Sometimes the holidays call for something more serious than a light-hearted mixed drink, no matter how chic (or potent) it may be. Sometimes, especially when you're raiding someone else's liquor cabinet, the holidays call for Scotch.
There's a wonderfully acerbic scene in Roman Polanski's claustrophobic movie, The Ghost Writer, in which Ewan McGregor, dining alone with the prime minister's wife, discards his glass of white wine for a tumbler of Scotch. 'White wine—I've never seen the point of it,' he says. It's meant to signal his gaucheness, but it also feels utterly cool and enticing. You leave the movie wanting to follow suit. Drinking whisky with dinner is not always a winning combo—the big populist malts are too noisy for anything remotely subtle—but subbed in as an aperitif, the right Scotch can be a revelation.
Not sure what to look for? Here are some of our favorites:
1. Old Pulteney
Fresh and briny, with a faint hint of smoke and orange, this lovely retiring gem from the northern tip of mainland Scotland is an all-rounder, as good before dinner as after, and the best value of the lot.
2. Highland Park 15-year-old
A grand mouthful of toffee and honey, with a lovely hit of smoke at the back. Try it in place of rum in a Dark 'n' Stormy or neat, with a drop of water to bring out its full glory.
3. Glenfiddich 15-year-old
Fruitier than the Old Pulteney, with notes of cinnamon, crowd-pleasing Glenfiddich always behaves well.
4. Asyla by Compass Box
Compass Box does interesting things, not all of them popular with Scotch purists (one of their whiskies is called Hedonism), but this light blended Scotch is the jewel of the pack. Great as an aperitif.