Famous for its layered flavor profile — often featuring a smokey funk described as “peaty” — and the signature “bite” that accompanies its finish, Scottish whisky (commonly known as “Scotch”) possesses powerful warming properties that make it a popular choice for brown liquor enthusiasts during the colder seasons. However, there’s no reason to abandon your Scotch preference in the summertime, especially because numerous distilleries make versions with a lighter texture and a more delicate presence, which taste wonderful when served neat in a chilled glass, poured over ice, or even when incorporated into a summery cocktail. These nine bartender-approved “summer Scotches” all serve as prime examples.
Glenfiddich 12 Year Single Malt
The flavor particulars of Scotch rely heavily on individual palates; some drinkers consider blended whiskies gentler and softer-edged than their single malt equivalents, while others detect an appealing natural sweetness in single malt Scotches. Beverage manager Grace Skarra of Harrah’s Resort Southern California falls into the latter category, telling us that “personally, if I am looking for a ‘summertime Scotch,’ I am going to lean towards a single malt Scotch. Glenfiddich 12 Year is a great one to drink. Single malt Scotches tend to be sweeter and lighter, and they help bring out the citrus side in a summertime cocktail.”
Bruichladdich “The Classic Laddie”
Single malt Scotches from the island of Islay tend to feature bold flavors of smoke and peat, but that doesn’t prohibit them from providing a light and easy drinking experience. Jeff Josenhans, the director of food & beverage at Garibaldi in San Diego, recommends Bruichladdich “The Classic Laddie” to Islay single malt fans looking for a Scotch to sip on a hot summer night: “My Scotch choice for summertime would be Bruichladdich ‘Classic Laddie.’ While this is an Islay single malt, it is fresh, crisp, and approachable enough for both warm weather sipping and for cocktails. It retains the complexity a whisky drinker would expect from a single malt, but it’s subtle enough in its floral character to allow for ample playroom behind the bar or for sunny afternoon sipping on its own.”
Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask
If you associate “summer drinking” with tropical-influenced, rum-based cocktails, then you’ll be interested to learn about this single malt Scotch from Balvenie, which can easily fit into that theme. “I love Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask. It has flavors of rum, honey, spices, and oak. Since it was aged in rum casks, it can act like rum [in] a mojito or a daiquiri,” explains lead bartender Ellen Talbot of Fable Lounge in Nashville.
Old Pulteney 12 Year
Old Pulteney hails from the Highlands region of Scotland, and these single malts famously feature citrus notes and clear hints of sweetness. When describing Old Pulteney 12 Year, assistant director of food & beverage Alex Pendergrass of Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island says that “this Highlands sipper is great in the heat, having a wonderful dominant note of honey that adds to the rich mouthfeel. Some orange zest and a bit of coffee on the nose also make this an ideal candidate for a highball. I always get a touch of brine on the finish, especially while enjoying over ice. There’s a reason that this label is referred to as the ‘Maritime Malt.’”
Dalwhinnie 15 Year
When it comes to drinking Scotch in the summertime, beverage director Gail Westmoreland of Serea Coastal Cuisine in San Diego splits her preferences into two categories: daytime summer Scotches and evening summer Scotches. In the first category, Westmoreland consistently chooses “Dalwhinnie 15 Year [Single Malt] with one giant, melty ice cube. With this [Scotch], you’ll get refreshing hints of fruit salad on the nose, creating a pairing fit for a light lunch.”
Talisker 10 Year
For nighttime carousing in balmy weather, Westmoreland goes with a different single malt: “A smoky, peaty Scotch such as Talisker 10 Year would be the best fit to elevate a summer sunset beach bonfire. The finish on this scotch almost mimics s’mores — the quintessential bonfire treat.”
Compass Box “Asyla”
Compass Box isn’t a venerable heritage Scotch house, since its first whisky release happened only 20 years ago. However, this distillery claims an ardent fanbase among professional bartenders, who gravitate to Compass Box’s unique and well-rounded spirit portfolio. For summer imbibing, Anthony Caporale, the director of spirits education at the Institute of Culinary Education, opts for Asyla, a limited-edition blended whisky. “My go-to light-bodied Scotch is Asyla by Compass Box. Since it’s a blended whisky as opposed to a single malt, only half the grain base is barley and the rest [consists of] grains like wheat, corn, and rye that give it a softer character. It also has a lot of contact with new American oak barrels that contribute sweetness and vanilla notes, which are perfectly complemented by a cube or two of ice to open them up on a hot summer afternoon!” Caporale tells us.
Compass Box “Hedonism”
Another Compass Box devotee, Spirits Director & Head Bartender Jordan David Smith of HALL by ODO in NYC chooses the brand’s flagship whisky, Hedonism, for warm-weather enjoyment: “[Hedonism is] light and relatively soft, with notes of lime zest, vanilla, and white peppercorn. Overall, it strikes a wonderful balance between citrus and spice, the finish is elegantly clean, and it’s sufficiently complex for use in cocktails. I consider it the perfect summer Scotch. Hedonism is a blended grain Scotch that doesn’t contain any malt, which is unique, but considering Compass Box’s history of boundary pushing and experimentation, is unsurprising.”
Harleston Green Blended Scotch
For a blended Scotch with plenty of summer-appropriate flavors and the ability to blend easily into a cocktail, look no further than Harleston Green Blended Scotch. According to beverage director Rob Long of Emilie’s in Washington, D.C., “Harleston Green is a blend from most of Scotland’s famous Scotch producing regions, including the Highlands, Speyside, the Lowlands, and Campbeltown. With all the unique regions combined together, it creates a mellow yet complex Scotch that makes for an enjoyable summer sip. Served neat, the light peatiness and reviving notes of vanilla, sweet spice, and citrus make the long summer afternoons easier. If you’re feeling adventurous, add this blended Scotch in a smokey cocktail.”
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