10 Smoky Scotch Whiskies To Drink By A Campfire

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If you don’t know a lot about Scotch, you might not realize that there are myriad different flavors associated with the different whisky-producing regions. There isn’t simply one “scotch” flavor (or flavors). You also might not know that there are five different Scotch-producing regions. They are Campbeltown, Lowland, Highland, Speyside, and Islay.

Campbeltown, the smallest region, is known for its caramel, vanilla, and subtly briny whiskies. Lowland whiskies are known for their light, soft, almost floral flavors. Highland whiskies run the flavor gamut with heather, honey, and dried fruits making an appearance. Speyside whiskies are known for their balance with vanilla, honey, and caramel at the forefront. Islay whiskies are something completely different. This region is exactly where we’ll turn our attention today.

The island, located in the Inner Hebrides islands, off the west coast of Scotland, is home to nine distilleries (including the recently opened Ardnahoe). Islay is known for its briny, peat-smoky, indulgent whiskies. It’s the epicenter of smoky whisky in Scotland. But, while the likes of Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin are well-known for their peat-smoked expressions, Islay isn’t the only place to find a smoky dram. There are distilleries all over Scotland crafting smoke bombs.

Since summer will be here before you can say “Sláinte!”, we figured the time was right to highlight some smoky scotches perfectly suited for sipping while you sit around a fire on a camping trip or simply in the comfort of your own backyard. Check them all out below and get drinking.

Ardbeg Corryvrecken

Ardbeg Corryvrecken Single Malt

Ardbeg is one of the most renowned distilleries on Islay. While you can’t go wrong with its flagship 10-year-old expression, Corryvrecken (named for a nearby whirlpool) is a well-rounded, complex bottle well-suited for sipping on a cool evening. The combination of dried fruits, candied orange peels, vanilla, and a healthy dose of peat smoke make this a great backyard fire companion.

Caol Ila 12

Caol Ila 12 Year Single Malt

Ask a whisky aficionado to tell you the best beginner smoky scotch and there’s a pretty good chance they’ll mention Caol Ila 12. First launched in 2002, this entry-level expression carries flavors of toasted vanilla beans, dried cherries, sweet treacle, subtle cracked black pepper, and nice, soft smoke. Even though it’s a beginner bottle, it will find a permanent spot on your home bar cart.

Kilchoman Machir Bay

Kilchoman Machir Bay Single Malt

It’s okay if every time you think of Kilchoman it makes you think of the similarly named soy sauce brand. It will remind you that this single malt that was aged in a combination of ex-bourbon barrels and sherry butts carries a subtle salted caramel flavor that evolves into rich raisins, caramel, and eventually in a nice, pleasing kick of peat smoke.

Compass Box The Peat Monster

Compass Box The Peat Monster

When it comes to fireside companions, you don’t have to stick to just single malts. Compass Box is renowned for its blends and one of its most popular is The Peat Monster. This blend of Islay and Highland whiskies is a great combination of sweet and smoky. It’s fruity, subtly nutty, filled with vanilla notes, and a nice dose of peaty smoke.

Bowmore 12

Bowmore 12 Year Single Malt

Bowmore is another Islay staple. Its 12-year-old expression is another great entry-level bottle for whisky drinkers who want to dip their toe into the world of smoky scotch without being knocked off their feet by a cloud of harsh peat. On top of the aforementioned smoke, sipping this whisky will reveal notes of citrus zest, buttery caramel, and sweet honey.

Talisker 10

Talisker 10 Year Single Malt

Proving that smoke bombs can come from other islands, Talisker is located on the Isle of Skye. Its flagship bottle is its 10-year-old. Known for its flavors of salty ocean brine, dried fruits, vanilla, black pepper, and bold peat smoke, it’s a well-rounded, complex fireside companion.

Lagavulin 16

Lagavulin 16 Single Malt

No smoky scotch list is complete without an expression from Lagavulin. Nick Offerman’s favorite whisky brand’s 16-year-old expression might be the best value in the smoky whisky world. One of the best-selling bottles from the island for a reason, it’s filled with flavors of buttery vanilla, sherry sweetness, and has a bold smoky backbone.

Highland Park 12: Viking Honour

Highland Park 12: Viking Honour

One of the most popular single malt scotches in the world, Highland Park 12 gets its flavor from the unique flavor of the peat found in the Orkney Islands and the use of former sherry butts. The result is a whisky filled with notes of candied orange peels, toasted vanilla beans, sherry sweetness, and a nice, gentle kick of peaty smoke.

Laphroaig Lore

Laphroaig Lore Single Malt

If you’re a fan of whiskies with briny, salty, medicinal, peat-smoked flavor, Laphroaig should be your go-to. If not, move along. If you’re new to Laphroaig, you should start with its entry-level 10-year-old. If you’ve moved your way up and are looking for something bolder, grab a bottle of Lore. The most robust of all of the brand’s expressions, Lore is filled with notes of cocoa beans, ocean brine, dried fruits, charred wood, and a lot of peaty, rich smoke.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 Single Malt

First introduced in 2018, Port Charlotte 10 has quickly become the star of Bruichladdich’s smoky line of whiskies. This heavily peated expression was aged in first-fill American oak barrels, second-fill American oak barrels, and second-fill French wine casks. The result is an incredibly complex whisky with hints of salted caramel, butterscotch, vanilla beans, wood char, and a lot of peat smoke.

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