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Water, Ice, Neat How to best enjoy your whisky

Water, Ice, Neat How to best enjoy your whisky

There’s a lot of opinion out there on the proper way to enjoy whisky. Neat? With ice? Or with a splash of water?

I don’t really mind how you enjoy yours. There is no right or wrong way. You drink it the way you like it! End of story. That said – I have my opinions on how to drink it, and as I have this blog, I’m going to share it ;-)

I prefer mine with water, and here’s why:


I like the sound of ordering “Scotch on the Rocks”. I do. I also love it when I am poured a generous measure of malt whisky over a large solid super lock. I like the way it looks in the glass. I like the way the oversized often spherical ice swirls around the glass. I am into it! I am. Except when it comes to drinking it. And here’s why;

Dilution: Unless the ice is large, super cold and solid, it will melt and cause dilution; which in itself is fine, as I find whisky at 40%+ ABV to be difficult to enjoy straight.

However – when drinking whisky over ice I personally find the whisky too strong before the ice has been given enough time to melt, and too weak once the ice has melted too much. It becomes an inconsistent dram where every sip tastes a bit different depending on how much the ice has diluted.

Ice also constricts the nose and traps the aroma, just as it numbs the palate when you sip it. An ice cold whisky won’t share its great flavours with you as generously as a whisky served at room temperature or just slightly chilled.

I’m not saying that you should always be caught with your nose in the glass and constantly waffling on about blue cheese, leather and poached pears whilst sharing your opinion of whatever whisky you are drinking – however it is nice to be able to pick up on the delicate nuances of a new malt you’re trying and personally I find this hard to do when it’s poured over ice.

All this said – of course I often drink malt whisky over ice when I am out with friends – ideally only if the bar offers it on a large solid chunk of ice. I enjoy it - it’s just not how I prefer it.


I know there’s a breed of ‘hard men’ out there who don’t want anything in their whisky, but whisky, and always have to have it neat…. For whatever reason. And if this is you – then you are perfectly entitled to enjoy it that way.

I just hope you drink it neat, because that’s how you like it, not because you think this is how it is supposed to be drunk, not because real men don’t take ice or water in their whisky (I mean fish fuck in that shit right… am I right?)

Personally however – I’m not big on neat whisky. Why?

Too strong. At 40%+ ABV the alcohol is an anaesthetic and will numb your both your palate and your nose. It’s hard to get much flavour from a whisky at 40% ABV. Granted you’ll get some, but mostly you’ll get whiffs of ethanol and a strong burn on your palate. The more delicate flavours will escape you. Sure, you may look tough slugging back cask strength whisky one heavy set tumbler after the other, but I doubt you’re fully able to appreciate the flavours at play in your dram.



Which brings me to my preferred way on drinking whisky – with water. Depending on the ABV of the whisky I’ll add anything from 5-20ml of cold and ideally distilled water to my Scotch.

It opens the whisky up and allows the aroma to combat the alcoholic nose you’re likely to get at 40%+. It allows me to swirl the whisky around on my palate without feeling a burn and this picking up on a nuance of flavours.

To me whisky with water simply delivers more flavour and more complexity than the other two options.

It also allows me to enjoy a consistently tasty whisky that is never too strong or too watered down. There’s no rush to finishing it as I often find there is when it’s served over ice and I can instead take my time, enjoy the conversation at hand and sip and enjoy my whisky slowly (or knock it back in one go without feeling a harsh burn ;-)

At our venues in the Speakeasy group (Eau de Vie, Boilermaker House, Mjølner, Nick & Nora’s) we have introduced in-house-distilled water. Why? Well why not? We have pot stills on hand, and we firmly believe that your whisky tastes better when you add a few drops or dashes of distilled water to it, rather than simply pouring water from the tap.

Distilled water is clean, pure and without flavour and won’t affect or influence your whisky in any way. We have both chilled and room temperature distilled water on hand depending on your preference.

Try it next time and taste the difference.


Sven Almenning



Sven is the founder and co-owner of the Speakeasy Group, ANANAS, and Whisky Freaks, and has been writing and talking about whisky for well over a decade. He was inducted into the prestigious Keepers of the Quaich in 2018. His dog of 14 years is named Talisker.

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