Don’t let anyone tell you that the way you prefer to drink your whiskey is wrong or that you’re ruining your pour – unless you just poured Coke in to your 25+ year glass of perfection and in that case, yes, you’re wrong. I can’t even talk to you at that point. But I seriously doubt you would do that. Right? Right.
Ice / no ice. Water / no water. The debate shall ever continue. You know why? Because we’re all different as are our palates. There is certainly a methodology to follow when experiencing a new whiskey – a way to observe, smell, taste, and savor. However, when it comes to sipping post-discovery, that’s all you.
There are plenty of resources online to provide the technical nitty gritty on the benefits and disadvantages of adding ice to your glass. I’m not going to bore some of you barley-n-barrel educated lot with such detail. For the rest of the reading crowd, here’s the synopsis: non-chill filtered whiskey (cooled and liquid essentially skimmed for particles) contains fatty acids (lipids from the grains) and proteins. And what happens when you cool down fatty grease in a pan? It congeals. Along a similar line, what happens when you freeze your leftover dinner? The freezing process seals in smells and flavors so they can’t escape. Ok, now add ice to your glass of whiskey, what happens? Sure, it starts to melt and dilute the liquid, but it also cools it down beyond simply adding room temperature or slightly chilled water. It freezes some of the molecules around it, inhibiting the tastes and smells of the hooch. Is that a bad deal? That depends on how you like to drink your drank (drank = the Texan pronunciation of ‘drink’. Well, maybe East Texas).
Now, if you add room temperature or slightly cooled *distilled* water, as this does not impart outside flavor to your glass, you may actually allow more subtleties and aromas to push forth out of the original product. Whiskey folk say this is ‘opening up’ the hooch. Again, plenty of resources online to give you the technical rundown as to why, but that’s the gist.
Me? My preference is to take my glass neat. I do like my whiskey to bite me back, meaning I enjoy a bit of alcohol burn. I find it soothing to “warm the wame”. Granted, if it is bottled at 50% or higher ABV (100 proof), I may be inclined to add a drop or two of water to tame the beast a bit so that the alcohol burn does not hinder the more subtle flavors and smells attempting to peek through.
I don’t care how you take your whiskey and neither should anyone else. As long as you sit with me and enjoy your dram, and can tell me a good story along with good conversation, well, we’re going to have a good evening. However, as a reminder, I will tackle the guy at the other end of the bar that asks for Coke with his Blanton’s Single Barrel.