Here at Uproxx, we love Scotch. From the peat-smoked whiskies of Islay to the robust expressions from Speyside to the Orkney Islands. We especially love its warming effects during the chilly (and sometimes downright freezing) winter months. We’ll drink it neat in a Glencairn glass, with a single ice cube, or in cocktail like a Penicillin. Anything to cut the cold.
Stefan Seecharran, head bartender at Brasserie Saint Marc in New York City, agrees with our sentiment, saying he prefers his Scotch smoky.
“Laphroaig for me please,” he says. “After the initial peaty and smokiness; it’s the campfire feel that draws me to grab this from the bar cart for that instant warmth mid-winter.”
Of course, other bartenders have their own preferred brands. So we asked some of our favorites to tell us their go-to Scotch whiskies to imbibe during this snowy, sunless month.
Ardbeg Drum Special Committee Cask
Kala Brooks, curator at Top of the Monk in Asheville, North Carolina
Ardbeg Drum Special Committee Cask. This expression is matured in bourbon barrels and then treated to a finish in casks that previously held rum, giving is a delicate complexity and loads of spices. The Special Committee Cask is released at 52% ABV, so it definitely has the heat to keep you warm.
Ardbeg 19 Traigh Bhan
Amanda Swanson, head bartender at Fine & Rare in New York City
I have never been a fan of peated whisky, but I recently found one that blew me away. Ardbeg 19 Traigh Bhan is just gorgeous. I was afraid that with the PPMs of an Ardbeg it would be something that would be too polarizing for my palate that usually craves unpeated sherry-bombs, but there’s something in the balance with this particular expression that I adore. The blend of American Oak and Oloroso Sherry casks, with an impressive age-statement all make for a decadent sipper.
Tropical fruits, rich chocolate, and silky smoke make this a perfect, albeit luxurious, winter dram.
Talisker Port Ruighe
Darren Foy, head bartender at Flatiron Room in New York City
Talisker Port Ruighe. I’ve always been a huge fan of Talisker, with its salty sea spray backbone and full-bodied bite. This beauty is finished in ruby port casks, giving it a sumptuous stewed fruit flavor that marries beautifully with the maritime tones of Skye’s single malt.
Balvenie 15 Year
Paul Taylor, beverage manager at Columbia Room in Washington, DC
Balvenie 15 Year. Sherry Wood. Sherry and Sherry finished Scotch forever and always. I love the robust oxidized flavor of this Scotch finished in ex-oloroso sherry butts. Honey, heather, salted, and caramelized popcorn make this a fantastic wintertime dram.
Compass Box Spice Tree
Dean Hurst, mixologist at Berns Steakhouse in Tampa Bay, Florida
Compass Box is always top of mind for everyday drinking. Spice Tree is my go-to for wintertime when you want something warming and smooth. You think about just how good it is or simply enjoy it.
Benromach 10 Year
Rob Guimaraes, manager at Etch in Nashville
Benromach 10 year Speyside Single Malt. A stellar under-the-radar bottling that balances dried stone fruits with peat smoke and a nicely-selected ratio of predominantly bourbon cask to sherry cask aging. Ridiculously undervalued and bottled at a solid 43% ABV, this is a wonderful symphony of flavor for most any Scotch lover.
Glendronach 15 Year Revival
Natasha DeHart, founder and master blender of BENDT Distilling Company in Lewisville, Texas
My go-to Scotch is Glendronach 15 year Revival. After traveling around Scotland in search of our favorite Scotch, Glendronach just won us over. Everything about it was quiet and remote and the whiskey is fantastic. Aged in sherry casks, slightly peaty and a little sweet — just delicious. We do have one extra special bottle of cask strength Glendronach that we brought back with us and open once every year for an anniversary dram, but that bottle is kept well hidden.
Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask
Sarah Briggs, beverage director at Renata in Portland, Oregon
Balvenie Caribbean Cask. Every time I smell this whisky, I instantly picture myself lounging on a beach in the sun. The nose is full of vanilla, tropical fruit and toasted coconut. Each sip brings warmth, oak and spicy fruit which is exactly what I need when its been two weeks since the sun has shown in Portland.
Highland Park 12 Viking Honour
Christopher Longoria, beverage director at Che Fico in San Francisco
I’ve been enjoying Highland Park 12 Viking Honour. There’s a nice balance between peat and honey. Very approachable. And great with all the holiday snacks that are sweet or salty.
Glenfiddich 19 Year
Jamal Granger, bartender at The Williamsburg Hotel in New York City
Glenfiddich 19 may be hard to come by in the States, but it’s easily my go-to whenever I see it at a bar. Excellent transitional Scotch if you are a bourbon or rye drinker wanting to expand your palate.
Oban 14 Year
Evan Moore, beverage director at Cut DC in Washington, D.C.
Oban 14 is the perfect blend of peatiness & the hint of sweetness you crave in a scotch. Balanced, complex, yet still approachable to newcomers to scotch.
James Sharp, bar manager at Cross-Eyed Critters in Nashville
I always reach for Monkey Shoulder on my back bar. The product is great, they are active in our community, and the price is right.
Laphroaig 10 Year
Yotam Bloom, beverage manager at Refinery Rooftop in New York City
My go-to scotch these days is Laphroaig 10 year. This is a fairly new Scotch to me — what hooked me was the initial smoky finish on the first sip that retains a certain delicate sweetness. I prefer to sip this on the rocks as it adds hints of vanilla aroma as well. I absolutely love this scotch.
Dalmore Cigar Malt
Chris Amirault, bar manager at Otium in Los Angeles
I don’t drink a lot of Single Malt these days, but if I had to choose one, it’s probably the Dalmore Cigar Malt. It’s very chewy and has pronounced leather and tobacco notes.
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte
Jef Tate, head bartender at Janitor’s Closet in Chicago
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte is becoming a solid staple in my cocktails. I recently used it in my house scotch daiquiri and it really shines. The heavier peat is a marvelous standout in both stirred and shaken drinks.
Dewar’s White Label
Wade McElroy, director of food and beverage at Fieldhouse Jones in Nashville
Dewar’s White Label has always been my go-to just because of the consistency and value the brand brings with a rich history.
Lagavulin 16 Year
Jill Bulmash, lead mixologist at Monk’s Flask in Asheville, North Carolina
The Ron Swanson in me will always reach for Lagavulin 16. I’m a fan of the super-peaty smokiness and it always makes me feel like I’m sitting by a crackling fire.
Glenfiddich 14 Year
Elliot Clark, Apartment Bartender on Instagram
I’ve been sipping on Glenfiddich 14 year lately. It’s finished in bourbon barrels, and makes a killer old fashioned.
Dalmore 18 Year
Anthony Merlino, beverage director at Bergamo’s in New York City
I’m in love with Dalmore. I’ve been to the distillery in Scotland and the wood and had the best experience. The scotch is 18 years old, and it has a great hint of smokiness and lemony flavor. A very masculine taste.