Ice, water or neat… How to drink your Scotch.

Firstly, lets set some parameters for this post. Single malt Scotch. I have enjoyed some blended Scotch (generally more expensive offerings) the way I do a single malt, but I find that many blends require a liqueur or other mixer to soften the edges. I will leave those for another post should I ever take to drinking (blended) Scotch cocktails. Although, I will say that a little drop of Amaretto goes a long way to polish off that bottle of utility grade blended Scotch you have leftover from your wedding.

Since we are talking about how you should enjoy a single malt Scotch, we should also touch upon how you shouldn’t drink a single malt Scotch. Never, and I mean ever use a single malt Scotch as a shooter. This isn’t a bottle of tequila meant to be taken quickly before you have the right of mind to reverse the chain of poor decisions that are about to take place. Single malt Scotch is meant to be enjoyed. How do you experience the tastes and complexities, by throwing it down your gullet? As I eluded to earlier, single malt Scotch should never be used to mix cocktails. Why use a drink that stands on it’s own, to hide and get lost among a sacrilegious mixer(s).

Now that we have that sorted out, let’s get to the reason why we are here. How to enjoy your single malt Scotch.

Wars have been fought, sheep have been thrown as debates about the proper etiquette to drink Scotch have turned ugly. In general, depending on who you talk to, there are three accepted practices on how to enjoy a single malt Scotch. Some may tell you there is only one, and they may come out swinging, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  1. As God intended: In a glass.
  2. With a drop of water: When I say a drop, I mean a drop. Many pubs will provide a pitcher of spring water and straws, to add a very small drop of water to your Scotch intended to help bring out the complex flavors. This is especially true of Scotch that is bottled with a higher alcohol content than 40%.
  3. With a bit of ice: This is where I stand. Some will argue that the cold numbs the tongue, but  I find it sharpens the taste of the Scotch. As the ice melts, a small amount of water is added, helping to bring out the flavor. Large ice cubes are preferred, as they offer less surface area to the Scotch; this will ensure the ice takes longer to melt and avoids watering down your drink. Never re-use a cube either. Ice is cheap, get yourself a new cube each time, again, you want a larger cube that is fresh from the freezer and hasn’t already started to melt. I also like to have my Scotch slightly less warm than room temperature, its more enjoyable this way. If I’m sitting around a camp fire with a glass, I want to be drinking something relatively cool.

* There are also whisky stones available, that are first chilled and designed not to scratch the interior of your glass. I have nae tried these and suspect these to be a bit gimmicky. You are likely going to need to have a few on hand for guests, and to be able to swap them out with each drink as they are likely not perpetually frozen. For those of us who also enjoy a drop of water afforded to us when using ice, these won’t help either.  I suspect, since this will come with a hefty price tag, that these will be well suited to the hipster movement.

To the best of my knowledge, the single malt Scotch drinking police have not been officially put into action, and aren’t likely going to show up at your door to question your drinking rituals. Hopefully now, with these few tips… they won’t have to.

Please drink your Scotch (any Scotch) responsibly. That should go without saying and applies to any alcohol, but sadly, too many don’t heed the advice that should come naturally.


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