ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Should You Drink Scotch Whisky With Water or Ice / On The Rocks?

Updated on May 6, 2014
Be careful not to add to much water.
Be careful not to add to much water.

Basic rules of whisky drinking

One of the most hotly debated questions in the world of whisky is "Should you drink your whisky with water or ice?". Ultimately, the most important thing to remember when drinking whisky is to enjoy it whichever way you like. Mix it with milk if it really does it for you, just don’t invite me along! There are however some fundamental rules that most whisky lovers generally agree on.

Firstly, if you’re going to mix your whisky with coke, lemonade, milk or anything else really, please don’t waste your good whisky doing it. There is room for a whisky and coke every now and then or even in some cocktails, but by the time you’ve added a mixer you will have lost all the subtle, delicious flavours of a good single malt. So when you’re wife says she’d like to try a whisky and coke hand her the bells or famous grouse as she won’t be able to tell the difference anyway. You’re much better off using a blend and saving your money and single malts for another day.

Your other basic rule is not to add ice to your whisky. The coldness of the ice will numb your taste buds and reduce the sensations and delicious flavours that you will get from the whisky. Why would you spend $80 on a bottle of good Scotch whisky only to dull the flavours that you’re paying for? Again cheap blends are a much better option if you like to add ice to your drink. Try Bells or a cheap Irish whiskey like Jameson’s with ice, but keep your single malts either straight or with a dash of water.

Looks nice, but you won't taste a thing...
Looks nice, but you won't taste a thing...

Whisky with Water?

Which brings us to the real issue here; do you add water to your whisky? This issue divides nations and people from across Scotland and the globe. The general consensus is, in theory anyway, that a dash of water opens up the flavours by breaking up amino acids in the whisky and creating a chemical reaction that literally releases new compounds called esters which have flowery, fruity tastes and smells.

But how much should you add? I took a whisky tour and tasting at the Glengoyne distillery in Aberfoyle, Scotland and was informed that the master blenders generally dilute their whisky to about 75% water; this is so remove the taste of the alcohol so they are just getting the taste of the whisky. This is probably way too much for most of us and I personally hate nothing more than finding that you’ve added too much water to the whisky and are left with an overly diluted insipid drink. Your only option then is to add more whisky...

As part of the Glengoyne whisky tasting I tried a 21 year old cask strength whisky that was 60% alcohol; for whiskies this strong you generally need to add some water or you’ll burn the hairs of your chest! However, the guide added the water for me and added way too much, I couldn’t believe it. It ruined the drink for me, but that’s probably how he likes it.

How Do I Like My Whisky?

When I do drink my whisky with water i add just 3 drops. I think this is the perfect amount as it lets the flavours breathe but not dilute the taste. I have a pipette i use to add the water to ensure I can control how much I add. I find using a jug or glass to pour it in is just too unreliable and you can easily over pour and end up with the dreaded watery drink. Also it is important for the water to be room temperature, if it’s too cold it will dull the flavours like adding ice.

My general rule is to always try a whisky neat first and if I feel a little water will add to it, I’ll put a few drops in. Rarely more than 3 though. My personal preference is to drink it neat usually and use water for the really smoky, peaty whiskies like Laphroaig and Lagavulin as these have the most flavour to develop. Others might tell you to add water to the milder whiskies as it brings out the subtleties, but that’s just preference. I will usually add water to a cask strength whisky; I have a Laphroaig Quarter Cask which really benefits from a drop of water, but my Glengoyne 12 year old I actually prefer neat, that tastes great straight from the bottle though.

My advice is to experiment; I would try a whisky neat first, then add a few drops, then on your next dram add a few more and see what your level is. Always get your nose into the glass before tasting to enjoy the smell and whatever happens always enjoy your whisky and have fun doing it.

As always i'd be really interested to hear whether you drink your whisky with water so please leave a comment.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)