Labor Day weekend is bittersweet. Traditionally, it marks the end of summer. And while it’s true that school bells and autumn showers are just around the corner, that unwelcome message is delivered by a particularly beguiling messenger: three whole days for enjoying the last of the summer sunshine, hanging out with friends and family, firing up the grill, and enjoying a few special whiskeys to send off summer and welcome in a new season.
In most places, it’s a safe bet that Labor Day weekend will be a warm one, so we’re steering away from super dense, chewy, high-proof whiskeys. Yet this isn’t Fourth of July—there may not be a chill in the air yet, but apples are ripening, the sun is going down a little earlier, and leaves might be starting to turn—so you’ll want something with at least a little bit of heft. Think classic Kentucky bourbons, nuanced craft ryes, Japanese whiskies, or Speyside Scotches. Here’s what we’re drinking this Labor Day Weekend.
One age and price bracket up from the introductory 12-year-old Glenlivet, this Speyside distillery’s 15-year-old expression is partially matured in French oak casks. Rich and resinous, it puts a spicy spin on Glenlivet’s classic acidity and tropical flavor, just the right combination for the last days of summer.
Woodinville Whiskey 100% Rye
For most of its existence, Woodinville Whiskey’s rye whiskey was aged in small casks, giving it a robust oakiness that didn’t always agree with us. But last year, Woodinville released a five-year-old 100% rye aged in full-sized casks, and it’s subtle and delicious. Enjoy this one on the rocks around a smoldering barbecue.
Wild Turkey Rare Breed
A perennial favorite among the (bourbon-scented?) bourbon-scenti, Wild Turkey Rare Breed is a blend of six- to 12-year-old whiskey and bottled at barrel proof. It’s affordable, spicy, and sweet, with a velvety mouth feel that makes it a joy to sip neat. It also performs admirably in cocktails, like a luxe mint julep to take advantage of that patch of fresh mint while it’s still around.
While many Japanese whiskies are hard to find and even harder to muster up the courage to pay for, Suntory Toki is an exception. This blend of grain and malt whiskies uses stock from the Yamazaki, Chita, and Hakushu distilleries, and (for now) is widely distributed and affordable. It’s light and nuanced, with flavors of ripe tree fruit, flowers, and chocolate, and the perfect base for that refreshing afternoon highball.
Margarett Waterbury is the author of Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland's Whiskies and a full-time freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Whisky Advocate, Food and Wine, Spirited Magazine, Artisan Spirit, Edible Seattle, Sip Northwest, Civil Eats, Travel Oregon, Artisan Spirit, and many other publications. She is...