One of the accepted conventions of serious Single Malt drinkers is that it should be drunk neat. Period. I’ve always bought into that conceit, but recently I’ve developed a new preference. A little water can actually open up the flavor of whisky. In fact, an ice cube doesn’t hurt either.
What caused me to question the “no water” prohibition was spending time with our distillery engineer from Scotland, Harry Cockburn. Harry managed the Bowmore distillery for decades and has built single malt distilleries around the world. More importantly, he’s drunk a malt or two in his time. He also often adds a wee bit of water. For him the water opens up the aroma and flavor and gets the alcohol to his preferred strength — he’s skilled enough to know how much to add for his taste. Our manager of marketing and sales, Dan FitzHenry, often fills a drinking straw to demonstrate the tiny amount that he finds optimal.
That brings up the most important reason to add water or an ice cube — your taste. Experiment and find out what you prefer. Keep in mind, everyone knows folk from the U.K. and Europe have a generalized anti-ice bias in their restaurants and drinking habits, which we happily ignore in other instances. And, it turns out, many true experts aren’t averse to adding a bit of water to their malts. Today the New York Times discussed the benefits of dilution in an interesting article on wine and the influence of water. The same principles apply…Here’s the link. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/dining/28curious.html?_r=1&8dp