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"2-3 drops of water"

Everywhere I went it was recommended to put 2-3 drops of water to "open up" the whiskey.  I agree that there is a marked difference in the end result. The flavours & aromas  just blossom. 

Can any of our whiskey/whisky lovers here explain why?

"Never an ice cube" I was told. "Just a few drops"

What is the science here? Is there any?  I am absolutely intrigued so help out if you can :ok:

 

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According to the Prof. Frinks of the world, the guiacol molecules (flavor compounds) normally stick to the ethanol molecules in whisk(e)y. When you add a bit of water some of them are freed up and rise to the top of the glass, giving you more aroma and flavor up front.

I don’t personally find that process always improves a whisky, but it does seem to impact it every time...

 

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Not sure for why it has any affect on aroma, but I always thought the water would slightly reduce the alcohol % and therefore reduce some of that alcohol burn you can get with higher abv whiskys. 

I tend not to put anything in a whisky below 50% but some of the cask strength can need a drop to make it more accessible to me 

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I've always added about a half a teaspoon to a standard one ounce glass. It's recommended by the makers as noted above and also reduces the stringency, particularly in cask strength whiskeys. 50% + is a little rich for my blood so I'm fully on board with the water.

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whisky*

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I believe it is in order to reduce the ABV and solute.  When too high the saturation prevents the ability to distinguish flavors on the palate.  IMHO.

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On 7/1/2019 at 5:03 AM, Fuzz said:

From everything I've read about it, this article sums it up pretty well. When I was working at the University, a friend of mine who is currently working in the chemical engineering field tried to explain it to me whilst we were indulging........I wish I could remember what he said, lol!

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I have never added anything to the best single malts I have had. But I can see a few drops of water might make a positive difference if it were cask strength or over 50%. That being said I would only use some ultra pure holy water from 24:24 if it were PSP and had Jesus or a disciple noted in the descriptor.  

Now straight up TN Whiskey Or KY Bourbon I am looking for the best ice cube I can make. Reverse Osmosis water with added minerals to alkalize it. A big cube that melts slow. This also transitions the Whiskey slowly and at one point there is a perfect sip where the heat and flavors are making the beast with two backs. 

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I used to be a “purist” i.e. no water whatsoever - now I just enjoy the way I like it - neat, rocks, one ice cube, with water - how the mood strikes me. Just like cigars, very easy to overthink and over-analyze everything (“I only light with cedar spills for 35.7 seconds and then take one puff”). Life’s too short.

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I enjoy most whiskey neat when I'm out but at home i might add an ice cube since most of what I stock is cask or barrel proof. It helps sometimes but if your individual tastes prefer neat, ice, or water go for it! 

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We Scots are just tight - it makes a bottle go further. 😉

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Just pour it in a glass and drink.

I’ve never experienced “improvement” by adding water to a whiskey. Why dilute it?

No water, ice, whiskey stones, etc. needed. There is already water content in the whisky.

If you want a weaker whiskey, buy a lower proof, you will save a ton of $$$$$$.

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3 hours ago, Buck14 said:

Just pour it in a glass and drink.

I’ve never experienced “improvement” by adding water to a whiskey. Why dilute it?

No water, ice, whiskey stones, etc. needed. There is already water content in the whisky.

If you want a weaker whiskey, buy a lower proof, you will save a ton of $$$$$$.

Buck reiterating what I said. It just makes it weaker. Most distillers that I know will refuse to drink anything but cask strength, and no water drops. Taste ot for what it was meant to be. 40% whisky is always, always, ALWAYS  already watered down. I'm a snob. Big sniff, another big sniff... identify smells. New whisky: Sip, roll around in your mouth, breathe out your nose, swallow and exhale. Whisky you know you like: Quaff that S$%#

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It depends on what the abv of your whisky is, to start.

If it's 40/43/46%, it has been diluted to that point by the producer, which means they've already added water (perhaps a lot).  Adding more water to it (via ice/water dropper/tap) will not affect any major chemical change, just dilute the overall flavour profile and alcoholic percentage.  I never add water to a whisky that has already been diluted, nor do I generally like my whisky cold (unless i'm sweating through my uniform in a Vietnamese military reception), in which case I'll put some ice in.  Some do regardless, based on personal taste.

If your whisky is cask strength (can anywhere from 40.1%-60% and above), then it has not been diluted by the producer, and there will be a chemical change if you were to put water in.  A few drops into the whisky will break down some of the more complex ester chains in whisky, releasing different aromas and flavour notes.  That's the science that's happening.  However, only a few drops are required to affect that change. A whole bunch of water (or indeed ice) will have a diluting affect, more than anything else, similar to the lower abv whisky above.  

It's a personal choice. There are definitely scientific things that happen when you put a couple of drops in to a cask strength whisky, but any other situation and the dilution effect is overwhelming whatever small-scale scientific changes were happening with a couple of drops.

I don't ever add water to my whisky (unless, as above, it's 40C+ outside and I'm still drinking for some fool reason), I like to taste my whisky at higher abvs, to gather the full profile as the distiller meant it.

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I love my single malt scotch and have a pretty nice collection.  Water can affect a whisky dramatically.  Just a tiny bit can make a classic highland like Macallan or Morangie more "floral" on the nose though less sweet on the palate.  A bit more can bring out more of the smoke in the nose of a "light" Islay like Caol Ila or sweeten a heavily peated dram like a Laphroaig or an Ardbeg.

I've watched a lot of tasting note videos from many of the Scottish distillers and when many of them add water, they add WATER.  Personally, I'm a live and let live guy.  Drink it the way it suits you best.  Experiment with more and less until you find what you like.  Just writing this makes me thirsty.  I have one bottle left of Bowmore 17.  No longer available in the US and one of the best malts I've ever had.  I think a little of that and an RASS are a good way to finish a Sunday.

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5 hours ago, BoliDan said:

Buck reiterating what I said. It just makes it weaker. Most distillers that I know will refuse to drink anything but cask strength, and no water drops. Taste ot for what it was meant to be. 40% whisky is always, always, ALWAYS  already watered down. I'm a snob. Big sniff, another big sniff... identify smells. New whisky: Sip, roll around in your mouth, breathe out your nose, swallow and exhale. Whisky you know you like: Quaff that S$%#

rob, as i told you on the balcony, you'll get as many opinions as people you ask. 

with the greatest respect, i don't buy the distillers only drink cask strength argument. all the distillers i know drink a wide range. we need to remember that cask strength whiskies are a relatively new product for the market. i think the first commercial one was the glenfarclas 105 and that was in tiny quantities to a few select places back in the late 60s and early 70s. it has taken time for everyone else to get on board. we also forget that outside scotland, single malts were a curiosity at best for most markets until the 60s at the earliest. 

personally, for yet another opinion, i will usually add a half ice cube (or perhaps more for lesser spirits). i live in queensland. it is hot most of the time so the cube melts fairly quickly. little different to a splash of water (agree good quality water is important). i find that helps open up the spirit (i do it for more than just whiskies). a really good spirit, i am more likely to start without any addition and then play it by ear. 

i like it this way (after a great deal of trial and error) but do not insist that it is the way for all. some like more water, others none. for me, it allows the whisky to show at what i see is its optimum.  

i do have a theory that the younger one is, the more likely one is to insist on no water or ice. it seems to be the default position for younger males (just like insisting that one merely waved the vermouth bottle near the glass of gin for a martini, or perhaps placed it so the sun shone through the bottle onto the glass - i can't believe what enormous tossers we were). i think young blokes think they should drink it without any addition. then as one gets more sensible, one drinks it the way it most appeals. 

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1 hour ago, Ken Gargett said:

rob, as i told you on the balcony, you'll get as many opinions as people you ask. 

with the greatest respect, i don't buy the distillers only drink cask strength argument. all the distillers i know drink a wide range. we need to remember that cask strength whiskies are a relatively new product for the market. i think the first commercial one was the glenfarclas 105 and that was in tiny quantities to a few select places back in the late 60s and early 70s. it has taken time for everyone else to get on board. we also forget that outside scotland, single malts were a curiosity at best for most markets until the 60s at the earliest. 

personally, for yet another opinion, i will usually add a half ice cube (or perhaps more for lesser spirits). i live in queensland. it is hot most of the time so the cube melts fairly quickly. little different to a splash of water (agree good quality water is important). i find that helps open up the spirit (i do it for more than just whiskies). a really good spirit, i am more likely to start without any addition and then play it by ear. 

i like it this way (after a great deal of trial and error) but do not insist that it is the way for all. some like more water, others none. for me, it allows the whisky to show at what i see is its optimum.  

i do have a theory that the younger one is, the more likely one is to insist on no water or ice. it seems to be the default position for younger males (just like insisting that one merely waved the vermouth bottle near the glass of gin for a martini, or perhaps placed it so the sun shone through the bottle onto the glass - i can't believe what enormous tossers we were). i think young blokes think they should drink it without any addition. then as one gets more sensible, one drinks it the way it most appeals. 

Perhaps I should dial back most distillers I know. I know of five, 2 of which look take a hard pass on anything in th 40s. So a bit of hyperbole, sure. One of these people is a distiller at pendryn, whom also happens to be one of my most trusted reviewers. His blog is here. http://www.daveswhiskyreviews.com. now clearly he drinks all whisky ranges for review purposes, but he has stated he looks directly at percent when looking for something for leisure.

But of course we love the reviewers that confirm our biases. I believe there was a recent review where you noted a sommelier that didnt pair with red wines. I expect that those that are more in line with our own preferences are "the best".

I used to be very much an ice cube person, but moved on to drinking neat the more I drank. I do believe water changes the profile, but usually at the cost of complexity or a very intended-flavor by the distillery. I put ice in a lot of stuff, but never in my scotch (unless it's a bad blend meant for rusty nails). 

But you're right about drinking what appeals to you. In the end, that's what is all about.

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On 7/4/2019 at 3:33 PM, Lotusguy said:

I used to be a “purist” i.e. no water whatsoever - now I just enjoy the way I like it - neat, rocks, one ice cube, with water - how the mood strikes me. Just like cigars, very easy to overthink and over-analyze everything (“I only light with cedar spills for 35.7 seconds and then take one puff”). Life’s too short.

This sums it up perfectly. Just as some hate large RG cigars, some love them. Drink it the way you like it and tell anyone who tells you 'you're wrong' for drinking it the way you enjoy it, to piss off. 

I've met too many 'whiskey snobs' that cringe everytime they take a sip just because they are drinking it the "correct" way. The correct way is the way you best enjoy it. Life is way to short to give a F what others think. 

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