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Nov 9, 2013 06:05 PM

How much water to add to sipping Rum / Scotch

I believe that about 60 proof is where you can taste all the flavors so I was wondering how much water per ounce should be added to a sipping whiskey or rum to get it down to maximum flavor so to speak

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  1. If you want to achieve 60 proof, then it's easy math to get there if you know the proof of what you'd drinking...

    1 Reply
    1. re: carolinadawg

      If not good at math, do a search for proof calculators on the Web

    2. I agree that 60 proof is a good area that really opens up a spirit. But, everyone has a different proof point for each spirit where it opens up the most for them. When I try a new spirit for the first time I sip it straight. Then add a little water, mix, and sip. And so on until I find the perfect amount for that spirit, on that particular day, to fit my mood.

      10 Replies
        1. re: BillB656

          some whiskeys falls apart with the addition of water and some do really well

          1. re: scubadoo97

            I've never had a whiskey "fall apart" from a little water. But every spirit falls apart once you add too much.

            1. re: JMF

              At 60 pf. That's a lot of water

              1. re: scubadoo97

                Not really, it's just dropping the spirit from 40%abv. to 30%abv. That means adding 1/3 oz. water to every oz. of 40% spirit.

                1. re: JMF

                  Most all of my bourbons hover around 55-65% abv. So it would be a lot of water.

                  1. re: JMF

                    I tried dropping the proof of a rum originally at 61% to 46 using a proof calculator last night. While it did appears to be alot of water it was actually quite delicious. It was very interesting to see how positive a change than much water made.

                    If I remember correctly, I poured an ounce of rum at 61% and it took just over a 1/3 of an oz to dilute it to 46%. The most I added to this same rum previously was half that amount.

                    Both times the dilution had positive effects. Mainly, though, it was just interesting to try the rum each step of the way, taking note of the changes to both taste and aroma

                    1. re: quazi

                      I'm really looking forward to trying this. I'd like to get rid of some of the 'fire' of the alcohol.

                      1. re: quazi

                        Which overproof rum was that?

            2. re: JMF

              I really appreciate this. I've never thought about this and will put it into practice. Thanks as always, JMF.

            3. This may sound crazy, but how about mixing these with hot water, about 160-180 degrees F? In Japan, there is a spirit made from sweet potatoes (imo-shochu) that comes in about 25 to 35% abv, and most people mix it 6 to 4 parts with hot water. Actually, I think half and half is usually fine.

              Anyway, I had a bunch of golden tequila which reminded me of these sweet potato spirits, and decided to drink it the same way and what I found that the flavors were VERY high definition.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tripeler

                Shochu is distilled a bit differently than Western spirits, and is much cleaner.

              2. mmmmmm... Unless the world of liquor making has changed radically in the last two weeks or so, ANY distilled beverage marketed as "sipping" whatever (whiskey, brandy, tequila, et al) is intended to be drunk NEAT!!! Don't screw it up with added water and expect to experience the intended aromas, bite, etc. that the distiller worked so hard to achieve!

                24 Replies
                1. re: Caroline1

                  If neat is too strong, add a few ice cubes, and give it a few minutes to let it make its own gravy, as we say.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    ummmm The hand that tries to add an ice cube to MY Casa Noble anejo or Courvoisier L'Esprit will FAST become a bloody stump!!! '-)

                  2. re: Caroline1

                    The distiller would probably add water to their end product if it was a high proofer to drink it. I have many bottles of bourbon that are in the 125+ proof range and while they taste good at proof some are even better taken down a notch.

                    With a dilution calculator you can play with the proof and mix up batches at several proofs, let them sit and then taste them to see where your palate sweet spot is for that spirit

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      Scuba, you must have a very interesting liquor cabinet. I wish I had had a chance to take a peek.
                      From a safe distance, of course...:)

                    2. re: Caroline1

                      C1, it appears from the experts posting here (and there ARE some) that some dilution actually does allow the optimal amount of flavor to come out. I continue to learn :)

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        C1, I disagree. I say this from my experience as a professional distiller, and certified master spirits professional.

                        1. re: JMF

                          You're one of the pros I was referring to :)

                          1. re: JMF

                            Okay, we may be butting heads, as in old school versus new school. These are the criteria that I was taught were "carved in stone" 60 years ago:

                            If it is a great vintage or distillation, such as a truly fine Bordeaux wine, a great vintage cognac, or a great single malt scotch (not that there were that many available outside of Scotland back then), and similar quality spirit of any "denomination (wine, champagne, single malt scotch, great whiskies of any nationality, fine liqueurs, etc.) you DID NOT mess with them!

                            JMF, in your first response above you state:
                            "I agree that 60 proof is a good area that really opens up a spirit. But, everyone has a different proof point for each spirit where it opens up the most for them. When I try a new spirit for the first time I sip it straight. Then add a little water, mix, and sip. And so on until I find the perfect amount for that spirit, on that particular day, to fit my mood."

                            This is not an indication that you do not subscribe to my way of thinking, but at the very least it does acknowledge the idea of "meddling with perfection." So, that said, let me use single malt Scotch whiskies as an example to pose my question. If you check out this website:
                            you will see that NO single malt scotch whiskies weigh in at 30% ABV, which is "60 proof" (For the benefit of some, the proof is always 2x the percent by volume of alcohol) the LOWEST ABV I could find (but I only scanned 8 pages) is 40%, which means 80 proof. You advocate 60 proof. Yet there is no such "natural" animal.

                            From another website in which EXPERTS review the great single malt scotch distillations, I find this, which is not one of the grand elite single malt Scotches, but will serve just fine to illustrate my viewpoint:
                            " Springbank 10 Year Old 100 Proof
                            Price: $55

                            We start our list with an easy-to-pronounce whisky. Scotch connoisseurs are familiar with Campbeltown, Scotland, as the home of Springbank Distillery. The brand’s ten-year-old cask-strength Single Malt is a lightly peated, shining example of their craftsmanship which features a unique two-and-a half-times distillation process. On the nose it offers a complex bouquet with an array of aromas including a touch of honey, some fresh cucumber and a hint of brininess, finishing with smoke and peat along with some underbrush mixed with a sherried maltiness. Although it begins its life in Bourbon barrels, it finishes out in Sherry barrels, lending to its richness. The complexity of its bouquet compels you to anticipate a Single Malt of distinction, and it certainly delivers. The 100 proof is needed to support and balance this intense Scotch. The mouthfeel is full, luscious and a tad sweet with a lingering, long finish of smoke, peaty lemon zest and fall leaves."

                            The website is:

                            Note the comment that "The 100 proof is needed to support and balance this intense Scotch."

                            Sooiooooooooo..... I MUST conclude that there are still a few of us around who drink our "sipping whiskies" neat, as God intended, who decant and allow our great wines to breathe before serving (may take up to several hours if done the traditional way with the bottle decanted against the light of a candle to determine when to stop decanting so there are no dregs when the wine is drunk, and if the great wine is transported to the kitchen from a personal wine cellar where it has lain on its side for years, it must be brought up DAYS ahead so that any sediment can settle back to the bottom BEFORE decanting and subsequently allowed to breathe.

                            I fully recognize that in this 21st century, the world of fine wine and fine liquor and fine liqueurs is MUCH changed from "my day"!. Both of my kids helped earn "pocket money" when they were in college by working as well versed "mixologists", and when they started telling me with great enthusiasm about wild and crazy mixed drinks that were absolute sacrileges to my ears, I just wanted to sit down and cry.

                            Which is not to say that I do not recognize that the goal of ALL great vintners and distillers is TO SELL PRODUCT, and I also recognize that in order to do that all great vintners and distillers MUST adapt to the times and tastes of their primary target customers of the day. That also means that if a diner of substance chooses a bottle of GREAT Bordeaux or Burgundy from the Wine Tower of an elite Las Vegas "designer chef" restaurant, then the sommelier will "drag down" the fine vintage from the wine tower, uncork and serve post haste, or the bartender will take down a bottle of Balvenie 50 (see photo) to mix his high roller a Rob Roy, and do it with a straight face.

                            Soooooo,.... Bottom line here is that is I am an antique! Meanwhile, I keep harboring hopes that as the Slow Cooking movement catches on more and more that the grace and respect for these fine spirits will ride in on the coat tails of fine SLOW COOKING haute cuisine. <sigh> But we obviously ain't there yet.

                            Now, JMF, I've vented my frustrations with the current state of affairs in the world of great and fabulous booze, so let me ask you this: How comfortable would you be with a Balvenie 50 Rob Roy, or a great vintage wine being wrestled down from a wine tower and uncorked and served tableside? I'm asking specifically whether YOU, personally, would do these things in your private life. I understand subscribing to them as a tool to help accomplish a decent "bottom line" professionally.

                            And now I'll share why I'm asking. I recently watched a program on Netflix that followed three candidates for their Master Sommelier license through the whole course of their licensing procedures and the thing that kept bothering me was that there was NO indication in ANY of their tasting exams (3 whites and 3 reds) of whether the wine had been allowed to breathe, had been allowed to rest, or any of the other old school traditions. NO mention of such in any part of the show that I recall. And if I recall correctly, there are only something like 140 or 160 (under 200!) sommeliers in the world who hold that level of degreed certification. After the show was over, I kept thinking about this and wondering whether it was simply assumed that all viewers would know which wine vintages would be handled that way OR if the PRAGMATIC fact that ALL sommeliers work in restaurants where they are highly unlikely to have the time or staff to rest, decant, and breathe a great vintage wine was at play in their "education," and they just uncorked, poured and drank the way their customers would in a high end restaurant.

                            If you can answer this for me, it will be greatly appreciated, and then I will go back to my quiet little antique corner and write myself a note not to participate in any more booze boards because I don't know about or understand the practices of today.... '-



                            1. re: Caroline1

                              I'm sure JMF will respond but here's an article by Harold McGee, who's no slouch.


                              1. re: c oliver

                                He'll probably be reading the post for a few more days ...

                                For the record I am confused by the statement that 80 proof is some sort of "natural" proof, it is just an arbitrary number that most bottlers choose to dilute their whisky to. I have some that are 92 and some that are 101, 107, and 114 - and 60 is just as acceptable if it is what suits you best. "Natural" proof (if there is such a thing) would be the 125-130 that most come out of the barrel.

                                    1. re: ncyankee101

                                      Even that barrel proof isn't "natural" There are laws about what abv. the spirit has to go in the barrel at. Then the distiller has to work within those numbers.

                                      1. re: JMF

                                        Or laws of nature and position in the rickhouse

                                    2. re: c oliver

                                      Thanks for the link, but no thanks to the program! Let me put it this way: I've already had one person scrape the foie gras and truffles off my tornedos Rossini and bury that USDA Prime morsel of beef under a bottle of ketchup. I do not need someone to screw up a great Scotch or cognac or Danziger goldwasswer or Pilsner Urquell or whatever for me now!

                                      I'm supposed to believe that the great distillers and vintners of the world have suddenly lost there way and are messing up by marketing their product at the WRONG level of alcohol by volume after centuries of perfecting their art? LOL!

                                      The ONLY thing I agree with is that people have the right to make open choices as long as they don't hurt others. I'm just not entirely convinced that this particular heresy qualifies... On the other hand, it obviously does sell product, so if the tailors of this world are selling a few more suits to the emperor, who am I to complain?

                                      The McGee article HAS helped me blow the fog off my compass and once again get my bearings straight! But I am hopeful that JMF can answer my question as to whether resting and decanting truly fine old vintage wines has been discarded by sommeliers because of the hustle and bustle of today's lifestyles? So much is being lost in today's world due to the quest for happiness at cyber-speed. In my view, what all of these "experts" who are messing with the ABV of fine spirits such as Scotch are doing is simply pressing for one more way to homogenize everything! I'm firmly on the side of the distillers and vintners and not on the side of faddists who hype 60 proof Scotch and spaghetti tacos. No thanks! Not my cup of tea.

                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        Research has shown that decanting and letting wines "breathe" isn't really valid anymore, except in some very tightly defined cases. But try to convince people who have been taught that for decades. One of the reasons why I am an ex-wine expert and ex-winemaker and ex-brewer. I got tired of the fights and arguments and nonsense about what HAS to be done, because it HAS always been done that way.

                                        In the context you mention, you can't talk about wines and spirits in the same sentence. They are different creatures.

                                        Distillers, and their marketers, say a lot of stuff that really has no basis in the reality of why spirits are bottled at a certain proof. Sometimes it is because that is a convenient proof, sometimes it is for economics, sometimes it is to be different or unique, or at least seem so, and on rare occasions because the blender wants it bottled at whatever proof, for a myriad of reasons as well.

                                        I haven't heard of anyone hyping spirits to be bottled at less than the legally mandated 80 proof for many spirits. But it has been proven that this is a general number that makes the spirit more accessible for tasting and enjoying. The Japanese have some good reasons for bottling most shochu at around 50 proof. Their spirit is so full flavored that even at this low proof it is very enjoyable.

                                        1. re: JMF

                                          And since OP is asking specifically about rum and Scotch....

                                        2. re: Caroline1

                                          caroline, did you actually read the article coliver linked to? It has nothing to do with what you seem to be focused on.

                                          1. re: JMF

                                            Well, it does and it doesn't. And I will readily admit that my age must be factored in, but I will also defensively add that in my 80 years of life experience, my great good fortune seems to be that "age" has more to do with my body succumbing to the "ravages of time" than it appears to do with my cognitive skills getting bundled up by dementia, but how can anyone
                                            know that "from the inside looking out"? Nevertheless, my age may have granted me experiences that younger generations will never have the chance to experience simply because those vintages and foods are no longer available at any price, or at least at a price that brings them into the realm of mass accessibility.

                                            I have served and been served great wine vintages that were greatly improved by resting to allow sediments to settle, then decanting so the sediments are left in the bottle while the sensuously rich and perfectly matured wine goes into the decanter for drinking. However, I also recognize that changes in winemaking procedures have filtered such formalities out of use because much (all?) of today's wines are well filtered on their way from vat to bottle. *MY* taste buds mourn the loss, but for most alive today, how can you miss what you've never had?

                                        3. re: c oliver

                                          I have had a few chats with Harold, and tend to agree with him a lot. Tony C as well. I spent time working in Tony's cocktail lab in London a year ago so I could play around with his lab equipment, and pick up some new techniques, before finishing building my own lab. He has some unique ways of looking at things.

                                          1. re: JMF

                                            I'm so happy to be living right now. Everything has the potential to be improved upon and there are folks out their challenging the status quo. I got to eat some molecular gartronomy-tweaked food about a year ago and had my mind totally and wonderfully blown. I never heard before this thread about diluting spirits and I know I've going to like Scotch more having learned this. Hurray for all this great work and the sharing of the info!

                                        4. re: Caroline1

                                          I'm working 12-16 hours days every day the past five weeks, and into the next month or so.

                                          No insult intended. Just way too much to read without narrowing it down a bit. Maybe get rid of all the pedantic stuff and just ask a specific question. or make a specific statement.

                                          1. re: JMF

                                            Sorry for the interruption. No harm intended. Peace.

                                    3. Bourbon and Scotch I typically drank straight, until learning a splash of water can open up the flavor, I never add more than a splash of water or one maybe two ice cubes. When I hear "Sipping Whiskey", I think cask strength, 110 proof and above the likes of knob creek, even at the higher percentage of alcohol by volume a splash of water or a cube or two of ice is as far as I'll go.

                                      Went to a cigar and scotch tasting a few years back, was an outstanding event, prime beef standing rib roast carved and served on the bone table side before getting into the drink and smoke, learned a few thing that night I had never heard from the various reps present.

                                      The distiller bottles and ships their product at the ABV that it's meant to be consumed at, a small splash of water will open it up, more than that and you start changing the flavor profile the distiller has worked so hard to keep consistent, had it been meant to be drank at 60 proof, it would have been bottled at 60 proof.

                                      When first bring the glass up, slow down, exhale, then stick your nose in the glass inhale deeply through your nose, take your time it's not a race and try to discern all the subtle nuances that are present in the aroma of the beverage.

                                      Take a sip, allow it to roll around on your tongue, side to side and the tip before swallowing, making sure it reaches every part of the tongue so every flavor that can be detected is.

                                      Now here's the last (but some would say is the most important part of tasting), after swallowing that first sip, close your mouth and exhale through your nose. You will pick up on note that where not detected by smelling or tasting. Learned that from a Glenmorangie rap present that night.

                                      One final note, at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what the experts, reps, or anyone else has to say about how you should enjoy your spirits, it's about enjoying your spirits.

                                      Be well,


                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Master

                                        I don't have time to address all that. But the lowest proof whiskey can be bottled at is 80 proof.