Warm Weather Scotch
Before there was such an incredible diversity of spirits in the retail world—before you were expected to have multiple expressions of mezcal from both cultivated and wild agave piñas—there was such a thing as diversity of Scotch. Much like with beer, you used to see drinkers choose between a light and easy dram (a pilsner), a refreshing Lowland (a lager), and maybe a sherried Speyside (a stout). Today, however, when I go to the bar I can often choose only between an IPA, a double IPA, or a triple IPA, with a barrel-aged sour tacked on the menu just for credibility's sake. In the same fashion, the Scotch world has been whittled down to either cask strength sherry bombs or ultra-peated Islays. Does anyone still drink Auchentoshan? Anyone for a dram of Dalwhinnie? Anyone?
Of course, beer drinkers and whisky makers are simply responding to the market and right now the market wants IPAs and sherry bombs. That being said, the market is (in my opinion) being utterly dominated by people who don't really drink, or drink only to affect some sort of knowledgeable booze guru personality on to the rest of us. Those of us who do like to drink beer (as in have three or four pints after work, not spend five hours sipping a 15% ABV triple stout aged with blackberries and mistletoe), usually have to struggle to find something fun to drink that fits the mood of the season.
The wine world doesn't have this problem. While some folks drink cabernet year round, the large majority of bars, restaurants, and retailers will pour heavy amounts of rosé and white during summer and switch over to the heartier cuvées come fall and winter. Whisky drinkers, however (at least in America), haven't quite learned how to adapt (hey, it took Agassi a few years before he finally donned the Wimbledon whites). Heavy peat and supple sherry is for September through February. Come March, you switch over to the lighter malts.
Seeing that we're in July, I thought I'd offer you a true summer whisky, one that brings vivacious fruit and sensational sweetness while still adhering to all the cool, geeky things we love about single malt. Most people still picture sherry matured malts when they think of the Speyside district (formerly known as Glenlivet until that got too confusing), but the region's bread and butter is still the soft, fruity, charming, malt-driven style you'll find inside this bottle of Auchroisk 15 year old. Part of the Johnnie Walker empire, we occasionally see Auchroisk here in the states as a Diageo limited edition release, but rarely as a consistently-bottled single malt expression. This particular specimen is like a fresh blast of summer with a huge dose of peaches and apricots on the nose that continue to emanate from the bottle once it's been opened. The palate is seductively sweet, but also light on its feet, with flavors of stonefruit, maple syrup, and bit of compote on the finish, before it turns malty once again and beckons another taste. Bottled at 54.5%, you'd never know this whisky was running at full proof. It's as relaxing and airy as a summer breeze, making this the perfect dram for your backyard barbeques and July campfire evenings. Sixty bucks for 15 year old, cask strength single malt? The summer deals continue!