A few years ago, two of my friends ended up in a pretty heated battle. The topic? Whether or not it’s acceptable for you to add water to whiskey.
While there’s technically water in every bottle of whisky you buy, adding a little extra when you pour it into a glass to drink it is a practice that’s debated by whiskey lovers. Many swear that adding water is dramatically changing how the spirit tastes, turning it into something different than the distiller intended when it was bottled. Others insist that water can bring out more flavors and nuances of the whisky. Both are right.
Since witnessing the debate, I’ve made a point to ask every distiller I’ve come across, which is a lot in this job, to ask what their stance is on adding water to whiskey. The answer: every single person has said that not only is it ok, but they do it themselves. In Scotland I was even given a small pitcher at every whisky tasting I did to make things easy. And some high proof whiskey is made to be mellowed with a touch of water.
That doesn’t mean you should add water to everything by default.
Before reaching for that splash of H2O, try the whiskey own its own first. Out of the bottle you’ll be able to pick up on flavors from the cask, and you’ll be drinking it how the distiller intended it to be enjoyed.
Then add a splash of water.
The ideal way to do this is in a controlled way where you’re only adding a drop or two at a time. By adding the water, you’re diluting the alcohol, which gives some of the whiskey’s more subtle flavors an opportunity to shine.
I honestly drink whiskey both ways, and I recommend everyone doing the same (at least once). Who knows, you might like it the other way (or both ways).