The Real Reason to Add Water to Whiskey

When you first hear this, you might think that adding water to your whiskey would make it easier to swallow for those who can’t handle the burn. But on the contrary, it turns out that whiskey connoisseurs have been artfully diluting their whiskey for years. Apparently, doing so actually enhances the flavor, instead of doing the opposite, as you might think.  Now, we’re sure that your whole friend group will have a bevy of opinions on this that might instigate a bar fight, but if you’re on this side of the argument, you have some science and credible sources to back up. Professional distillers claim that this diluting tactic is perfectly acceptable, and they practice it themselves. Modesty is key – don’t go crazy and water your drink down, but add a couple of drops to let the flavor shine in its own spotlight.

We’re not trying to convince die-hard straight whiskey drinkers wrong, but it’s been reported that even drinkers in Scotland practice this – in bars over there, they provide tiny water pitchers with each tasting, encouraging dilution. Maybe that’s just how they stay hydrated as a culture of heavy drinkers, but if they’re the folks vouching for flavor optimization, we’re sort of convinced. If you’re looking to convert nonbelievers, here’s the science behind it: the flavor compounds of whiskey are clustered throughout the drink, but if diluted slightly, ethanol and guaiacol (a compound that makes its smoky, peaty essence), rise to the surface. by rising to the surface, these compounds are thought to enhance the flavor. It is also thought that the water traps unpleasant compounds that you might want to not focus on, unlike the guaiacol.

Be sure that you never add ice, just water; ice prevents the flavors from blooming in the whiskey, because of the rapid temperature drop. It might be a refreshing way to ring out the last days of summer, but it will most likely dampen these flavor compounds that are vital to the experience. But maybe you’re a Manhattan kind of guy, and mixers are your jam. There’s no shame in that! Experts explain that while this dilution method is great with a classy single malt, a cheap bourbon or blended whiskey will be much more harmonious with a mixer, and not worth diluting at all.

Now that we have this valuable info, we just need to work on perfecting our dilution level, and our bar debate game. Maybe someone will come up with the magic formula, or maybe it’s all just a matter of preference. Would you try it out with your squad, or will they ban you from the local bar? If you’re on the fence yourself, try a taste of your favorite whiskey without water – after, add a couple of drops to the drink and see how you feel about the difference. We have plenty of time to try different methods out, and when you’re drinking (especially in the depressing trajectory of 2017), there’s no wrong answer. So, Salut!


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