It’s summer. Wonderful. Time to work on your butterfly stroke and slather on some butter for a serious bake (see 2:25 here; also, kidding, wear SPF 1,000,000). Really the only summery drawbacks we can conceive of: for some reason people keep handing Scotch whisky drinkers Collins glasses and tumblers and (God help us) novelty items full of tequila and gin and vodka, with various fruits and herbal garnishes. Pretty sure I blacked out after someone recently handed me a drink with an umbrella in it.
You can probably assume anyone about to hand you a vodka tonic has never heard this pearl of wisdom from Ron Swanson. Fortunately, at least for those of us who follow the Swanson code of eggs, bacon, steak, and Scotch, summer doesn’t mean the end of whisky consumption. There are (at least) four ways we can think of keeping Scotch on the menu. And these ideas came up only after our third Lagavulin. (Neat.)
Not all Scotch is peaty or even necessarily heavy on the tongue. There are a couple regions known for producing lighter Scotches (generally), like the Lowlands, where triple distillation is a common theme, and even parts of the massive Highlands region (which is massive, and thus very hard to categorize). Go for something like a Lowlands Auchentoshan, as Scotches from this region are considered “the most light-bodied of the single malts,” or The Dalwhinnie (aka “The Gentle Spirit”), which is characteristically medium-bodied, fruity, and heathery. Of course, a tumbler of Speyside region Macallan 12 Year won’t ever do you wrong.
Don't Miss A DropGet the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.
Rob Roy. Rusty Nail. Blood and Sand. No, we’re not reciting the names of a bunch of upcoming Indie/Angry/Abercrombie & Anarchy bands with hair like this. These are classic, ridiculously delicious Scotch cocktails. The Rob Roy actually dates back to 1894 and is basically a sort of Scotch martini, served up (meaning mixed with ice but no ice, so it’s cold). The Rusty Nail is just two ingredients, which works in the hazy daze of summer: Drambuie (the Scotch honey liqueur you should get to know by fall) and Scotch. (Again, per the “Go Lighter,” try to go lighter with whatever you select.) Do it up on the rocks and you’ve got a Scotchy, honey-tinged, porch rocking chair best buddy. And then there’s the classic Blood and Sand, with blood orange juice, Danish cherry liqueur, and sweet vermouth along with a mere ¾-ounce of Scotch. Plus reference to a sizzling cinematic love triangle that has absolutely nothing to do with The Notebook.
OK, whisky neat freaks, don’t, well, don’t whisky-neat freak out on us. A dram of God’s tears (as is our just-coined term for Scotch) is perfectly delicious on its own, maybe with a splash of actual tear to “open it up.” But if you’d like to enjoy even the fieriest of peat-suffused Scotches on a hot August day, your best bet is to chuck that stuff onto some rocks. Not as in dashing your expensive Scotch onto a Japanese rock garden — that would be a double cultural insult. But a little ice in your beloved Ardbeg 10 Year (go, buy some, now) won’t disturb the Scotch gods if you’re only doing it seasonally. In fact, the cool dilution might even poke out some of the peatiness, spreading a waft of smoke the way liquid nitrogen does when you throw it into a pool. (Don’t do it, but watch this.)
There’s Air Conditioning Somewhere. Even a Fan.
Lest we forget, summer is that special time of year when department stores, movie theaters, hotels, motels, houses, and basically anywhere with four walls can effectively, if uneconomically, turn into a massive Frigidaire. Chances are you’ll spend less time outside this time of year than in. (If you’ve ever ridden public transportation, you know it goes from oven to icebox.) If you find yourself in the vicinity of a machine spewing out artificial chill, there’s absolutely no reason not to go full Islay campfire or reach for a richer, fruity sherry cask-aged Speyside. Also, you love Scotch, so you may well be doing this at a family picnic on a humid Sunday. And Godspeed.
*To be perfectly fair, Ron Swanson would absolutely be repulsed by most of our suggestions. (See aforementioned video, it’s “Lagavulin, neat.”) But we hope on some level he’d respect the desire to keep Scotch in seasonal rotation, albeit with more than a grain of significant disdain for those of us who can’t sit in the noonday sun with a Glencairn full of peaty single malt.