So today I'm sharing my whisky bar. Perhaps you're a whisky drinker looking for a new bottle to try. Maybe you're not a whisky drinker yet, but you're interested (and a wee bit nervous) to try it out. Maybe you'll never be a whisky drinker, but need a gift for someone who is.
I lay no claims to having the definitive whisky bar. In fact, I'm not even saying that the bottles I'm sharing today are my all-time favorites (although they're all pretty darn great). This is just, quite literally, what's in my bar at the moment.
So without further ado, I present a laywoman's whisky bar.
Edward and I are Islay drinkers and that's that. And what, pray tell, is an Islay Scotch? It's a Scotch made in Islay, which is an island off the west coast of Scotland. Islays tend to be quite peaty, which results in the smokiness that I love. If you've been liking the mezcal that's popping up on cocktail menus everywhere, or if you find bourbons too sweet for your taste, you might want to check out Islay. Needless to say, all the Scotches I'm sharing today hail from Islay.
First up is possibly the most recognizable Islay Scotch: Laphroaig. This is the first Scotch I ever tried, and I blame it both for my love of Islays and my disinterest in any other type of Scotch. You'll see Laphroaig on many cocktail lists, making it an easy introductory Scotch.
Once you've developed a taste for peat, you'll want to try the super-smoky Ardbeg. Last year I drove about 45 minutes outside of Richmond to snag the limited-edition Ardbeg Ardbog, which matures in sherry casks and has a ridiculously tasty rich, peaty flavor.
The fun thing about writing a blog with Scotch in the title is that friends suddenly want to share their favorite Scotches with you. I met some friends for dinner in New York earlier this fall, and one had the brilliant suggestion to go to a nearby whisky bar after dinner. The bartender suggested Kilchomen, and I'm sure glad she did. It's got the peatiness you expect from an Islay, but with a sweetness that reminds me a bit of bourbon. Fitting, since it's aged in bourbon casks.
You know what I'm going to say. Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye is my jam. It's sweet and rich and warms you to your core.
The Kopper Kettle Virginia Whiskey is a relative newcomer to our bar. It's sweet and tasty and mellower than many of the boozes I've listed above. And not sure about that whiskey/ whisky spelling? If it's Scottish, it's whisky. If it's American, it's whiskey. And if, like my bar, it's a combination? Dealer's choice, I guess.
Now that you've got your bottle, it's time to drink up. My favorite way to drink Scotch is neat, with just a splash of water. Water opens the Scotch up a bit, and allows more of the flavors to shine. I'm not a fan of ice in my Scotch. I won't judge you if that's your thing, but without ice is my thing. (You know how butter is always better warm than cold? Yeah.) Even if you have no interest in drinking yours neat, I recommend trying a taste that way, just to get a sense of what you like. Many bartenders are happy to pour you a small taste of something if you aren't sure.
And say you prefer a cocktail? Cool. Whiskies make for nice, low maintenance cocktails because most of the classics call for some combination of sugar, bitters, vermouth, and a citrus peel. These are all easy, inexpensive things to keep around. If you want to take it up a notch, try adding a flavored (naturally flavored, please) syrup or sugar. I shared a recipe for pomegrante syrup last week, but I also love brown sugar syrup (it's seriously good) and bitters sugar cubes as replacements for sugar in whiskey cocktails.
And of course, I've got plenty of whisky and whiskey cocktails for you right here. You can scroll to the bottom for a bit of inspiration.
P.S. It's come to my attention that some comments you're leaving are disappearing from the blog. I don't know why that is, but I promise I haven't started marking you as spam or anything. I'm working on getting it fixed, but in the meantime know that I always appreciate what you have to say! Apologies for the technical difficulties.