Summer is here and that means beers, wine coolers and tiki drinks, right? Well, those are all well and good, but serious whisky drinkers aren’t going to settle for a Mai Tai just because the conditions are a little warmer than usual. On cool evenings around the bonfire, they’ll still want to enjoy a dram or two of smoky, delicious whisky.

The most popular way to make smoky whisky is by using peat moss. This is very common in whiskies from the Scottish island of Islay. “Peat is lit to dry the malted barley in order to stop the grain from fully germinating,” says Mikael Mossberg, founder of Distiller.com. “When peat burns, smoke is given off, penetrates the grain and imparts a smoky, medicinal, and earthy flavor.”

If you want a pour of something seriously smoky, we recommend one of these bottles:


Ardbeg Uigeadail

Jim Murray’s 2009 World Whisky of the Year is an extremely complex, smoky, rich whisky from the island that makes more smoke-filled whisky than anywhere in the world. This very special expression is made by maturing Ardbeg in Sherry butts to give it a sweet, smoky flavor that sits at 54.2% ABV. Link


Lagavulin Distillers Editon

Part of what sets Lagavulin Distillers Edition apart from the pack is that this famously smoky whisky is aged for a second time in casks that were once used to mature fortified wine. It’s a mix of the peaty, smoky flavor Lagavulin drinkers have grown to love as well as the rich sweetness that comes from Pedro Ximinez sherry wood. Link


Bruichladdich Octomore 7.4/ 167ppm

Potentially the smokiest whisky ever made, Octomore 7.4 is definitely not for the smoky whisky novice. If you don’t already know, Bruichladdich really enjoys pushing the envelope when it comes to their peaty, smoky whiskies. A few years ago, they decided to take their 167ppm Octomore and mature it in virgin French oak barrels. The result is smoky and rich with hints of cinnamon, vanilla and orange. Link


Laphroaig Lore

One of the distillery’s most recent releases, Lore was made available to the public this past spring. Like many newer releases, it doesn’t have an age statement. The distillers consider this to be the richest, smoothest whisky Laphroaig has ever made. Yet, it still has that medicinal, briny, smoky flavor fans of the Islay brand have grown to love. They achieved that by blending aged whiskies and by using different barrels (first-fill sherry butts, first-fill bourbon casks, and refill bourbon casks). Link


BenRiach Curiositas 10 Year

This smoky scotch isn’t from Islay; it’s actually from the Speyside region of Scotland. BenRiach makes many different styles, but this is a truly special whisky. The peat used is different from the briny, island peat used in most peated whiskies. This give BenRiach Curiositas a much earthier, grassier profile than those made on the famous, sheep-filled island. Link


Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey

We bet you didn’t think we were going to manage to find any American whiskies that fit the smoky bill. If you couldn’t tell from the whiskey’s name, New Mexico-based Santa Fe Spirits make a whiskey that would fit right in at a haggis dinner in Edinburgh. Instead of peat, this whiskey gets its smokiness from mesquite smoking. It’s aged for a minimum of two years in new and previously used American oak casks. Link


Balcones Brimstone

The name should be a pretty good indicator of what you have in store when you open a bottle of this whiskey from Waco, Texas. It’s a smoked corn whiskey and, like Colkegan, it doesn’t get its smoke from peat. It comes from Texas scrub oak that is used to smoke the distillate before it is aged. This is a 100% Hopi blue corn whiskey made completely at the Balcones Distillery. Link


Compass Box Peat Monster

We go back to Scotland for a whisky that begs to be on this list. You have to expect a good deal of smoky goodness with a whisky called Peat Monster. This is a blend of malt whisky from distilleries on the Isle of Mull, Islay and Speyside. All three whiskies are peated whiskies with varying smoke levels. This creates a very complex and pleasurable smoky whisky. Link

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Unzip your coat and have some mulled wine on the house—you’ve arrived at your final gifting destination: The Holiday Gift Guide. It’s like your friendly neighborhood one-stop holiday shop, except instead of balsa wood ornaments, ours is packed with thoughtful gifts for everyone on your list. Future heirlooms, small-but-significant stocking stuffers, and gear for getting out there (or staying in)—are all right here. There’s no music playing in the background though, so you’ll just have to hum Bing Crosby while you click around instead.

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