HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >


Only Losers Ruin Their Scotch.. on the Rocks


I must admit, I do still drink a good scotch on the rocks about 50% of the time. But the flavor experience is certainly superior when drinking it neat.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. i like a side of ice so i can drop a piece in every so often. i find that the water Opens Up the flavors of pretty much any distilled spirit.

    but that's just me, i could be wrong.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ScubaSteve

      No, you are completely right. A sliver of ice opens up the flavor, and doesn't significantly water down the whisky. The ongoing changes in temperature and viscosity constantly bring out different dimensions.

    2. A good article. Most American whisky lovers I know, myself included, started by drinking on the rocks. As the article notes, that's how we take our drinks in the US. For me, there came a point where I was continually trying to get more flavor out of the glass and realized the ice was getting in the way, so I ended up going neat, and once you go neat, you never go back...except on a really hot day, or maybe in a cocktail.

      1. Interesting... I've interviewed a lot of master distillers, and master blenders in the whisky trade, and they all have a different story. Some are 'neat', some like a splash of water, some like one cube- one (but just one so far) from a fairly well respected single malt distillery mixed his with ginger ale.

        But every one so far has said - "drink as you like it" which I take to mean "there is no wrong way".

        Everyone has a different mouth, different tastes...

        1. I've always thought try it neat first, then try with water, and then add ice. But don't just add ice or water without tasting. And please if you are going to drink my single malts don't take as a shot or mix with soda.

          My dad usually drinks his scotch with ice or water because I likes it cool and enjoys crunching the "scotch flavored" ice at the end of his drink. I drink it neat because I usually drink scotch in the winter when I want something warm. Margaritas or G&T's in the summer when I want something cool and refreshing.

          1. I'm of the "little bit of water" school, often in the form of one or two cubes of ice, depending on the ice machine. I think it makes a big difference in the appreciation of a whiskey's (or whisky's) flavor. Clearly a glass full of ice and/or lots of water or seltzer is a bad idea, but I don't often see Americans drinking fancy single-malts that way. Blends, sure, but don't self-respecting single-malt lovers consider blended Scotch drinkers beneath contempt, regardless of what else goes in the glass? Put the snobbish attidtude on ice, and educate people.


            1 Reply
            1. re: MC Slim JB

              I'm with you, and FWIW when I traveled to Scotland (and drank really a LOT of scotch) nearly every establishment served their single malts with a small pitcher of water and dish of ice to add to the scotch as you would.

            2. As was taught to me by Campbell Ritchie, owner of the Minmore House Hotel next to the Glenlivet Distillery, Ballindalloch, Scotland: a tall glass (for the nose), two ounces neat in the glass and a small pitcher of chilled local water on the side to sweeten as desired.

              That was August of 1985. My habit to this day.


              3 Replies
              1. re: Chefpaulo

                Interesting... what shape of glass? I personally like an 8oz tumbler that is slightly tapered at the rounded base.

                1. re: Chefpaulo

                  I married a woman from the Highlands and with most in her family, a little (as in a few drops) of water is added -never ice. I think of adding ice as a means to decrease the flavor of the Scotch.

                  Perhaps acceptable for blends or American Whiskey but unacceptable for single malt.

                  1. re: photoglyph

                    Reviving a long-dead debate . . . .

                    So, is it "unacceptable," as in the Royal Scots Fusiliers are going to come kick down my door if I put an ice cube in my malt; or "unacceptable" as in your in-laws prefer their malt neat?

                    For the record, except in the case of hot weather (when, admittedly, I'm more likely to opt for a gin & tonic) or if we're talking about an overproof whiskey, whenever I have a single malt, a Bourbon, or a Rye, I tend to drink it neat -- perhaps with a tiny addition of water (as do your in-laws). Canadian, Irish, and blended Scotch, however, I typically have with a single ice cube.

                    I have no idea why the difference . . .

                2. Ev'buddy know thet good bourbon whisky have to have a bit of branch water.

                  1. I was a neat drinker until I had a side-by-side demonstration of how a little cool water can release so much more in the way of taste and smell. Now I add just a few drops of water to get that extra burst without diluting anything.

                    1. I don't know why people are so down on drinking higher quality scotches with a splash of water or ice. Personally I drink the bottle of Glenlivet 12yr. I'm on right now with both ice and water and I have no regrets or qualms about it. I try it neat too of course to get the straight flavors, but it's more enjoyable to me with some ice and water. Different strokes, I say.

                      I say there is no wrong way.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: duckdown

                        Drink your scotch however you prefer it. Just be advised that most people don't spend big coin and then water it down. By that, I mean OTR, not a splash.

                            1. re: ncyankee101

                              People these days are always AT. It makes everything really HTR.

                      2. Not to say what's right or wrong (though I tend to agree that adding ice waters down my Scotch so much that I may as well not even be drinking Scotch), but last year at the SF Macallan tasting (which they have around the US), we sampled the 10, 12, 15, 17 and 18 year bottlings.

                        They did have water (and I think ice) on the tables, but all the tastings were served neat, and the brand ambassador recommended us to drink them neat except for the 17 year, which he said was enhanced by a few drops of water.

                        1. I have been drinking my blended scotch for too many years to count. I like my blend and am proud to drink it. Single malts are nice for some occasions, but I prefer the blend. I drink it neat when at home and relaxing, I drink it in a tumbler with ice and water when I am watching football games as I can get the flavor of the scotch without drinking too much. Then on some occasions I drink it in a chimney glass with water, again so that I don't drink too much. Snobs can drink their single malts and look down on me if they want, I enjoy what I enjoy. I have been to many scotch tastings of single malts and though there are times I drink singles, I haven't found one that I enjoy as much.

                          always personal taste
                          but one ice cube will bring out the flavors nicely

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: ROCKLES

                            I primarily drink single malts, but there are a few blends I like quite a bit - oddly enough they are very inexpensive ones - Teacher's, White Horse, Black Bottle - all under $20 for a 750.

                            Anyone who scoffs at blends should know that Jim Murray, generally credited as being the leading Scotch expert in the world, has been quoted as saying Johnnie Walker Black was the one Scotch that he found himself going to at least once a week. (He also chose Ballantines 17 yr as the best overall Scotch one year, though many think he just did that to be contrary.)

                            I like a blend when I just feel like drinking some Scotch without feeling the need to really take the time to critically examine it, as I do with a $50 single malt.

                            1. re: ncyankee101

                              Did you try the JW Blue you purchased a while back? If so, how was it?

                              1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                Not yet, still saving it for a special occasion - only have a 200 ml bottle. Not sure when I will.

                                1. re: ncyankee101

                                  I wish I could have found the deal you did on the 200ml bottles [as I would like to try it and some of the other JW offerings] ...

                                  1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                    Total Wine in Atlanta still has the 4 packs for $50, not sure if others around the country might, so if you travel you could look for it.

                                    I like the Green and Gold labels, got a great deal on the Gold for $70 with a free 750 of Black.

                                    1. re: ncyankee101

                                      I'm actually going South in about three weeks, so I will have to keep my eyes peeled for it. Thanks!

                                      1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                        Total wine has online inventory, it is not 100% accurate as there are a lot more in store than online, but you can scout out the stores near where you will be.

                                2. re: hawkeyeui93

                                  i have tried JW Blue and Chivas Blue and they are incredibly smooth and enjoyable. I only drink those on special occasions and just sip and enjoy. Chivas 18yr is very good as well.

                                  1. re: ROCKLES

                                    What's Chivas blue? Do you mean the 18, which has a blue label?

                                    1. re: sku

                                      no its actually 21yr scotch in a Blue Ceramic Bottle

                            2. I give points to those that drink a good scotch in the first place [and don't get hung up if he or she wants a little water or an ice cube or two]. This is not akin to pouring a can of Coke into the glass of scotch in my humble opinion ...

                              1. This is why we bought my father a sachet of 'whiskey stones' for Christmas. You keep them in the freezer, they are little soapstone blocks that chill a good drink without watering it down. Plus, they look elegant and cool in a clear glass.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: BananasFoster

                                  My GF got me a set of those a while back as a present, I really don't use them much any more - I guess the thing is a splash of water works better for taming the unpleasant aspects of some Scotches better than chilling. What most people call "opening up" is really the way the water binds up long-chain esters which cause the nail polish remover smell in some whiskeys and make the finish a little hot, it's not really a matter of reducing proof.

                                  I generally try most of the spirits I drink neat, then with water, then with ice. I find that by a large margin I prefer them neat. I like Old Weller antique Bourbon better with ice though.