From an article by REGAN STEPHENS
June 19, 2021 7:00 AM PDT
A couple of years ago, Penderyn Distillery set up a booth at the Scottish Highland Gathering and Games, taking place Labor Day weekend each summer near San Francisco. The Wales-based distillery—the country’s first in over a century—found itself among much bigger whiskey brands with more name recognition, and outsold them all. As one drinker sipped Penderyn on that warm California day, he remarked that it was a “sunshine whiskey.”
“The name stuck,” says Bethan Morgans, Penderyn’s commissioning distiller. “It’s such a lovely way to describe our whiskey. And I think it just explains exactly what it is—something very light and delicate, that can be enjoyed in the sunshine.”
Whiskey is often thought of as a winter drink, for warming up cold nights while seated by the fireplace. And though some are best for chilly weather, many are lighter-bodied, smooth, and refreshing and actually perfect for drinking all summer.
Below, find seven of the best bottles to mix into cocktails, or drink neat—as long as the sun is shining.
Penderyn “House Style” Madeira Finish: The distinction of being the first distillery to open in Wales in over a century gives Penderyn, based in the village of Penderyn in South Wales, a certain liberty to forge its own path. And it has. The all-female team of distillers—Laura Davies, Aista Jukneviciute, and Bethan Morgans—use a unique Faraday still for many of their expressions, including the “house style” Madeira finish.
While most single malt whiskey is distilled twice in pot stills, the Faraday method enables the spirit to be distilled only once; the design’s perforated copper plates help remove sulfites and other impurities, producing a spirit that clocks in at 92% ABV (alcohol by volume). And even at this high ABV, the Madeira finish—aged in two types of casks, first matured in ex–bourbon barrels and finished in ex–Madeira wine casks—is smooth and lighter-bodied, with hints of vanilla and a crisp, fresh finish.
Morgans recommends trying the whiskey alone to get an appreciation for it first. “Even if you choose to add something to it, whether it be water, ice, or a mixer, I always recommend trying it neat first,” she says. “Due to the distillation process, it’s very light and easy to drink.” Suggested retail price: $70
M&H Distillery Classic Single Malt Whisky: Israel’s first whiskey distillery, M&H (Milk & Honey) opened in 2012, and launched globally last year. The brand’s Classic Single Malt Whisky is finished in ex–bourbon barrels, as well as in red wine STR (shaved, toasted, re-charred) casks, and has racked up awards already, including gold medals at the International Spirits Challenge 2020 and Frankfurt International Trophy 2020.
“Our M&H Classic is a whiskey that was matured under the Tel Aviv sunshine, a five minutes walk from the beach,” says Tal Chotiner, the distillery’s VP of international sales. “It is a whiskey for everyone, with light-bodied, light vanilla notes, a fresh spicy scent, and balanced sweetness.
These light and balanced characteristics make it a sunshine whiskey, best drunk neat or with one ice cube if it is boiling outside.”
Another summery way to drink it? In a Mediterranean julep: That’s two ounces of M&H Classic Single Malt poured over one-quarter ounce of simple syrup muddled with mint leaves; finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a dash of bitters. SRP: $55
Fukano 2020 Edition: A fifth-generation family-run distillery, Fukano is located on the Japanese island of Kyushu in Hitoyoshi, a city in Kumamoto prefecture. Because Japanese whiskey is distilled once, says Sam Filmus, president of spirits importer ImpEx Beverages, it has an umami sweetness. “Using rice creates a style of whiskey that’s soft, smooth, and pleasantly delicate,” he says. Aged in ex-sherry, red wine, and oak casks, and made using a combination of malted and unmalted rice, the Fukano 2020 Edition has an aroma of apple and rose, with notes of white tea and honey and a finish of coconut and banana. Because the distillery is small, each whiskey release is a limited one, making every bottle all the more special. SRP: $90