They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Monday 13 December 2010

Do you add drops to your dram?

As much debate as there is about how you should get served your pint, there is and always has been a similar debate on how to get served your whisky. - Do you add a few drops of water? a couple of cubes of ice? maybe a splash of ginger? And if your thinking 'I have mine with coke' then don't bother reading on. There is a thought amoung many whisky drinkers that if you add water you are doing something unspeakable, just like a bunch of northerners in a southern pub complaining that all the beer is flat.

The adding of water was not just about the flavour, it had a much deeper past than that. To get into this though you have to know about chill-filtering and un-chill filitered whiskys. Today nearly all whiskys are chill-filtered, it's a method of filtering which removes some fatty acids, protiens and some esters which can cause a bit of a clouding haze in the whisky. In an un-chill filtered whisky if you add a dash of water it can cause this haze to be more prominant, so for most people chill filitering was mainly for cosmetics. In the past most whiskys were un-chill filitered, and you wern't seen drinking a cloudy whisky - so no water. Today a lot of distillerys release both kinds so you can have a choice.

For some though the big argument comes from the idea that chill filtering can remove some of the flavour, or 'essence', of the whisky. This in many ways can be related to a few beer discussions i've seen recently (sound familiar anyone?). I think there is a lot of truth to this point. For example I've not had chance to do a side by side comparrison but in case of Edradour the plot really thickens. Edradour chill filitered 10yr old is a classic single malt at 40% strenght. However Edradour un-chill filitered 10yr old comes in at 46%. Can it be purely the filtration process that removes this 6%? And if it is then surely it will effect the flavour.

So when it comes to ordering time there is pleanty of choice; filtered? un-filtered? water? plain? At the end of the day, as with beer, it all comes down to personal choice but I think there are a few exceptions. I recently receved a bottle of Ardbeg Supernova which when it was released it was labeled as the 'peatist whisky ever'. This has now been taken over by a bottle by Bruicladdich. (Distilliries compete like that too)

This scotch comes in at a massive 60.1% and must be treated with respect! I won't bore you with my tasting notes but at one point I did note that it was like drinking fire. It's whiskys like this which need a shot of water to really enjoy. With so much alcohol it can be very difficult to pick out flavours and actualy enjoy the drink itself. When you dilute them back a bit you can much better appriciate whiskys of higher strenghths. (even if it has a slight cloudy-ness) I have a bottle of cask strength Teaninich at home which is so strong it states on the box it should be poured 1 part whisky to 3 parts water!

Don't be afraid of asking for what you really want when it comes your beverage. If people tell you your drinking it wrong, tell them there wrong because thats how you like it. (unless it's single malt with coke, you heathens!)

Can people look past the haze to enjoy there drinks more?


  1. I recon so. Tho I know for a fact chill filtering does not lower the abv. 40% whiskys are adjusted in bulk to that strenght with sterile water. My whisky I have always had straight till the last year or so ago when Ive been inclined to add just (literally) one or two drops of water to release the aroma a bit.

  2. I've moved from adding ice to adding water. I think it really brings out the flavour.

  3. Sterile water! boooo, thats no good.

  4. It really depends on who you are and what your tastes are as you're the only person who knows your palate.

    If you add ice, you will cool down (and dilute) what's in the glass and if you chill it you'll deaden the flavour (slowing down the movement of molecules and preventing your olfactory senses detecting the different smells).

    So much of the whisky is in the nose, so getting the right glass really helps. Change the shape of the glass and see how you alter your perception of the nose and whether it needs opening up.

    Cutting cask strength whisky is personal preference. If you have some time warming the glass in hand and taking your time over it can help uncover different smells and tastes and is a differnet approach to adding water to open it up.

    As for recommendations on the bottle - they're not gonna know what you really like. If you're starting off and like all the amazing variations in flavour & style in whisky but find it too strong then cut it with room temp distilled water or try leaving it for 30 mins to open. If you're fine with the full on alcohol - go for it as it comes.