How should I drink my whisky?

You should drink it however you like it. This ought to end the debate.

There is a huge amount of online opinion particularly in the comments section of reviews about adding water. It is all just opinion – not right not wrong just opinion, it depends on personal taste even allowing for new scientific discoveries – see last paragraph.

What follows is my ‘opinion’, informed by drinking and discussing with others.

For years I was very much a 50:50 whisky water drinker but now I realise that this too often drowns the flavours that make whisky such a special drink.

Younger single malts and blends tend to be bottled at 40% ABV but we know that the cask strength is actually 60%+ so all of these have already been partially diluted with water to achieve the taste the distiller believes will appeal to the majority of the market.

My ‘Rules’

If I have any general (not necessarily correct) rules they are;

The greater the proof the more likely I am to add water and the more water I will add but I add it to taste.

The older a whisky – the more carefully I add it using the straw as a pipette one drop at a time method. Different whiskies react differently to water and different palates perceive this effect differently.

Sometimes, I might drink neat, more often than not I have a single drop of water, or a teaspoon. Occasionally I would go up to 4 teaspoons such as with a ‘cask strength’ Glenfarclas 105 which is 60% ABV.

I do remember chatting with a leading whisky expert. His ‘opinion’ was that you always drunk whisky with water even if it was just a single drop to open up the flavours. I subscribe to this opinion.


The theory of drinking whisky with the water with which it is made, whilst romantic is largely invalid as it may be more relevant to drink it with the same water as in the bottling plant.


Ice is another topic that there are views on. Some maintain ice dulls the flavour and gentling warming your dram by slowly swilling it in your hand may release more flavour. If you take ice it is better to use a large chunk not mush as it melts too quickly so you may be left drinking weak coloured water.


I have seen whisky drunk with water, soda, ice, ginger, coconut milk, cola and other mixers – if you disagree with adding any of these, just get over it. It is a drink to be enjoyed. I used to drink bourbon with dry ginger now I drink it with a drop of water or neat. My wife drinks it with dry ginger.

If you spend a lot of money on a whisky I humbly suggest you give yourself the best chance to experience the flavour. This means buying it at the greatest proof you can get, preferably cask strength, single barrel. Then dilute to taste.

I am passionate about whisky but more passionate about freedom. Good company is more important than any rules or opinions.

Non chilled Filtered and added colour.

In Scotland adding colour by using A150 additive which is caramel to me seems to make no difference to the taste but is purely a marketing device. I can happily do without it.

Chill filtering prevents lower ABV whisky from misting in the glass. Again I can happily do without this.

So my preference is no colour added, NCF but if it helps sell more whisky I do not complain.

‘New’ Scientific Discovery

You just have things sorted in your mind when suddenly `science jumps up to grab some attention and demonstrate why things are as you have always knew them to be. Adding water to whisky we are now told releases aromas and tastes.

Extracted from – BBC, 17th August 2017

Scientists claim to have discovered why diluting whisky with water can enhance its taste. (We know that already. – Ed.)

Their study suggests that the taste of a compound called guaiacol is stronger when the spirit is diluted prior to bottling.
This taste may be more pronounced when additional water is added in the glass.
The findings of Björn Karlsson and Ran Friedman are based on computer simulations and are published in the latest edition of Scientific Reports.
… The scientists findings’ focus on guaiacol – a compound more commonly found in Scottish whiskies than those from Ireland or the US. (Guiacol is derived, I believe from wood creosote and is one of the sources of the vanilla taste in whisky-Ed.)

They discovered that where concentrations of ethanol were less than 45%, guaiacol was found near the surface of the liquid, where it contributes to its taste and smell.
Where alcohol concentrations are above 59%, the molecule is driven into the solution, away from the surface.
The report states: “This indicates that the taste of guaiacol in the whisky would be enhanced upon dilution prior to bottling.
The question of how to drink your whisky has no right or wrong answer, never has and never will. Just enjoy this high quality drink to the full. What gives you enjoyment is subjective and entirely up to you. You and nobody else however much experience they have, you can take their advice and make up your own mind.