With the days getting shorter, and chilly winds beginning to blow, now’s the perfect time to cozy up at home with a glass of something warming. Just as we’re putting away our summer clothes and pulling out the woolens and fleeces, we’re moving away from gin and tonics, margaritas, and daiquiris over to something a with a little more heat.
Autumn marks the beginning of whisky season, and with the whiff of fallen leaves and wood smoke in the air, the distinctive, smoky flavors of single malts from the Scottish islands of Islay and Skye feel like just the right choice.
If you’re a fan of Lapsang Souchong and Earl Grey tea, chances are you’ll also love these whiskies. While not for all tastes, single malts from Islay and Skye are smoky and sometimes briny, peppery, or spicy, reminiscent of sea air, peat fires, and moist earth.
And although a bottle of a single malt such as these can be pricey (10-year-olds begin at the $40-range, with some running into the triple digits), like dark chocolate or a strongly flavored cheese, a little goes a long way. Best taken neat (no ice, please!) with an optional drop or two of added water to buffer any alcoholic burn, these whiskies are meant to be savored slowly at room temperature.
A quiet and contemplative choice of drink, they're perfect to sip during a long conversation with a friend, or while curled up with a good book or watching a favorite movie at home. A single ounce for a single sitting (for me, anyway) is usually just right.
Islay (“Eye-lah”) Single Malts
Islay is one of the most famous of the classic whisky regions in Scotland. Single malts from this tiny but prolific island are known for their distinctive smoky, peaty, seaweedy, iodiny qualities. Here are a few I've sampled:
Ardbeg: strong smokiness
Bowmore: peaty, sweet smokiness
Bruichladdich (“brewk-laddie”): mild smokiness
Lagavulin (“lagga-voo-lin”): mellow smokiness
Laphroaig (“la-froyg”): strong smokiness
And the Only Single Malt Whisky from the Isle of Skye:
Talisker (“tal-is-kur”): smoky, peppery spiciness
What do you like to drink this time of year?
Related: The Trouble With Irish Whiskey (and James Joyce Cocktails)
(Images: Nora Maynard)