The Great Water Debate

11959128 - a table with a glass and an old bottle of whiskey
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How should I drink my whisky? 

You should drink it however you like to.  This ought to end the debate.  I said ‘END IT’.

Below I am talking mainly about single malts, unless otherwise noted.  Legalese just rolls off my keypad – I just cant help it.

There is  huge amount of online opinion particularly in the comments section of reviews about adding water.  It is just opinion – not right not wrong just one woman or man’s  opinion.  Make your own mind up.

If you expected more I must now issue a disclaimer – what follows is my opinion, informed by drinking and discussing.

For years I was very much a 50:50 whisky water drinker but now I realise that  for me this too often drowns the flavours that make whisky such a special drink. 

I make my full confession in my Blog post – The Worlds Best Malt

I taste every dram neat then gradually add tiny quantities of water observing how the flavours develop.

Most, but not all younger drams and blends are bottled at 40% ABV but we know that the cask strength may be 50+% so these have already been partially diluted with water to achieve the taste the distiller believes will appeal to the majority of the market.  Drinking a 40% malt neat is not really ‘neat’ no matter how manly this might have made me feel in my youth – now there’s a loaded opinion if i heard one – just ignore it please – I will get over myself in time.

If I have any general – not necessarily right guidelines for myself they are;

The more alcoholic the whisky the more likely I am to add water.  You must at very high alcohol levels. 

The older the more carefully I add it using the straw as a pipette one drop at a time method.  Different whiskies react differently to water and different palates perceive this effect differently.  Sometimes, rarely for me  I might drink neat, sometimes I have a single drop of water, most often a teaspoon.  occasionally I would go up to 4 teaspoons such as with a cask strength Glenfarclas 105 which is 60% ABV. 

I do remember chatting with a leading whisky expert.  His ‘opinion’ was that you always drank whisky with water even if it was just a single drop to open up the flavours.

The theory of drinking whisky with the water with which it is made, whilst romantic is largely invalid as it may be more relevant to drink it with the same water as in the bottling plant – except for cask strength whisky.   you do need fresh still clear water.  I am lucky as I ‘claim’ the water from my tap comes from the same source as Highland Spring it looks like this on the map anyway.  This is of course debatable as is the level of treatment it goes through.  For tastings I used still bottled water, just in case.  I try to drink as much water by volume as whisky just to ensure i keep hydrated.  I fail all to often.  

Ice is another thing that there are strong views on.  Some maintain ice dulls the flavour and gentling warming your dram by slowly swilling it  in your hand may release more flavour.   Try it out for yourself.

I have seen whisky drunk with water, soda,  ice, ginger, cola and other local mixers – if you object, get over it.  It is a drink to be enjoyed.  I drink bourbon with dry ginger.

if you spend a lot of money on a whisky I suggest you give yourself the best chance to experience the flavour.   Whisky increasingly is an expensive drink.  However you take it sipping will give you a more value for money experience than ‘shooting’ it, I opine.

Blends were designed to be drunk with mixers, so simply suit yourself – with, without or whatever.  

You may find that you change your preferences as you grow older.  My dad drunk his whisky with soda when younger, then dry ginger until he was 92 when he chose to start drinking it with water.  I think because he learnt would keep the best stuff I bought him for birthday and XMas and send him a blend instead.  His dram is Highland Park or Scapa.

I am passionate about whisky but more passionate about freedom.   Good company is more important than any rules or opinions.

The question of how to drink your whisky has no right or wrong answer, never has and never will.  Just enjoy this high quality drink to the full.  What gives you enjoyment is subjective and entirely up to you.  You and nobody else however much experience they have, you can take their advice and make up your own mind.

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