As the temperature drops along with your spirits, the time is right to indulge in the ultimate Winter Sipper. Try these five classic Single Malt Whiskies, and kiss sobriety goodbye!
Highland Park 12-Year-Old
Region: Orkney Islands ($35)
“Good for sipping by the sea,” is how KT Tunstall describes this low-cost tipple. The Scottish pop star, who cut her teeth working at the local whisky shop, digs the “toffee-like sweetness, mixed with smoke and salt.”
Best for: Bottle-a-day drinkers
Region: Lowlands ($50)
“The nose on this reminds me of being outdoors in Edinburgh. There’s a freshness to it,“ says Tunstall of this Lowland malt with a pleasant bitterness, a touch of smoke, and a smooth finish. “This would be a good starter whisky.”
Best for: Scotch newbies
Region: Islay ($90)
With eight distilleries, the tiny Isle of Islay is a whisky lover’s mecca, and Lagavulin is the top of the heap: Peaty, smoky, salty, and endlessly complex. Not for the faint of heart (or the poor of wallet).
Best for: Showing off for your old man
Region: Islands ($50)
“Like the beach at night: saltwater toffee, seaweed, a campfire. It explodes on the palate, then warms your throat all the way down. In fact, a bottle of Talisker is my only real case of diva-tude. I demand a bottle at every show.”
Best for: Impressing KT
The Macallan Sherry Oak 12-Year-Old
Region: Speyside ($50)
“This one makes me excited, like the feeling a kid gets opening new toys,” says Tunstall ¿of this classic from Scotland’s leading whisky region. “It’s very clean tasting, but sweet and spicy.”
Best for: Your desk drawer
“If you’re new to single malt, follow your bourbon to find a mellower whisky that shares many qualities with its American cousin,” says John Glaser, chief whisky maker at Compass Box. That’s because many distilleries age their scotch in old oak bourbon barrels (see conversion chart, left). One caveat: Single malts made with peat-smoked barley, like Laphroaig (it uses Maker’s Mark barrels), won’t be mellow—ever. They’re for advanced imbibers; newcomers should stick to unpeated bottles.