Should I Add Water or Ice to My Scotch?

scotch-rocksThere is no right answer to this question. Some whisky snobs will say that you should enjoy it as the distiller intended, with no ice and no added water, but I’m not a snob. You’re paying good money for that drink, you should enjoy it however you like. Personally, I don’t add anything (with very few exceptions) because I like to enjoy it as it is. I like my scotch neat. I totally get that some people prefer to add ice or water.

I will offer up this advice – you can never remove water or ice, but you can always add it in later.

When you add a drop of distilled water to your whisky, it lowers the alcohol content of your drink and it can open it up for your other senses. If you’re not used to drinking a spirit that’s 40-43% alcohol by volume, trying to discern flavors from either your nose or your palate can be very difficult. A drop of water will open up the whisky so that you can find the subtler flavors. When I started drinking whisky, I added a drop or two of water just so I could find some of these flavors. I don’t anymore.

Adding ice is a little trickier. The problem with ice is that it’s a lot of water. It also drops the temperature of your drink while adding a lot of water, which dilutes it far more than you probably want. If it’s a drink you don’t particularly enjoy the flavor of, ice may help it go down better. 🙂

Nowadays, I only ever add a drop or two of water to cask strength whiskies because cask strength is simply too high of an ABV for me. I never go with ice unless it’s in a cocktail, like a Manhattan, and then it doesn’t really count.

Are you a bad person if you add water or ice? No, of course not. Don’t be silly.

My advice to you, if you are new to whisky, is to try it neat first. If you find that it’s too strong for you to enjoy, try a drop of water or two, then try it again. If you feel like you really need some ice, consider whisky stones before water ice cubes (you get the cooling and none of the water). If you don’t like it chilled, you can always wait! (and if you don’t have any handy, then add a cube and see what happens)

Enjoying whisky, or any spirit, is about experimentation and learning what you like. Try things a bunch of different ways and you’ll settle on what you truly enjoy. Don’t let other people tell you want to do!

(Credit: alexbrn)

4 thoughts on “Should I Add Water or Ice to My Scotch?

  1. My husband drinks scotch AND water. I am wondering about best glass and best scotch as a gift for him.

    Thank you,

  2. I like my whiskies slightly cooled but agree that ice cubes can add too much water. I have a mini cube tray that I use that lets me get the slight biy of coolness that I like with less than half the water of a normal cube. These trays are inexpensive and worth a look if interested.


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