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What should you put in your whisky?

The obvious answer is, of course, more whisky, but in truth the answer is far more complicated and whilst many people have often strong opinions on the matter it is far more important that people drink and enjoy their dram as they prefer it.

It’s an age-old debate as to whether or not we should add water or anything else to our whisky. In the 1980’s I recall it being popular to add lemonade to whisky. It’s fair to say this was often in a blended whisky. Some have of course been tempted to drink ‘whisky, (usually bourbon), and coke.’ Whilst I would not wish to self-appoint myself as an authority on this topic, I have never been tempted to adopt this approach, preferring my whisky neat. As an aside I once heard an American tourist ordering a whisky in an Edinburgh bar. When asked if he would like anything in his ‘Grouse’ he replied ‘grapefruit juice, please’. This received the universal disapproval of the entire Jinglin’ Geordies clientele.

I can fully understand that some people may wish to put a little water in their dram to release additional flavours or make it more palatable. However, I firmly believe that there are very few drinks worse than a whisky, particularly a blend which has too much water added. Some people perceive cask strength whisky to taste too strong or ‘firey.’ This may well be the case for some. Other may however actively seek out these characteristics.

Some people prefer their whisky ‘on the rocks.’ Similar to adding water the addition of a cube or two of ice to a glass of whisky can improve the flavour profile. It will of course also chill the drink which people may find desirable. However, as the ice melts it can result in significant changes to the taste and characteristics of your whisky. It can also result in the release of too much water into the whisky.

Whisky Stones may offer a suitable compromise where pre-chilled granite or soapstone chunks (the size of ice-cubes) can be added to a dram to chill it. This works well without the potential disadvantages of adding water or ice. Clearly whisky stones and a little water could be used together if desired.

I often wonder why I should even try to second guess the master blender. He has, of course, added sufficient water to the cask strength whisky immediately prior to it being bottled. He, with all his skill, experience, passion and care seeks to optimise the dram which we will ultimately enjoy. Why put water in if the guy who knows best has already optimised it?

Whisky cocktails. I’m sure I may write something from time to time about whisky cocktails which are the ultimate conclusion of adding other ingredients to whisky, but I’ll need to do far more research on this topic first. This has commenced with a recent ‘No Stairway’, incorporating Woodmore Reserve Bourbon enjoyed in the cocktail bar of Harvey Nicholls in Edinburgh.

In conclusion, there is clearly no definitive answer to my original question. It depends entirely upon the personal preference of the drinker. So long as people are enjoying their dram there are no particular rules to be followed.

However, I personally think the correct response to what would you like in your whisky? should remain ‘More whisky please’.