To add ice or not? That is the question.
For another Saturday article in a row I find myself on a Friday afternoon with nothing written to give to you the next day. With all the big splutter that I have decent articles in hand (and some controversial opinions too!) I find myself like a damp squib. Not to worry, such is the world of whisky that there is always something to write about. While I cannot guarantee a long article, I can guarantee points to think about and mull over
Today was boiler service day. I have an old oil boiler that is spluttering along and I keep saying to myself it’s on its last legs, but my local plumber comes and waves his magic and boom! It’s like new again. However it was my plumbers turn to be subjected to whisky geek Scotty, but we had a very interesting conversation. You see, my plumber likes ice in his whisky.
Yes. I know. I’m quite aware that many of you may have given a sharp intake of breath, but as they say in much of Scotland – “Haud yer wheesht!” That’s Scots for shut your mouth.
Everybody is an expert on how a whisky should be drunk. But in many of the cases they are wrong. Let me put my expert hat on and explain why you should or shouldn’t put ice in your whisky.
Why you shouldn’t put ice in your whisky
Whisky is an alcoholic spirt that contains many different flavour and aroma compounds. Without going into any science at all as that is boring and geeky, these aromas are formed by the evaporation of the spirit in the glass. A curved glass such as a Glencairn, sherry copita or even a wine glass will concentrate these aromas so that when you put your nose to the glass, you’ll get a smell of the spirit within and this will be a precursor to the taste. Even if you are not going to be doing an evaluative tasting of the whisky, getting a smell of it before it hits your lips is important. This is because as the smell goes up your nose and down the back of your throat, parts of the aroma will be coating the back end of your tongue. This is prepping your mouth for the delight that is to follow. Unless you have chosen your whisky poorly or your host is a cheapskate.
If you put ice into whisky, or any other alcoholic spirit, this hinders the taste, as the spirit will not evaporate as efficiently and the aromas will be locked into the liquid. Therefore you are missing that little bit of taste. Furthermore, the taste components will also be that little less mobile and the temperature of the liquid is going to stun some of your tastebuds, so you just aren’t going to be able to taste the fullness of what is in your glass.
Why you should put ice in your whisky
Well, if we are all the same the world would be a boring place. Irregardless of why you shouldn’t put ice in your whisky, if that is the way you like it then why not? If you want to put soda water, lemonade or coke in your drink, that is entirely up to you. I’ll contend that it isn’t right, and that it would be a waste to do that to an expensive whisky, but if that is how you will enjoy it more then that is entirely up to you. And you get the kudos of being the guy who doesn’t give two hoots if you are seen to be putting ice into a 72 year old Macallan. Or mixing it with Irn Bru.
So what about these whiskies that should be put in the freezer?
Let me tell you under no circumstances put any whisky in the freezer. It is just a gimmick. The ones I know of that recommend this are Dalwhinnie Winter Gold and Johnny Walker “White Walker” (part of the Game of Thrones package). You know why they recommend you do this? It’s because you aren’t drinking the best whisky that Diageo have to offer. Winter Gold isn’t that bad if drunk normally, but you’ll get a far better dram out of the 15 yr old.
Winter’s Gold got its name as it is made from spirit distilled in the winter months. As Dalwhinnie is one of the highest distilleries in Scotland and uses traditional worm tubs, when the winter weather is at its harshest this has an effect on the condensing rate of the spirit vapour in the tub as the cooling water is a lot colder than normal. Therefore it has an effect on the taste. Putting the bottle in the freezer will just obliterate any taste that is there.
As for Johnny Walker? I’m not a fan. Especially the Game of Thrones series, as it is just a way of separating people from their money.
Remember – gimmicks get you to drink more sub-premium whisky in my opinion. And GoT contained very little premium whisky.
So, whether you like ice in your whisky or not, it is important just to chill out about it. While I will always recommend tasting a whisky neat first or with a few drops of water, I’ve often thought how some whiskies may taste nicer with a bit of ginger and ice. Remember in your quest for taste experiences, whether you take ice or not isn’t really important if you want to. It’s more important to think outside the box and not be stuck inside one.
Anyway, with that in the bag, and written before the clock passes midnight, I hope that my plumber enjoyed the drams that I sent him away with so much that he forgets to post his invoice although chance will be a fine thing!
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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.
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