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Why on the Rocks?

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Why on the Rocks?

Postby Malhavoc » Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:02 pm

If ice dilutes and dulls the delicate flavours of whisky, why do some people order their drinks with ice?

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?
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby Willie JJ » Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:43 pm

Malhavoc wrote:Did I already answer my own question? Do people put ice in their whisky to dilute the flavour?

That's my guess along with dilution to remove the burn for those not used to drinking at full strength. Whisky at full strength is perhaps an acquired taste and many folk simply need to dilute and cool it to make it palatable. I believe its worth the effort to learn to drink it at full strength though. The other thing is that if you are in a very hot country then the spirit quickly overheats and loses the alcohol. Cooling is important to prevent this.
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby The Third Dram » Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:10 pm

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.
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby bcrossan » Sun Jan 02, 2011 5:08 pm

Remember the biggest category of scotch by far are blends. Those are generally young whiskeys and may be better with ice. So I would expect that phrase is mostly used in reference to that type of situation
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby Ganga » Sun Jan 02, 2011 6:27 pm

I wonder if it isn't the influence of "pop culture" via movies. I've read a lot of literature and pop novels and about the only place I come across scotch on the rocks is tv and movies.

Oh, and people asking, "Why scotch on the...."
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby Yello to Mello » Sun Jan 02, 2011 11:08 pm

Nothing wrong with adding ice to common whisky in general.

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.
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby lancj1 » Sun Jan 02, 2011 11:13 pm

I believe your all correct.

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)
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby ima poster » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:56 am

I find Laphroaig plus ice undrinkable. Just too smoky.
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby Lawrence » Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:03 am

Sometimes ice helps on a really hot day; it's certainly not for every whisky but once in a while, it's really nice.
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby The Third Dram » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:56 pm

Personally, I find that straight-from-the-barrel Bourbons (George T. Stagg and Booker's immediately come to mind) stand up far better to being sipped on-the-rocks than malt Scotch whiskies. Perhaps it's because of the more focused intensity gained from the high-corn mash bill as well as the additional extractives from the freshly charred oak (which, in tandem, seem to emphasize sweetness and spiciness), not to mention the high alcohol content.
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby Malhavoc » Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:19 pm

Wow, thanks for all the replies. I guess it all comes down to the person and the whisky then?
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby seanmcgowan » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:54 am

Personally I think "Scotch on the rocks" is simply hollywood pop culture
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.
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby steveblack » Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:09 pm

Why not on the rocks?

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. :D
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby Swedish Chef » Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:26 am

When I first started drinking whisky about twenty years ago (I was way below legal age then) I had cheap blends on the rocks. It took some of the alcohol burn off and also I found it released more flavours (or perhaps it disguised the not so pleasant flavours). I still have the occasional Famous Grouse on the rocks on a hot summers eve. I do however not drink malts on the rocks (be that ice or those "whisky rocks") as I find cold doesn't help to bring out the flavours of a whisky, rather the contrary.
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.
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby Pure Pot Head » Fri Jan 07, 2011 3:52 pm

I think it depends on the occasion to a large extent. If I want to really taste a whiskey and ponder it, discover it, muse over it etc, then I wouldn't add anything. Neither ice nor water. And it wouldn't matter which of the various styles it was, blend, single malt, single grain, pure pot stiill, corn whiskey, whatever. To really taste it I think you need to drink it straight.

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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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby jbillin » Fri Feb 25, 2011 2:31 pm

May I suggest www.whiskeydisks.com Perfect for the "purest" who desires a slight chill.
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Re: Why on the Rocks?

Postby bredman » Sat Feb 26, 2011 4:23 am

Anyone fancy loosing a tooth on the last gulp - or smashing the glass.
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