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Should You Put Ice in Your Whisky? What About Water?

Cooling your whisky down is a contentious topic. While many whisky fans refrain from cooling their dram, especially when it’s a single malt scotch like The Glenlivet, there are plenty of drinkers who enjoy a chilled glass and the clink of ice cubes.

 

Critics of adding ice to whisky have two main concerns: diluting and cooling.

 

THE SCIENCE

When alcohol mixes with water, a small exothermic reaction takes place which raises the temperature by about 2C. As the energy is released, the liquid “opens up” and releases more volatile aromas, giving extra complexity to the nose. Only a few drops of room-temperature water are needed to set off the exothermic reaction. Water also reduces the alcohol content, cooling the tongue and making us more receptive to salty and fruity tastes over sweet and spicy flavors.

 

Depending on the ice cubes used, when they melt it can temper the flavors of your whisky. However, it does reduce the burn of alcohol which some drinkers appreciate. 

“It’s like hugging yourself when you’re cold – when it’s cold, whisky keeps all its flavors wrapped up rather than releasing them.”

Alex Robertson, Head of Heritage and Education, The Glenlivet

 

Here are a few alternative options:

ARTFUL ICE

Japan, which has its own vibrant malt whisky culture, has turned icing drinks into an art. At authentic Japanese whisky bars, bartenders make beautifully clear ice by freezing it very slowly. They then hand-carve perfect spheres the size of cricket balls using a straight razor. The size, shape and density of the ice mean it melts slower, preventing too much dilution of the single malt. You can get the Japanese effect by using spherical silicone ice molds. These molds are easily available and work in a regular home freezer.

STONE AND STEEL

Whisky stones and steel ice cubes are billed as the modern answer to cooling down whiskies without watering them down. Whisky stones are milled from non-porous rocks, and come in various stylish shapes, from cubes to discs to icosahedrons. Steel ice cubes generally come as balls or dice and are either solid stainless steel or filled with a freezing gel or other cooling core. Both stone and steel work the same: put them in the freezer for a couple of hours, and then put them in your dram; take them out once it has chilled or leave them in – it’s up to you.

PICNIC FRIENDLY

Freezer-friendly scotch glasses are another option for chilling your drink. These insulated cups have cooling gel within their double walls. Two hours in the freezer keeps your drink cold for hours while an insulated rubber grip stops hands from getting chilly. They may not be as elegant as hand-cut crystal tumblers, but you don’t need or want them to be when you’re enjoying a summer picnic, a sporting event, or any other outdoor fun. For that, they are the perfect option. 

 

THE VERDICT

Up here in the northern climes at The Glenlivet, we don’t often need to cool our drinks. But you should enjoy your whisky whichever way you choose. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to ice.

“Yes, you can put ice in single malt scotch. Put one or two cubes in your whisky, it will chill it slightly, melt into water, and then help release all these wonderful aromas and flavors.”

Alex Robertson, Head of Heritage and Education, The Glenlivet

Whatever your preference, we hope you can experience the full range of complex flavors in each expression of The Glenlivet. Stock up now and let us know how you prefer to drink it.