There aren’t many experiences in the world more pleasurable than tending to a perfect two-zone charcoal fire while the smell of caramelizing vegetables and cooking steak wafts across the back yard on a perfect summer’s afternoon—but we can think of one: Doing all that with a whiskey in your hand.
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Barbecues aren’t the time for high-end, expensive whiskeys. All that smoke makes it hard to pick up on olfactory subtleties, and you’re likely to be busy flipping burgers or hosing down kids on the slip-and-slide—not activities that lend themselves to solemn contemplation. Instead, you want something you can pour and share freely, something that doesn’t demand too much, but offers plenty in return. Here are our favorite picks for barbecue-friendly whiskeys, just in time for the golden months of grilling.
Grilling is casual and relaxed, which means you need a low-key, drinkable whiskey to keep you company without requiring you get out your fancy crystal glassware. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you need to drink bad whiskey.
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Jim Beam Black is a more-aged version of the brand’s classic Jim Beam White Label, and it delivers a bigger, bolder flavor without a corresponding big, bold price increase. Just as pleasing neat or over ice as it is floated atop a pour of spicy ginger ale.
Meet smoke with smoke: Johnnie Walker Double Black brings a hefty dose of peat smoke, but it’s balanced by a substantial malty backbone that gives this whisky sweetness and depth, just like a brown sugar-glazed rack of barbecue ribs.
This spicy, chocolaty release from Nashville’s Corsair Distillery cuts through rich foods with ease, making it a great companion to smoked brisket or pulled pork. It’s also bottled at 92 proof, which means it can stand up to an ice cube or two—essential on a hot afternoon.
Americans aren’t the only ones who love to grill. In South Africa, cooking out is a way of life. Bain’s Cape Mountain, a particularly quirky world whisky, is a South African single grain made from 100% wheat by a former professional cricket player in the mountains outside Capetown. Sweet and a little bit tropical, it goes wonderfully with grilled shrimp.
These old heritage blended Scotch brands don’t get a lot of love, but there’s a place in every liquor cabinet for Dewar’s. Sweet and simple without being simplistic, it’s an ideal highball Scotch, since a splash of seltzer water brings out its fruity, apple-like notes.