It’s time to come out of the closet. It’s time to get this off of my chest. It may shock some of you to hear what I have to say. It may even drive you away to other sources for your whisky reading pleasure and/or advice. I hope not, but hey, I need to be authentic, and above all, trustworthy.
Ok, so, here goes…
It’s okay to put ice in your whisky.
There, I said it. That’s right. A whisky snob just told you that it is okay to put ice in your whisky. Phew. It feels good to get that out.
Nathan, a friend of mine, sent me a link rather recently to an article explaining why one shouldn’t drink his or her whisky on ice. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen such an editorial, but since I’ve been meaning to construct a piece on the subject for some time now, and this particular article was distributed through a major news source, I figured I’d better get to it and at least add my voice to the conversation.
Whisky snobs are a peculiar breed. No matter where you set sail, whether it is into the harbors of the so-called “experts” or into the shallower ponds of the internet’s casual “enjoyers” (which is how I would describe my own efforts), it is generally true that the adventurer will be warmly embraced, not only for the sake of respecting the water of life being pursued, but also because the veterans want to welcome and encourage the young soul toward the rites and ceremonies of their conviction. However, the sunny skies of that warm embrace will very soon become a tempestuous cold shoulder if they discover that you drink your whisky with ice. If this happens, it is quite possible that you will be discounted as a “lesser” and deemed unworthy of their company.
This is unfortunate, and here’s why.
The issue is completely subjective. It would seem that behind this “no ice” doctrine is an assemblage of various unproven opinions. For example, certain experts will say that when the whisky is cold, it dulls the fleshly senses of the tongue and the potential for missing certain flavors becomes a factor. Maybe that happens to you, but it doesn’t happen to me. I’ll explain in a moment.
Others have said that while it is acceptable to put a little water into whisky, ice has the potential for releasing too much water and possibly smothering even more of the tones. Perhaps, but does this concern every whisky drinker?
Finally, still more may prefer to stand on the premise that if you want everything that the whisky offers, you must drink it clean – that is, straight – no water, no ice, very manly. But isn’t it possible for some that the burn would be a little too much and become distracting?
I could probably go on and on adding more opinions that I’ve read or heard first hand, but I think you get the idea.
I don’t put ice in my whisky, but that’s because I don’t want to. I am willing to submit that a whisky poured into a glass full of ice cubes will change the experience significantly, but only insofar as we’re dealing with the issue of waterlogging. In my opinion, as it pertains to me alone, too much ice and too much water leaves little room for the actual reason for me drinking the beverage in the first place. If you want a whisky that just kind of looks like whisky but tastes more like whisky flavored water, then do this. Also, I would say that if the ice cubes in the glass actually had time to melt into such a concoction, then maybe I should’ve just gone ahead and transfered the beverage into a sippy cup. I’m drinking much too slowly.
As I said, I prefer a clean pour, and not to be manly, but because I enjoy the heat and I feel as though I can discern the whisky’s boundaries with a little more exactitude. But not everyone is drinking whisky with this as the goal. Only the whisky nerds do this, and I dare say, very few whisky drinkers are whisky nerds. In fact, I suspect that most folks drinking whisky are doing so because they want a swill, but they want one that is a little stiffer and still tastes good. If that means putting some ice into the glass or maybe a little more water than the rest of us, then so be it.
Now to explain what I hinted to before.
On occasion, I have shared a familiar dram with someone who decided to put ice into the glass without asking my preference, but I wasn’t offended…and for two reasons. First, from the “fellowship of humanity” perspective I wasn’t offended because, well, he offered me a nip of his whisky, and by this, he showed that he desired my company during his time of relaxation. That is a kindness in and of itself stationed well above any of my inclinations toward whisky snobbery. Second, while I’m no “Dave Broom,” I have developed a pretty keen sense for whisky variants. Speaking from the nerdly vantage, the whiskies that I’ve been served on the rocks, although they were cooler and daintier than what I’m used to, they weren’t necessarily unpleasant to consume. And I should add that no matter what so many experts have warned, the unique facets of each’s personality remained. For example, I know The Balvenie very well. It wasn’t all that long ago that I shared in a dilution of The Balvenie 17 Peated Cask. I’m here to confess that while it was missing some components that are typically noticed only by us nerds, the time was well spent, everything else was in order, and it remained quite enjoyable.
I guess in the end, if you are drinking your well-deserved top shelf whisky with someone and he sets a mandate before you that in order to enjoy such a gift, ice is most certainly off limits, I say take back the glass and pour him something from the back of the cabinet – or just ask him to leave. You can do better. On the other hand, go ahead and pour him a full glass of Scoresby and see what happens. I’ll bet he pleads for ice and water. Heck, I’ll bet he’d even be agreeable to ice cubes made from unflushed toilet water.
On second thought, maybe just go ahead and ask him to leave, and then find a new drinking buddy. Speaking of…here’s the link to my contact page in case you need me.