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Should you add water to your dram?

28 February 2014

By Ian Millar, Global Brand Ambassador

Should you add water to your single malt?

One of the best things about being the Global Ambassador for Glenfiddich is that I get to travel the world, introducing people to our incredible whiskies and helping them get even more enjoyment from their single malt. 

Wherever I am, I often find myself asked the question: do you put water in your whisky? And if so, how much? No matter where you go, you'll always find people of the opinion that whisky can only be consumed without water, "neat". In fact, it's a matter of taste.

Find your balance: add water if you like

Everyone has their own way of enjoying a whisky and at bottle strength, usually around 40% ABV, some people find their dram is a little sharp on the nose or they can't taste the more subtle flavours because the whisky numbs their tongue a wee bit. If you find that's the case, it doesn't hurt to add a few drops of water, a drop at a time, until you find the amount that's right for your taste.

I usually find that the older a single malt is, the less water it needs. That's because as a rule of thumb, whiskies generally become smoother as they mature, although of course a lot of other factors are involved, like the casks that are used or the ABV the whisky is bottled at.

My advice to you is to make up your own mind. Our single malts can be consumed quite happily as they come, but you shouldn't listen to "experts" preaching that single malts can only be enjoyed this way. I often find myself adding a few drops of water as it really opens out the whisky, allowing me to appreciate some of the more complex flavours.

What about adding ice to a single malt?

Now when it comes to ice, the question is a trickier one and I know it divides a lot of people. All I can say is you should drink your single malt the way you enjoy it. I've tried it with ice in hot countries and it was very refreshing. Ice can reduce some of the harsher flavours in a whisky and make it easier to drink, although once you're in "connoisseurs' territory" ice can have the same numbing effect as neat spirits, meaning you have fewer flavours in your dram to enjoy.

One thing I must say is that when adding water of any kind, it's essential to use the best quality you can find. At Glenfiddich, we take extraordinary care to create a consistent, high quality product using spring water from the Robbie Dhu spring.

Use bottled water to get the most from your dram

If you've ever had a soft drink that came out of a hand held gun in a bar or restaurant, you'll notice that it's different to what you might get from the bottle. That's because it's made with tap water. I don't know about you, but I can always taste the chlorine.

For the best possible experience, I recommend bottled water with a low mineral content. It can be lightly chilled or at room temperature, but try a little first to ensure it has a neutral taste. 

Of course, the best way to enjoy your whisky is with good friends -- and if your friends are buying so much the better!

Ian Millar