True whiskey connoisseurs will tell you that adding a couple of drops of water to your glass actually improves and enhances the taste of the drink. A popular phrase used to talk about the phenomenon is that a drop or two of water helps to
the taste of the whiskey.
This may seem counterintuitive, and logic would dictate that it’s just watering down the flavor. However, it’s not just an urban legend — science backs the theory up.
Guaiacol is a compound present in whiskey that is partially responsible for that distinctive, peaty smell and flavor. When you add water to the whiskey, it turns out that something interesting happens to the guaiacol: it becomes more present on the surface.
Scientists have found that this reaction occurs when the percentage of alcohol is lowered by the water, and that’s a big deal. When the guaiacol is at the surface of the whiskey, it’s easier for the nose and palate to experience the flavor and smell that it imparts on the drink.
And that allows you to better experience the full flavor of your whiskey-of-choice, and with all the craftsmanship that goes into distilling the stuff, you wouldn’t want to disrespect that, would you?
“Macrae?! Macrae?! Can you hear me? I said, stay off the peat! Gah! Ya loon!”
There’s a few other things you should know. Many whiskey lovers might just “wing it” when it comes to how much water is best to add, but because different whiskeys have a different alcohol content, the amount of water that should be used can vary as well. It all depends on the original and desired proof of your whiskey, and it’ll take a little experimentation (or math) to get there.
Water is another consideration: you shouldn’t be adding water from just any source. If you’re spending big bucks on a bottle of whiskey, it would be a shame to spoil it with water from the tap, especially if you live in a place where the tap water has a noticeable flavor. Go ahead and opt for something ultra-filtered and pure: it really does make a difference.
In fact, some entrepreneurs have even begun selling pure Kentucky stream water to be mixed with bourbon. They’re not the only specialist water out there, either: Uisge Source offers a line of three types of water that come from three different regions in Scotland: Islay, Speyside, and Highland. Why?
Each of these regions produces whiskey with different flavors and characteristics, and each water is specifically sourced for whiskey from that particular region. The Islay water, for example, has slightly higher levels of natural acids that help to cut the smokiness of Islay scotches. Water from the Speyside region, on the other hand, contains soft, or low-mineral, water.
Then, you may be asking yourself what type of instrument you’d be expected to use to introduce some water to your whiskey. Pouring water out of a bottle seems somewhat heavy-handed, and using something like a soup spoon doesn’t seem particularly elegant or well-suited for a tipple either.
If you’re a frequent whiskey drinker, you might consider investing in some sort of dropper or pipette to use as your tool of choice for adding a bit of water to the whiskey. There’s no better way to ensure a precise level of control than being able to control the amount of water you’re adding — down to the drop.
Fancy droppers have come on the market in recent years, such as the Angel’s Share Whiskey Dropper. Instead of a rubber top, the dropper is all glass and is made by hand in Scotland. It’s on the small side, measuring 200 millimeters, and uses suction to release a drop at a time. Submerge it in water to fill it, place your finger over the hole in the glass, and position over your glass to drop the water in, drop by drop when you remove your finger just slightly.
If you don’t want to shell out the same price you would pay for a bottle of whiskey for a fancy version and would prefer to go the generic eyedropper route, a rubber-topped eyedropper is something that you can easily pick up at a pharmacy or drugstore.
Who would have thought something so simple could make such a difference when it comes to experiencing the full flavor of your favorite whiskey?
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