Fall is barreling towards us like a ball of dried leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, and light jackets rolling down a hill. It’s coming soon and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. If you’re anything like us, you spent a lot of time outside during the last few months in an attempt to feel some semblance of a normal summer. But, it’s all coming to end. Don’t fret though. Sweater weather isn’t so bad. It’s the best time of year to enjoy a warming dram of Scotch whisky.
Gavin Humes, bartender at Scratch Bar & Kitchen in Encino, California prefers the warming nature of a long-aged whisky near a roaring fire as the leaves turn. “Scotch by its very nature is a personal drink, so your mileage may vary.” He adds, “But my go-to scotch for a cool day, maybe by a fireplace, is The Balvenie Doublewood aged 17 years. For me, the finish in sherry casks imparts a unique flavor that I love. If I can’t get my hands on the 17 year, I’ll always default to something with a sherry cask age.”
He’s not the only bartender who looks forward to the warming feeling of fall whisky. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the most warming whiskies for fall 2020.
Veronica Flores, bartender based in Austin, Texas
I guess you can call me Ron Swanson because I love scotch so much. I’d honestly say it’s worth spoiling yourself for the Springbank 15 Year. I love me a good Campbelltown whisky. It’s really easy drinking and it’s something (that if I lived somewhere without erratic weather) I would sip on when it’s chilly enough outside to warrant wearing a scarf and feeling the chill of the air make the tip of your nose cold.
Reniel Garcia, bar director of Havana 1957 in Miami
Glenfiddich 21 has the flavors of fall. The cinnamon, toffee, and fig. It’s matured in Caribbean rum casks which increases it with exotic notes of ginger, fig, lime, and banana with a vibrant spicy toffee warmness. That all makes it perfect for fall.
The Macallan 12
Christopher Farzanrad, bartender at Mila Rooftop Bar in Glendale, California
The Macallan 12 has a very crisp finish that pairs well with the fall weather. Plus, it’s a great beginner scotch that you’ll continue drinking for years to come.
Jon Joseph, director of food and beverages at JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa in Sonora, Texas
Aberfeldy 12 is so smooth and full of hints of honey, vanilla, and caramel, it keeps you sipping for hours on end.
The Macallan 18
Aaron Miyakawa, director of restaurants and special events at Prince Waikiki in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
I remember enjoying scotch one evening with friends and someone bought a round of The Macallan 18. It was the first time I tried it and was very surprised at its complexity of flavors with hints of cinnamon. Since that night, this has certainly become one of my favorite go-to scotches for special gatherings. Every sip is very smooth and enjoyable. It’s perfect for warming you up during the cooler weather months.
Andrew Erickson, lead bartender at Fable Lounge in Nashville
When sitting on the porch enjoying the fact 2020 is almost over and appreciating autumn colors, I will enjoy sipping Aberlour A’bunadh, neat. This cask-strength sherried whisky has notes of dried stone fruit and berries that shine through the long-spiced finish. You will feel the whisky beckon you to colder weather with the baking spices and nut. It will remind you the warm days are still right around the corner with its powerful sherry flavors.
Highland Park 15
Nestor Marchand, director of food and beverage at Plunge Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Highland Park 15-year-old is my pick. This scotch is excellent. Very high quality, smooth, and good pricing for a 15-year-old at around $90.
Adam Steely, owner and manager of Blue Talon Bistro in Williamsburg, Virginia
Fall calls for a Highland malt, preferably one with a sherry cask aging component. That subtle fragrance makes the whisky warming and welcoming. The most famous of these is The Macallan, but my personal preference is GlenDronach 12-year-old Single Malt. It’s non-chill filtered and full of creamy, sherry sweetness from aging in Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry butts.
Sabari Kanth, lead bartender at Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Lagavulin 16 Year Single Malt. This 43 percent ABV single malt offers a rich dried-fruit sweetness with strong smoke. It has a little spiciness that lightens the grip of peat and vanilla.
The Macallan Double Cask 15
Jonah Dill-D’Ascoli, bartender at The Office in New York City
Currently, I am super excited about The Macallan’s new release of the Double Cask 15 Years Old which has quickly become the whisky I plan to drink this fall and winter. The Double Cask 15 Years Old is deep and rich with beautiful wintertime baking spices. It is the height of a luxurious experience. The American oak gives it notes of French vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a fig quality while the European oak gives some exotic spice notes like cardamom, roasted coffee, and a long, almost chocolate finish. The Macallan’s signature sherry seasoning comes through to ground the whole thing.
Highland Park Dark Origins
Zachary Shore, bartender at The Nest in Seattle
For me, it doesn’t get better than Highland Park Dark Origins. With the leaves changing colors, and the air starting to get crisp, you start to look towards the chill of winter. Before it gets too cold, there is still plenty to do outside with Halloween and Thanksgiving on the way. Dark Origins is perfect for fall with scents of smoke, floral, and peach. The mouthfeel has a smooth, creaminess with flavors of candied apples and apricots. And at around 47 percent ABV, it gives a nice warming sensation as it goes down. Perfect for drinking on a patio in the day, a porch at night, or wrapped up in a blanket in front of the fire.
Kurt Bellon, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
A nice spicy and sweet scotch to have on hand for a crisp autumn evening is Glenfiddich 15 Year served neat or with a bit of room temp water depending on the vibes.