It’s one of the shibboleths of the Scotch world: You should never add ice to your Scotch whisky. You should only ever drink it neat, preferably from a crystal-cut glass while sitting in a leather chair in a hushed study lined with books on all walls.
But where did that “rule” come from–and how seriously should you take it? Read on for our full thoughts, but TLDR: You should be drinking whiskey however you like it best.
What’s Wrong with Ice?
To understand what Scotch lovers are getting at when they say you should never add ice, let’s think about what ice actually does in your glass. First, of course, it cools your whisky down. In doing so, however, it also dilutes it by adding water as the cubes melt.
There’s nothing wrong with adding a drop of water (or much more than a drop) to your whiskey. Even the finest, rarest single malt Scotches can reveal new flavors and aromas with a little dilution–and that goes double for cask strength whiskies.
It’s actually the lower temperature that purists object too. At colder temperatures, our sense of smell and taste is less acute. That’s part of the reason that inexpensive alcoholic beverages like cheap white wine or canned beer taste so bad warm, or why melted ice cream tastes overly sweet.
When we drink whiskey on the rocks, there’s a good chance that the temperature of the liquid will fall below the “ideal” room temperature of 60-65 degrees fahrenheit for whiskey neat. And cold temperatures can camouflage the full flavor and aroma of a high quality Scotch whisky.
There’s an important caveat to this: If your Scotch whiskey is stored at a room temperature significantly higher than 65 degrees–say, if you live in a very warm place–then you might actually want to reduce its temperature before you drink that Scotch neat. One cube, in other words, could be exactly what you need.
But I Like Drinking Scotch On the Rocks
Here’s the thing: sometimes it’s nice to drink whisky on the rocks! And, in fact, there are lots of Scotch whiskies specifically formulated to shine with ice.
We love blended whiskies like Johnnie Walker Black Label or Chivas Regal 12-Year on the rocks, but we’re also fans of a little ice in full-flavored single malts like Ardbeg Wee Beastie or BenRomach 10-Year.
So go ahead. Fill your rocks glass with ice, pour in some whisky, and kick back and relax. Just do yourself a favor and don’t use that ancient half-empty tray sitting in the back of your freezer filled with old ice that tastes like green beans.
While you’re at it, visit our website to see our entire collection of Scotch whiskies, then pick out a new bottle or two to be shipped directly to your door. Or, join our Scotch club and let us choose a new bottle for you every month.