One of the many things I am asked about Scotch is “how do you drink it?”. While this might seem like a simple question, what they are really saying, I think, is “how can I enjoy scotch?”. When it comes to the enjoyment of tasting something, there are certain guidelines or rules that most people follow. Some universal truths on American foods are – You don’t drink Coca-Cola warm, you don’t eat Krispy Kreme doughnuts cold, and you don’t order sweet iced tea outside of the Southern United States. Now you can go against any of these rules, but you will be missing what that product is at its best.
With Scotch Whisky, there is a general rule of how to enjoy it. Note I am saying enjoy, which is not the same as engulf. I start out enjoying a whisky at room temperature, in a tulip shaped glass (so I can enjoy the bouquet or nosing of it) from Glencairn or others. I start with only about an ounce or two (at most) and I will savor that for a while. If you notice the picture above, there is an ounce or less of whisky in it. This is perfect, because the shape of the glass brings the aroma straight to your nose which if memory serves me correctly, counts for 70% of your tasting ability.
Neat, adding water, and on the rocks (with ice). I prefer to drink a new whisky neat. That is with no water added and no ice. I prefer this because I want to know what the full expression tastes like, regardless of the alcohol content or ABV (alcohol by volume). There are many people who disagree with me on this, but this is my taste buds, not theirs, so they can, well, concern themselves with their own tastes. Tonight I am drinking Glenmorangie Astar neat, which is 57%ABV or 114 proof. That’s high! But it works. And I really enjoy the flavor.
Some people advocate always putting some water in their whisky. This is a proper and accepted way to enjoy scotch. In many situations, adding a “wee” bit of water (about a teaspoon in most cases) can bring out flavors trapped underneath the alcohol. There are a handful of whisky’s that I will probably always add some water to because the flavor is that much better than when drank neat.
Lastly, with ice. When I first began enjoying Scotch, it was with ice. I cannot deter or dissuade you from this practice if you are new to scotch. However, if you have been drinking scotchfor a while, you really ought to defer the ice for a wee bit of water. Ice for a few moments doesn’t harm scotch too much, but within minutes it will completely destroy the flavor profile.
Can you mix scotch with anything? Yes, just like I can sing any song in a Karaoke bar. All kidding aside, I have had some very acceptable mixed drinks made from scotch, there are some very good mixologists who do a good job. I just don’t think Scotch needs any help!
Oh, I almost forgot about adding soda water, and hopefully you will also.
May 10, 2013 at 9:34 am
My son-in-law introduced me to a unique way of adding a wee bit of water. He dips a drinking straw into filtered water, puts his finger over the top and then releases it over the glass of scotch. It adds just the right right amount to a finger of scotch.
May 10, 2013 at 11:44 am
A great method!
November 22, 2015 at 2:17 pm
Today I bought a bottle of Lismore single malt scotch at trader joe’s,I was a wee bit aprehensive as the price was under $20.00 us. usually not a good boding for scotch quality and why I usually drink Irish whiskey as a good one is usually less dear than poor scotch.I was surprised at the good nose and that the alcohol wasn’t overbearing.but my favorite characteristic is that it cones on smoothly and slowly,overall a very good product.
February 25, 2017 at 12:12 pm
The first time I try any Scotch, I drink it neat to start, then try it with a few drops of water. That way I get both variations of taste and nuance. In general, I like three or four drops of water to bring out some flavors, but now and again, such as with Kilchoman Sanaig, it’s just too perfectly balanced and flavored to mess with it. I drink it neat, and love it every time.