Whisky snobs are abundant, and highly competitive about the best, proper, and most knowledgeable way to sip the liquor. Straight up? A splash of water? Is the Bourdain-approved on-the-rocks method going to get you shunned by old-school whisky drinkers at the bar?
While in Scotland, surrounded by the people who made the Kingsman series happen, I talked to some of the world’s leading experts in the world of Scotch. Scots have been making, testing, and drinking whisky for longer than most cultures—surely they must have an agreed-upon method to best consume the spirit. I needed to know if the uptight sentiment rang true in Scotland: Is the only thing you should add to whisky, more whisky?
This is what they told me.
Add water, and maybe ice.
“Whisky dinosaurs might say the only thing you should add to your whisky is more whisky, but the rules of whisky need to be broken. Whisky is meant to be enjoyed. Adding water softens the alcohol and helps you actually taste the flavours more. If anyone challenges you, tell them a 6-foot-4 Scottish man with a ginger beard told you could do whatever you want.” —Cameron, whisky ambassador at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh
“We already add water to your whisky, so adding more doesn’t hurt. It’s really a nice way to personalize it to your own liking. You and I can both have a glass of the same whisky, and we’re still drinking it in our own ways.” —Stewart Buchanan, GlenDronach Distillery’s global brand ambassador
“Everyone should enjoy whisky whatever way you want. I like it with a single rock. Water can really bring out the flavour.” —Frank McGivern, Prestige sales manager
“As a consumer, I really like adding water because I can actually taste the flavor—not just the burning alcohol.” —Kat Wanoa, international media and PR officer at VisitBritain
Add water, but no ice.
“Try to drink whisky on its own—always taste it first, and then add water. I wouldn’t drink it with ice unless I was in a hot country on holiday. Scotland is too cold to add ice.” —Jennifer Robertson, managing partner of Spey, PR for GlenDronach
“It helps to add a few drops of water to open up the flavours, but don’t add ice. That’s a no-no—it crushes the flavours.” —Sandra, GlenDronach warehouse administrator
“It’s important to add a drop of water to release the flavour, but no ice. Ice is against the rules.” —Neil Marr, head golf professional at Meldrum House Country Hotel & Golf Course
The consensus? Yes to water, iffy to ice, and always, always, to Scottish whisky.