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The Best ‘On The Rocks’ Scotch Whiskies For Summer Sipping, For Peat Lovers And Peat Haters Alike

With the weight of summer now fully upon us, you can be forgiven for wanting to pour some whiskey over ice cubes. Whatever the purists might say aside, “scotch on the rocks” is a thing for a reason. To that end, let’s dive into some great Scotch whiskysingle malt or blended — that works wonders when poured over some ice.

For this ranking, I’m pulling in 10 peated and 10 unpeated Scotch whiskies and listing them separately to give you clear options. I fully get that the earthy, peaty, smoky, and even medicinal peated malts and blends are a lot for some people. This way you can grab a bottle based on my tasting notes that best suits your palate below. And if you’re feeling adventurous for those peaty whiskies, there are plenty of options for those as well.

So, let’s dive right in and find you a great whisky to drink on the rocks. It’s too hot for more preamble anyway.

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of The Last Six Months

Peated

10. Laphroaig Select

Laphroaig

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $55

The Whisky:

Master Distiller John Campbell created this whisky to highlight the diversity of the casking process behind Laphroaig’s classic expressions. The juice is a blend of four casks, marrying their quarter, Pedro Ximénez, triple wood, and 10-year-old casks to create a deeply satisfying bottle of whisky.

Tasting Notes:

The whisky draws you in with hints of red fruit, plums, nuts, and a bit of peated malt. The fruit leads the way on the palate while the wood leans mildly spicy with a bit of alcohol warmth, Ace bandages, smoked salts, and more of that malt. The end lingers as the fruit and wood come together with an ever-so-distant wisp of smoke and Band-Aid.

Bottom Line:

This will be the most divisive whisky on the list. Laphroaig is bold, medicinal, and peaty AF. Some people fall in love with it from the first sip. Some spit that sip out as soon as it hits their tongue. That’s why I’m ranking it in tenth place — it’s too hit or miss for some people to rank it in the top rungs.

9. Bunnahabhain 12

Bunnahabhain 12
Distell Group Limited

ABV: 46.3%

Average Price: $55

The Whisky:

Back on Islay, this peated malt is another great gateway to the Island’s smoke whiskies thanks to being extremely lightly peated. This expression is made from 12-year-old barrels that once held bourbon or sherry. Those barrels are vatted and the whisky is proofed down and bottled as-is.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this opens with mild notes of smoked cherry next to burnt candle wax, tart apples, and salted caramels laced with orange oils. The taste mellows with a creamy vanilla pudding base with notes of Black Forest Cake and plenty of brandied cherries and dark cacao and a faint hint of cherry wood smoke way back in the background. The finish leans into that dry and fruity wood and leaves you with a touch more vanilla silkiness and singed cherry wood.

Bottom Line:

This peated whisky is a bit of a magic trick. The peat/earthiness is buried under a ton of sweet and bitter notes that make this feel more like a classic unpeated malt more than a peated one. That, in turn, ranks this a little lower on the ‘peated’ whisky side of things. Still, this is a good pour over the rocks no matter how little peatiness comes through.

8. Highland Park 12

Erdington Group

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $46

The Whisky:

This is a pretty unique whisky. The distillery is located in Scotland’s far north Orkney Islands. The juice in the bottles is a classic peaty single malt that spends 12 years maturing in European and American oak, both of which were seasoned with sherry. The whiskies are then married and proofed down to a very accessible 40%.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a real sense of rich and almost rummy holiday cake full of dark spices, dried fruits, candied citrus, and nuts with a hint of smoke. A touch of fragrant honey arrives to smooth out the texture while adding sweetness. That smoke pops back in on the finish but it’s more like a chimney smoke from a house a few doors down on a snowy day than a funky peaty smoke from a bog.

Bottom Line:

This is where things get pretty even-keeled. The peatiness is abundant but really calms down with a few rocks. The water lets the fruit and nut notes come to the fore with a nice sweet smokiness underneath.

7. Lagavulin 8

Diageo

ABV: 48%

Average Price: $66

The Whisky:

This expression was originally released to celebrate the distillery’s 200th anniversary. The whisky was created to mimic the juice that was being bottled back in the 1880s, during a high point in Lagavulin’s history. The whisky became a modern hit and is now part of their core line.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is full of honey-orange, dry and earthy malts, and a nod to chocolate-covered cherries with the slightest hint of fried cod wrapped in newspaper. The taste brings a solid billow of campfire smoke with traces of dark chocolate, burning cinnamon sticks, dry mint, and burnt potato skins (yes, really). The end is long-ish and marries the tastes together, leaving you with the memory of drinking a dark mint-chocolate spiked espresso next to a smoldering backyard fire on a cold autumn night, while somewhere in the distance, the sea laps at the shore. The very end has a whisper of new Band-Aids still in the box.

Bottom Line:

This is just a classic all-around but on the bolder side. With a few rocks, you get a good dose of smoked chocolate and spices more than just one or the other.

And from here on, we’re dealing with killer bottles.

6. Caol Ila Distillers Edition

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $88

The Whisky:

This yearly release from the tiny Islay distillery, Caol Ila, is all about the finish. The 12-year-old juice is finished in Moscatel sherry casks to give it a truly deep fruitiness next to that briny Islay peat.

Tasting Notes:

Smoked apricots lead to singed star anise and a honey-chocolate note on the nose that’s subtle and very enticing. Crispy salmon skins and anchovy oils counter a soft and distant beach campfire on a rainy day with smoked sea salts, buttery toffee, and smoked apricot. That apricot drives the mid-palate towards silky layers of orange oils, more of that fatty salmon skin, and a final wisp of that campfire smoke from way down the beach.

Bottom Line:

Speaking of killer bottles, this one really hits the nuanced vibes well. Over a couple of rocks, the ocean vibes and smoke mellow toward rich chocolate with a buttery lushness.

5. Oban 14

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $69

The Whisky:

This is a great gateway to both Oban and scotch to have on hand. The juice is classically made and then matured in the Oban storehouses for 14 long years — all within a stone’s throw of the sea.

Tasting Notes:

Citrus, salt, and a billow of peat smoke open this one up in classic fashion on the nose. That citrus carries on as a foundation for mild spices on the palate as a note of honey, hints of pears, and plummy dried fruits mingle on the tongue. The oak spice and extremely mild peat smoke meet on the end with a slight malty sweetness as the sip fades.

Bottom Line:

This is great neat. So there’s that. Adding that ice really lets the brightness of the citrus and pear shine through with a creamy honey silkiness.

It’s crazy that this is only fifth on this ranking. There are some great whiskies coming up.

4. Talisker 10

Talisker 10
Diageo

ABV: 45.8%

Average Price: $64

The Whisky:

This is one of the most awarded single malts ever. The juice is matured in ex-bourbon casks in Talisker’s warehouse which is literally feet away from the sea. The subtly peated malts take on a real seaside feel as those years tick past, creating a whisky that will not disappoint.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a distance to Talisker that draws you in on the nose — I’ve often described it as campfire smoke from a few hundred yards down a rainy beach. The sea spray mellows the smoky peat to a fine point as oyster shells dance with almost dry pears, dried apricot, and rich malt. The end doesn’t overstay its welcome and reminds you of oyster liquor and that smoldering campfire somewhere far down a rainy beach.

Bottom Line:

This whisky was made to be sipped on the rocks — with a plate full of raw oysters on the side. That ice really lets the orchard fruit and creamy oyster liqueur rise to the top and accent the beauty of this whisky.

3. Johnnie Walker Green Label

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $55

The Whisky:

Johnnie Walker’s Green Label is a solidly crafted whisky that highlights Diageo’s fine stable of distilleries across Scotland. The juice is a pure malt or blended malt, meaning that only single malt whisky is in the mix (no grain whisky). In this case, the primary whiskies are a minimum of 15 yearsold, from Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, and Linkwood.

Tasting Notes:

Soft notes of cedar dance with hints of black pepper, vanilla pods, and bright fruit with a wisp of green grass in the background. The palate really delivers on that soft cedar woodiness while edging towards a spice-laden tropical fruit brightness. The finish is dialed in with hints of cedar, spice, and fruit leading towards a briny billow of smoke at the very end.

Bottom Line:

This is just a great whisky, to begin with. Over a few rocks, the spiciness and lush vanilla really amp up with cedar giving way to a soft holiday spice vibe and some fruit cake with a hint of lush chocolate.

2. Ardbeg 10

Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $49

The Whisky:

This is a classic bottle of peated malt. The Islay whisky is made with iconic Port Ellen peated malts and then primarily matured in ex-sherry casks for at least 10 years. Those casks are married and then cut with local lake water before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a clear sense of stonefruit, orange oils, and earthen peaty smoke that greets you. The palate leans into the iodine and earthiness with plenty of campfire smoke next to black pepper, vanilla, and an underlying nuttiness. With a little water, a coffee bitterness arises next to a hint of black licorice. The end really embraces the smoke, adding fattiness like an old meat smoker as the fruit and nuts make a final appearance on the very slow fade.

Bottom Line:

This whisky shine on the rocks thanks to those bright orange oils and fatty vanilla creaminess coming to the fore. Overall, the smokiness becomes more of a smoked fat than an ashtray with plenty of lush creaminess backing it up.

1. Dalwhinnie 15

Diageo

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $73

The Whisky:

This entry-point bottle to the wider world of Dalwhinnie is a hell of an easy drinker. The juice is aged in Scotland’s oldest distillery, making the maturation process a severe one. The juice spends 15 years hiding in those barrels as the temperatures dip well below freezing across all those winters on a windswept hill.

Tasting Notes:

Imagine a bowl of pear and apple peels sitting next to an open jar of floral summer honey on the nose. Dots of citrus oils mingle with that honey as a smooth vanilla character arrives on the back of sweet brown bread bespeckled with smoked walnuts. The nuts, sweet bread, and floral honey all converge on the finish as it slowly fades towards a final billow of sweet smoke at the back of your mouth.

Bottom Line:

This is another whiskey that really dials back the hefty peat notes while leaning into fruit and honey. That honey gets very silky with some ice as the smoke attaches to the sweet fruits with a soft and very lush mouthfeel.

Unpeated

10. Glenfiddich 12

William Grant & Sons

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $44

The Whisky:

This is an entry whisky not only to Speyside but to single malts in general. The juice is aged in a combination of used American and European oak before it’s married, rested, proofed with Speyside’s iconic water, and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

This dram is creamy like a vanilla pudding with a bright pear orchard vibe, some mild toffee, and hints of sweetgrass next to mild oak. That leads towards a very easy and soft woodiness with a touch of candied pear and more vanilla cream before hints of soft cinnamon spice poke up in the background with those soft malts. By the end, it’s clear how light and approachable this whisky is as that pear, vanilla cream, and milt spice slowly fade away, leaving you with a silken mouthfeel and just enough malts and toffee.

Bottom Line:

This is a quintessential “on the rocks” pour. While I might use this more for cocktails (hence it’s ranked tenth), this works wonders on ice thanks to all that orchard fruit and vanilla really shining through.

9. Compass Box Orchard House

Compass Box Orchard House
Compass Box

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $58

The Whisky:

The blended malt leans into apples as a predominant flavor note of sweet Scotch whisky. The juice in the bottle is a blend of 39% Linkwood single malt that aged in ex-bourbon barrels, 20% Clynelish single malt also aged in ex-bourbon barrels, and Benrinnes single malt from ex-bourbon barrels. The next eight percent is a single malt from a distillery in the town of Aberlour (not the distillery) that aged in ex-sherry butts with two percent from a Highland malt blend that aged in custom-built and toasted French oak barrels, and the final two percent from a peated malt from Caol Ila that matured in ex-bourbon casks.

Tasting Notes:

Naturally, apples burst forth on the nose with tart, sweet, and juicy notes next to a soft pear vibe, lemon and lime zest, a touch of sweet pineapple, and a soft echo of dry but fragrant Earl Grey tea leaves. The palate leans into fresh ginger soaking in a pot of floral honey next to minor notes of fresh strawberry shortcake with a soft vanilla sponge cake, fresh berries, and a dollop of vanilla-laced whipped cream. The finish leans into a light white floral note while the pear and apple return with a ripeness that feels like they’re fresh off the vine and a final note of lightly spiced malts with a whisper of applewood smoke.

Bottom Line:

A little bit of ice with this fruit bomb is a great thing. The water lets the ginger sharpen while the vanilla and honey only get more creamy and lush. Still, this stays an apple bomb after pouring it over ice, so that ranks it a little lower on this list.

8. Loch Lomond ‘The Glengarry’ 12

The Glengarry
Loch Lomond Distillery Company

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $76

The Whisky:

This single malt from the famed Loch Lomond Distillery is all about the aging process. The hot juice is loaded into ex-bourbon, re-fill bourbon, and re-charred oak barrels for 12 long years. Those barrels are then blended and the whisky is proofed down with Highland spring water.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is a mix of white summer flowers and a lot of fruit, kind of like a fruit salad out of the can. The palate really amps up the fruitiness with overripe peaches, bruised pears, and plenty of grilled pineapple next to a rummy spiced cocktail vibe with a little bit of vanilla, allspice, and woody cinnamon. The finish keeps it easy with more canned fruit syrup, a hint of sweetgrass, and a bit of malty spice.

Bottom Line:

The sweetness of the fruit really shines through when you pour this over ice. The spice also sharpens it a bit, adding to that “spiced cocktail” vibe. Overall, this is a solid summer sipper over some ice but might lead you to just making a tropical cocktail instead.

7. The Macallan 12

Edrington Group

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $62

The Whisky:

Where many scotches spend time in ex-bourbon and then ex-sherry casks or some combination therein, this expression spends all 12 years of its maturation just in sherry casks. The barrels are imported from Jerez, Spain, and hand-selected for their excellence to mature this much-beloved whisky.

Tasting Notes:

Apple cider with a cut of cinnamon and clove in the juice greets you with a clear sense of vanilla, nuts, and plums on the nose. On the tongue, those plums turn into prunes as orange peels mingle with sweet oak and a hint of tobacco spice. The end is long, full of that sherry, dried fruit, and sweetness, and returns back to the chewy tobacco spice.

Bottom Line:

This is another classic choice for pouring over a rock or two (to the gasps of purists). The orange and vanilla sort of combine into a soft orange cream with a nutty edge to it that’s very refreshing.

6. Glenfarclas 12

J. & G. Grant

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $60

The Whisky:

Glenfarclas is a bit of an outlier. The whisky is distilled with old-school fire-heated stills (most stills use steam) to this day. The juice is then aged exclusively in ex-sherry casks for 12 long years.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a rumminess to the nose that touches on molasses, prunes, nuts, and jam. The taste holds onto that vibe to the point of having an almost spiced rum sweetness and clear notes of holiday spices, plenty of dried fruit, and a roasted almond element. The end is long and spicy, leaving you with a warming Speyside hug.

Bottom Line:

That rumminess calms down a bit as the darker fruits and nuts rise to the top with a good dose of woody spice when you add ice. Overall, this is just an easy sipper that delivers a straightforward sweet scotch experience.

5. The Balvenie DoubleWood Aged 12 Years

The Balvenie 12
William Grant and Sons

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $70

The Whisky:

This is the whisky that launched the “double aging” trend back in 1982. This unpeated single malt spends 12 years mellowing in ex-bourbon casks before it’s transferred to ex-sherry casks for a final maturation of nine months. Finally, the whisky is vatted in a “tun” where it rests for three to four months before proofing and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

Soft and floral honey mix with a hint of vanilla extract, sweet red berries, and wine-soaked oak. The palate meanders through light touches of marzipan with a hint of cinnamon and fields of plum trees with a whisper of tree bark and leather lurking in the background. The finish lets the spicy malt kick in with a dose of hot cinnamon and honey tobacco.

Bottom Line:

This is another whisky that I love to use for cocktails, thanks to its spicy nuttiness. That also translates to over ice on a hot summer day. The ice really mellows the spice toward more of a spiced honey cake with a rich marzipan layer. It’s a nice sip of whisky and a good start for the top five on this list.

4. The Singleton of Glendullan 18

Singleton 18
Diageo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $90

The Whisky:

This Speyside whisky rests mostly in ex-bourbon casks. The final product adds in a few barrels from Europe to mellow out the heavier bourbon barrels. That blend is then cut down to a low 80 proof for bottling.

Tasting Notes:

The nose opens with hints of cedar and winter spice underneath caramel candies, roasted almonds, and a hint of stewed orchard fruits. The palate largely carries on those flavors with a subtle hint of bourbon vanilla and spicy tobacco warmth attached to the maltiness, with an echo of dark chocolate-covered hazelnuts. The finish leans into the cedar and tobacco with a slightly mineral water base.

Bottom Line:

This might be another whisky that purists gasp about adding a rock to. Whisky needs water to bloom, especially this one. The addition of water turns this into a creamy and lush glass of malty chocolate cookies with hints of cedar and buttery caramel dancing in between. It’s a delightful sip with some serious complexity once it blooms with that extra water.

3. Chivas Regal 18 Gold Signature

Pernod Ricard

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $79

The Whisky:

Chivas 18 is the brand’s signature higher-end blend. The juice is built around a specially made Strathisla 18 single malt. That juice is supported by 20 other single malts from around Scotland with various casking processes.

Tasting Notes:

This just feels classic from the first nose onward. There are clear layers of fancy dark chocolate that’s equal parts creamy and bitter next to dried red berries with a tart edge, buttery toffee, and a hint of dried roses wrapped in old leather. The palate marries the dried roses with the dark chocolate with a hint of smoked cherry and raspberry sneaking next to a touch of old vanilla husks and maybe some dried cedar. The end slowly fades through those florals and chocolate toward a sweet smoked note of tart fruit.

Bottom Line:

Chivas is the original “on the rocks” whisky, so this is a no-brainer. The reason this is third instead of first is that I like this just as much neat as on the rocks. So I was a bit torn about where to put it. In the end, this really opens up the florals and chocolate with those tart berries, creating a great depth and balance to the overall drink.

2. GlenDronach 12

GlenDronach 12
Brown-Forman

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $63

The Whisky:

This Highland malt is blended by Scotch icon Dr. Rachel Barrie to highlight the beauty of the Scottish Highlands. The juice is a blend of whiskies aged for 12 years in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks before vatting, proofing, and bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This opens with spicy berries next to tart apples with a hint of lemon/lime and old leather. The sip leans into a honey sweetness with vanilla beans, dark plums, and spicy malts. The finish smooths out with a mineral water softness as old cedar boards mingle with a raisin tobacco chewy spice on the very end.

Bottom Line:

I was equally torn with which GlenDronach to put here. I’m a huge fan of the whole line but the 12 feels like the perfect “on the rocks” expression. It really blooms in the glass with a little water, thanks to the vanilla and dark fruits taking on more depth and fattiness as the spiciness leans into the malts. It’s a great overall experience but not quite as perfect as the next pick.

1. Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or

Glenmorangie Nectar
Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $79

The Whisky:

This dram from Glenmorangie is a much-loved Highland malt. The juice is matured in ex-bourbon barrels for an undisclosed number of years. The whisky is then transferred to French Sauternes barrels which held sweet dessert wines where it spends two more years finishing.

Tasting Notes:

This has that classic “shortbread cut with lemon and vanilla” vibe that makes some single malts so approachable. The sip has a buttery toffee nature that’s layered with subtle oak, mild brown spices, and more fruits tied into a creamy pudding body. The spice then leans a little towards ginger with that buttery shortbread as it slowly fades out.

Bottom Line:

This turns into a luxurious and malty supple sip over rocks thanks to the shortbread, vanilla, and lemon all leaning into the fats in those flavor compounds. The spices mellow towards a soft woodiness and the “creamy pudding body” really takes in a soft lemon meringue pie vibe that’s downright delectable.

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