming gingerbread-like spice laced with tropical fruit (especially ripe pineapple and mango), caramel sauce and a hint of mocha.

Cost = £49

Nc’ nean | Organic

One of the current darlings of the Scotch whisky scene, and it is easy to see why. Nc’ nean and their organic single malts have taken the world by storm since their inaugural release in 2020. A year later they became the first certified net zero whisky distillery in the UK and are now also certified B-Corp for their environmental and social standards.

The Organic is Nc’ nean’s only core product to date and features 100% organic locally sourced barley. It has been matured in ex-bourbon and ex-red wine STR casks (STR = shaved, toasted, and re-charred). This is a fresh, vibrant and youthful single malt with delicious notes of green apple, white chocolate and butterscotch mingling with hints of tropical fruit, lemon zest and oaky vanilla.

Cost = £49

Old Pulteney | 12 years old

Up in the far north of the Highlands is the fishing port of Wick and its one distillery – Old Pulteney. It remains as one of only two distilleries in Scotland to be named after a person – Sir William Pulteney in this case. Glen Grant in Speyside is the other if you were wondering. The 12 years old is the cornerstone of Old Pulteney’s award-winning range of single malts.

Old Pulteney is often described as being a coastal or maritime malt. What does that mean? Well, many say they can taste the saltiness within the whisky, which is not surprising given the distillery’s proximity to Wick harbour. The 12 years old has been matured solely in ex-bourbon barrels. Expect notes of vanilla, honey and salted butterscotch with uplifting lemon zest and earthy malt biscuits sitting in the background.

Cost = £38

Tomatin | 12 years old

A short drive south of Inverness and into the foothills of the Cairngorm mountains takes you to the lovely distillery of Tomatin. Founded in 1897, Tomatin makes a wonderfully fruity style of single malt and boasts an ownership not afraid to experiment with unorthodox cask types. They also produce the peated Cù Bòcan whisky at the distillery.

This delicious 12 years old, like the Old Pulteney before, offers superb value for money. Especially when considering that most 12-year-old Scotch single malts are now around the £50 mark. A combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks gives notes of vanilla, toffee, and dark dried fruits. These marry well with further notes of stewed green apple, crumbly brown sugar, and a hint of candied orange peel.

Cost = £40


Download our investment guide


Download our