Even the lightest whiskey washes itself down with a warm finish, which can be a bit of a hangup come the summer months.
Denizens of terrace bars and country porches around the country suffer those same steamy evenings, though, and they don’t let it put a cork in things — neither should you. Their secret: trading in a neat, aged single malt for something a little more refreshing, like a mint julep or Manhattan.
But there are whiskeys that do work well on their own during warmer months … or at least over a couple cubes of ice. It’s a practice disdained by many whiskey snobs — “melted ice dilutes the hooch”; “chilling the bottle dulls the flavor” — but Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell sometimes keeps his private bourbon in the freezer, and I’ve watched The Glenlivet’s Alan Winchester (among others) pour not just a few drops, but a torrent of water into his whisky glass.
So whose example should you follow? As with most things, try it out and see what you like.
But here are some whiskeys practically made for ice, each with a bold, high-octane character that’ll withstand both chilling and a little water.
Aberlour A’Bunadh Single Malt
Sweet usually chills better than smoke, so look to sherried whiskies for the best single malts to pour on ice. Aberlour A’Bunadh crystallizes that idea. Drawn entirely from Oloroso Sherry Butt-aged stock, A’Bunadh is a flavorful, cask-strength Sherry bomb of a whisky, typically between 58 and 60% ABV.
This is the classic sucker puncher of Kentucky Bourbon, because the tipple’s mellow side gives little suggestion that it packs between 60-65% ABV. Drink a double and try standing up quickly, but don’t be surprised if you stumble. Namesake Booker Noe suggested drinking it with a splash or two of water, so an ice cube or two instead works nicely.
Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye
Rye’s spicy and sweet flavors make it a popular choice of spirit for many a chilled cocktail. To chill your rye whiskey straight out, reach for Michter’s annual barrel strength release. The flavor has a citrus-and-berry side that, combined with the new oak vanilla and rye spices, make it delicious on ice.
Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength Single Pot Still
For an Irish whiskey that holds its own chilled, try this 57.7% ABV on the single pot still classic. The cask strength version is sometimes hard to find, but the whiskey’s nutty, spicy, honey sweet goodness leans into nectar territory when it’s served cold.
Don’t Want Boring Ice Cubes?
Try a whiskey sphere or wedge. Not only are these more pleasing to the eye, they also have the advantage of melting more slowly. The catch is they also chill the liquid more slowly, but that shouldn’t be a problem for a savory sipping whiskey.
Another way to go is ditch the ice altogether and use whiskey stones, made from soapstone or granite. There is even the Rock Solid Glass, a tumbler made of soapstone. Frozen stone won’t dilute your whiskey, but it also lacks the chilling power of ice. Whiskey stones make your whiskey cool, not cold, and that might not be enough on a hot summer evening.