The first time I tasted a whisky, I was in my college and when I was unaware of the flavors that exist in the world. The whisky was a local product and it was all good to me. But the first time I drank a single malt, I got to know the difference between a scotch and a malt and also the superiority of the one form the other. Do you know the difference between a whisky and a malt?
Blended whisky, which comprises more than 80% of the market, including brands like Johnnie Walker, Black Label, and Dewars, is a mix of malt and grain whiskies that come from multiple distilleries. Single malt such as Glendfiddich, which Scottish drinkers often refer to as malt rather than whisky (and never Scotch, like it’s known elsewhere around the world), is whisky created from malted barley at one distillery.
Single malts aren’t necessarily always better than blends, but most of Scotland’s highest regarded and most expensive whiskies are the former. Blended whiskies are smoother and easier to drink; malt can be almost overwhelming in flavour, a drink most work their way up to.
But we are not here to talk about the difference between the Blended Scotch and Single Malt but to get the answer to the curious but a common question, Why you should never drink Whisky on the rocks?
So before providing you the answer to the above question, I would like to ask you whether the question ‘Should I add water or ice to my whisky’ comes to your mind? It is one of the most commonly asked questions about whisky. Adding water or ice changes a whisky in both positive and negative ways. Most whisky that has an alcohol level of between 40 and 46% already has some water added anyway. This process is called ‘cutting’ and is done before bottling in order to bring the alcohol down to a more acceptable level for the majority of consumers. The water used is usually spring water that is found locally to the distillery.
Many whisky drinkers believe that you should not add any water to your whisky under any circumstance. This is because you are tasting the whisky in its true natural form with all of the original distillery characteristics and flavors from the cask in which it has been maturing. This view is now seen as out of date. However, we recommend always trying a whisky as it comes from the bottle in the first instance – then you can make up your own mind and take it from there.
By adding a few drops of water to a whisky, you can open up different, new and subtle flavors that you previously had not experienced. This is especially true when drinking cask strength whiskies that have higher alcohol levels (these can be up to and over 60% in some cases). With cask strength whisky the alcohol and resulting burning in your mouth can overpower even the most prominent flavors. By adding some water, this dilutes the alcohol and reduces its effect, giving both the prominent and more subtle flavors a chance to shine. Imagine drinking a fruit cordial or concentrate without any water and then with water – it is essentially the same idea. How much water you then add is entirely dependent on your taste.
Ice is slightly different. Rather than enhancing flavors, it inhibits them as the ice makes the temperature of the whisky drop rapidly. It is the same as when you drink a good white wine that has been chilled down too much. It will be a more refreshing drink and calm the burn of alcohol, but can make the whisky taste dull and flat. The aromas and taste will only start to open up and reveal their full characteristics once the whisky starts to warm up to room temperature.
Despite the myths about adding or not adding water or ice, don’t feel ashamed to drink a cheap American bourbon or Scottish blended whisky with a mixer as they are often produced for this treatment. If you plan to drink an expensive single malt avoid adding any other flavours, as you are buying this whisky for its unique flavour. If you can, try a sip before adding ice or water as we have mentioned. You will often be surprised at the difference in the flavours and you will learn more about the whisky that you are drinking.
Ultimately, what you add to your whisky is all down to your own personal taste and the situation that you are drinking in. For instance, there is nothing better than enjoying a whisky cocktail or whisky ‘on the rocks’ on a hot Summer’s day. There are no right or wrong answers – if you have spent money on a shot of whisky or a bottle, then you can drink it how you like.