I'm new to the world of whisky, and have been mostly drinking scotches. Everywhere I look, tasting guides say "Don't drink it with ice". But the phrase "Scotch on the rocks," is so common, that there must be some reason people drink it with ice.
Did I already answer my own question? Do people put ice in their whisky to dilute the flavour?
Malhavoc wrote:If ice dilutes and dulls the delicate flavours of whisky, why do some people order their drinks with ice?
The expression Scotch on the rocks is inextricably intertwined with the contemporary history of whisky drinking, and principally relates to the very widespread consumption of blended Scotch by, for lack of a better phrase, the public at large. As such, drinking Scotch over ice offers a far broader range of drinkers an 'easy' way in which to enjoy the spirit without having to cope with any underlying strength or intensity issues. Of course, in warmer climates, the consumption of alcoholic beverages over ice can help to bring the cooling/refreshing factor into play as well (as Willie has pointed out).
Let's not forget that the phenomenal rise in popularity of single malt Scotch is a relatively recent phenomenon, and that the associated preference for imbibing this type of spirit with little or no water (and almost always with no ice) is directly tied to the fact that those who choose to drink malt whisky are, practically without exception, looking to experience all of the flavour and intensity such a drink has to offer.
Pouring malt (or any other quality) whisky over ice certainly does alter the flavour profile of the drink. Apart from tending to cloud the overall complexity and intensity of the spirit, I find that the cooling effect of ice (or chilling any whisky, for that matter) seems to increase the apparent fruitiness of the spirit at the expense of other nuances... Not necessarily a 'bad' thing, mind you, but probably not what most of us are seeking to achieve when we pour ourselves a good malt.
Some people go further and add other ingredients to mix with their whisky and make cocktails. Of course doing these things with a single malt or other premium whisky is hand waving.
I enjoy single malts, I also enjoy good beer, and I see Scotch on the Rocks, along with JD and Coke, and scotch and soda, as credible drinks when the palate or the mood dictates.
Scotch on the rocks is always a blend for me though (though some blends also get drunk neat - JW black for example)
However sometimes adding just a tiny splash of pure filtered water can make some whiskies explode with complexity yet others are simply diluted versions of their former selves.
Examples of this. Dun Beaghan springs to life with a touch of water. Suddenly one becomes aware of seaweed and salt, smoke and peat.
Whereas Glenlivett anything becomes insipid with water.
Ok.. just implying there are no rules. When I started drinking whiskies in my early twenties, my idea of 'cool' drinking was to drink on the rocks. Only the whiskies I used to have then did not lend themselves to be drunk on the rock.
The fascination remained. When the Chivas and Black Labels came, I used to like to drink them on the rocks and felt quite good about it. Looking back the whisky do not feel right in light of the better whiskies that I have come to enjoy, but those moments do not feel less in any way.
Subconsciously, on the rocks was the what popular culture dictated. Realistically, it is still the 'cool' way to drink for the majority that far outweigh our niche aficionado community. Who am I to argue with the majority?
As I write, enjoying the only Irish whisky I have liked so much..Connemara peated CS..drinking near neat and feeling really good. Not tipsy though.
I do experiment with water in my whisk(e)y from tome to time. Perhaps I should've poured that awful Arran 10 over ice, might 'ave made it drinkable.
But to enjoy a whiskey. That's often another thing entirely. You could be sitting outside a bar in a hot city and a whiskey with ice could be gorgeous at that moment, whichever style of whiskey you prefer. Then you have the complete opposite where in cold climates people often love a hot whiskey, or even with Coffee which they do a lot in Scandinavia. Or you could be in a club with friends socialising and it can be odd standing there with just a straight whiskey trying to make it last the length of a round if they're drinking beers or cocktails!
Naturally whenever you add something you dilute the original. Maybe you're adding something, maybe you're taking away something but you're always diluting. While adding some water does release additional nuances on the nose I still find that it always, without exception dilutes the taste on the palate of the original component. Which sometimes matters, and other times doesn't depending on who I'm with, what I'm doing etc.
It is an interesting question though about the whole 'Scotch on the Rocks' thing. You see it American movies from the 1950's a lot. I tend to associate it with a older generation probably because of that. I'm not sure that it was the preferred way back before prohibition, maybe a knowledgeable historian out there has some insight into this. The trend nowadays seems more and more towards shots and mixed cocktails. These things probably run in cycles.
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