Whisky Assignments: Add Water or Not?

by Randy Murray on April 8, 2013

Here’s the short answer: yes.

When drinking your Scotch whisky the object is to enjoy and experience it, not to conform to some standard or expectation of how you should do it. Neat, just the whisky, nothing else, isn’t always the best way to do that.

A bit of water, just a bit, can help you to “open up” a whisky, especially one that’s “hot” or high in alcohol content. If you get too much burn while sipping a whisky you might not be able to detect the subtile flavors. Just a bit of water, just a little bit, can help to reveal much more of the drink’s character.

Here in the States, especially if you’re in the South, you could order, “bourbon and branch water.” While drinking whisky, you can order water too, but ask for it separately. For the best effect you’ll want the water to be the same temperature as the whisky: room temperature. You’ll want water with little to no taste to interfere with the whisky. If your tap water has a taste, especially one of chlorine, use bottled water.

Here’s how to do it: pour your whisky into your tasting glass, then sniff and taste it neat. It’s like tasting your food before adding salt or pepper. Now add just a bit of water, perhaps a teaspoon or less, swirl it, and then sniff and taste again. This will be an excellent time for you to record your before and after impressions.

All of the same scents and flavors are still there, but just a little dilution can help to calm the alcohol and let you find these treasures more easily. I’ve seen drinkers try a particular whisky, claim not to like it, and then, with a bit of water added, suddenly fall in love.

No serious whisky aficionado will frown on you for adding a bit of water. They have their own water pitchers close at hand.


The Whisky Assignments: Add Water or Not? by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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