Whisky Connosr


Adding water to whisky?

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Pierre started a discussion

OK, so we've discussed it quite a bit here but Laura Hay from SMWS had some thoughts on this subject which she expressed in the recent video on Connosr Distilled. If you haven't had time to watch the whole film, here is the excerpt in question: connosr.com/videos/…

13 years ago

14 replies

markjedi1 replied

I agree with her. Some whiskies are even better - the so-called 'swimmers' - with water than without. Also, when tasting head to head, you should compare apples with apples, so to speak. So I try to dilute the whiskies to the same alcohol level at some point (after having tasted the whisky straight, of course).

13 years ago 0

Pierre replied

This subject seems to provoke fairly heated debate. Most experts seem to suggest its worth adding at least a drop to see what it does.

But what is interesting is I've come across some fairly experienced amateurs who still refuse to countenance adding water. There seems to be a little machismo - adding water suggests you can't handle your whisky.

13 years ago 1Who liked this?

jdcook replied

I think adding water is something you should try with pretty much every whisky, but it doesn't suit everything. That said, if people don't want to try, they don't have to. But we do form opinions on people very quickly, and if someone starts faffing on about 'ruining the whisky' and insinuating its unmanly to add water when I'm the one doing the drinking, then I start think less of them, and usually inform them in a not always completely polite fashion.

13 years ago 6Who liked this?

Pierre replied

@jdcook love it JD. Reversing the machismo! "Are you man enough to tell me I can't put water in my dram?"

13 years ago 1Who liked this?

OJK replied

For me it's partly a question of direct consumption, I just love pouring the whisky straight in the glass and drinking it as it is in the bottle. This is nothing to do with machismo, just purely compulsive. I know of course water does a lot to bring out the flavour, hence also why the whisky is nearly always diluted when it's actually bottled. However I like to keep the alcohol density as high as possible, just because I feel it intensifies the flavours, so I usually prefer cask strength whiskies, likewise stronger beers as well as wines. That said, I know that the water usually smoothes out the flavours in the whisky, and allows them more space to breathe. There is even scientific proof that backs this up. So I guess it's also a question of habit, and as markjedi1 says, it's best to compare apples with apples, so I just find it easier (perhaps this is just laziness) to judge everything undiluted. Either way I think a good whisky is a good whisky, water or no water!

13 years ago 0

Stu_R replied

As far as I am concerned it's about what suits an individual whisky best. If I'm completely honest, I always add water in small amounts to any whisky I am trying for the first time. In my opinion you really can't get to know a particular bottling unless you open it up a little with some water at least once. That isn't to say it won't be at it's best neat but you simply don't know until you try, what's more there is no question in my mind that water certainly does open up a whisky. . . if that is better to your palette depends upon the particular whisky. With regard to it being "macho" to drink neat at all times, I only add very small amounts of water to most drams and having tried each with water there are a number that I prefer at full cask stength, it should be about flavour/aroma and nothing more.

13 years ago 1Who liked this?

antihero replied

Interesting to note, as the apples to apples arguement has been brought up, that goes the other way too. Jim Murray says that he never adds water to whisky for reviews. He suggests that the only way that we will ever taste the same whisky is if it is directly out of the bottle, as everyone will add different amounts of water.

That being said...sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. The whisky decides.

13 years ago 1Who liked this?

nikkaman replied

I remember listening to a podcast with Jim Murray (Whyte and Mackay - on itunes) He discussed the subject of water and seemed to be very much against the whole idea of adding water and drinking it in it's straight form out of respect to the distillery, going on to mention that he doesn't allow the adding of water at his tasting classes. Certainly a purist but I couldn't help noticing on a bottle of Quarter Cask, the phrase 'best savoured with a little cool water'. Despite the advice from Laphraoig, I still preferred it without water. 'One man's medicine is another man's poison' seems to hit the point on this topic.

13 years ago 2Who liked this?

KHvonLoman replied

Generally speaking I have a methods for drinking. White wine should be chilled, red wine room temperature, coffee with milk and sugar, hot milk with cocoa, vodka with orange etc. Method for whisky is adding a drop of water. khvonloman.blogspot.com

13 years ago 0

CharlieDavis replied

In my experience, at alcohol levels above 40 proof the nose and palate benefit from a touch of spring water; however, this comes at the cost of mouthfeel/body, which thins and loses some of it's firmness afrter water is added.

I generally work a dram both ways: neat for a few sips, then with a touch of water; the amount i add is unmeasured, but I get the hang of how much each whiskey wnats to see in fairly short order. Stranahan's really opens up with a fair bit of water ( but then, it's bottled at 47%). Others need just a drop.

Certainly when I do tasting notes, I sample the whiskey both ways.


13 years ago 0


To me it's about drinking vs. tasting. If I'm at a bar I'm drinking and I don't like anything in my Whisky. But if I'm sitting down tasting and evaluating, water is critical for bringing out characteristics.

However, this reminds me of similar arguments in other hobbies like cars, headphones etc. This is a question that no one can really answer for you, it's just something you have to discover yourself. That's the fun part.

13 years ago 3Who liked this?

hollisd replied

it's also just out of curiosity. when a distillery puts out cask strength or whatever it is over 40%, what would it be like had they diluted it down to 40? Because you get it at cask strength does not mean you have to keep it there, because they could have just as easily not given it to you at cask strength, but at 40%, in which case you would never get to know what it tasted like at a higher percent. but with cask strength, it's like getting two or three different whiskey's in one. one at 57%, one at 46%, and one at 40%, depending how much it changes and other things. why not try?

13 years ago 0


I won't usually put water in a 40% whisky but with cask strength it's a different matter. As has been said before in this thread some whiskies take water better than others; the 23yo Glendullan I've got is far better with a bit of water in it than without whereas I prefer a Springbank neat. And for SMWS people, the 127.3 that's coming in Friday's Outturn comes in at a whopping 67%! It's not at all bad either (aren't preview tastings great?). :o)

13 years ago 0