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Fine Waters for Fine Whisky?

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Fine Waters for Fine Whisky?

Postby Talisker1010 » Thu Sep 22, 2005 6:35 am

I am interested in the issue of WATER and WHISKY.
Obviously, most whisky drinkers use small amounts of water to assist the bloom on a fine whisky (and many are likely to have it over ice)
So, when mixing water with fine whisky it only makes sense that certain waters are better than others. If one is serious about their spirits, one should be serious about what they mix with their spirits. The issue of tap water aside - what about the relative virtues of spring versus mineral versus natural waters? For example, is the high mineralization of an Italian Panna Water better with Glenmorangie than the low mineralization of Hildon or Gleneagles? Or how does sparkling water - some highly carbonated such as German Apollinaris - compare against lightly sparkling versions such as Irish Ballygowan? This is a variety of Scotch and Soda. Do Scottish waters such as Speyside Glenlivet truly have any gastronomic advantage over other waters when pairing with Scotch, or Kentucky spring water with Bourbon aside from local boosterism? Or should one be looking for profile characteristics such as high calcium with a Talisker or high salt with a Glenfarclass? Does high-sodium water clash with taste profiles of peaty or smoky? These are the kind of questions I am wondering about. I realize it is arcane and driven by pedantic minutiae, but isn't that what the love of Whisky is all about?

Part of this arose out of a whisky tasting in Bangkok, Thailand two years back at the Regent Four Seasons Hotel in which the Evian, Volvic and San Benedetto waters clouded up a superb Glenfarclass 30yr old, but the local Thai Singha Water (made by the brewery) was crystal clear. The head distiller - on hand for the tasting - proclaimed the Singha water the best. This drew obvious questions of chemistry. When many whiskys need a dollop of water to have them bloom, it is a crucial question. My suspicion is that a preference towards purer and cleaner waters is the direction one should take, leading towards British and American waters - or very particularly towards specialty waters such as Antarctic rain water such as Cape Grim - as opposed to Continental waters since Anglos drink waters for what is not in them as opposed to wine and beer-swilling culinary traditions who drink waters specifically for what IS in the water.
Additionally, it seems a shame to simply use a distilled water which is so industrially derived that its origin is in such contradistinction to the artisanal nature of the great whisky to which one might be adding it. The more natural yet cleaner the water would seem the taste profile to move.
Any specific insights or recommendations on this would be appreciated.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Sep 22, 2005 9:09 am

Normally I don't use water at all: it may open the nose but I think it often destroys the taste. When I do, though, I use tap water. So does the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

If people were serious about their spirits and serious about their water, I don't suppose they would use ice.
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Postby Gordo » Thu Sep 22, 2005 3:06 pm

Nick-help me out here, isn't ice just frozen water? I use a little ice every now and then, literally less than half an average cube. Yes the last sips are dilute if the dram lasts a bit, but it's just water after all and I enjoy the coolness sometimes.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Sep 22, 2005 3:35 pm

The problem with ice is the temperature rather than the water - it reduces the nose and taste. If you like cool whisky, then add ice by all means, but don't expect it to taste the same as room temperature whisky.

But the original posting suggested that if we were serious about our spirits, we would need special water and also seemedto imply that many would drink whisky over ice. My contention is that if you are prepared to compromise the nose and taste of a whisky by cooling it, discussing the gastronomic effects of different types of water is like discussing how many angels fit on the head of a pin.
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Postby Gordo » Thu Sep 22, 2005 3:54 pm

Well Put.
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Postby Gordo » Thu Sep 22, 2005 3:55 pm

Well Put.
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Postby Admiral » Fri Sep 23, 2005 4:07 am

After years of critically tasting & assessing whiskies in quite serious and deliberate assessments, I have reached the conclusion that only about 15-20% of whiskies improve with water.

For the rest, water pretty much seems to kill the dram dead. Best example is Macallan Fine Oak 18yo. Adding water to this almost makes it unpalatable. I was reviewing this whisky for an Australian magazine, and - after adding water - my tasting notes read, "Yuuurrrrkkkkkk". My sentiments were shared with two others on the tasting panel.

If I'm going to sit down and enjoy whisky at my own leisure, I am no longer interested in adding water - based on my experience that there is an 80% chance I will ruin the dram.

It is true that adding water sometimes lifts the nose and reveals elements that may not have been obvious beforehand. But then the palate is forever affected. You can't take the water back out again!

Most of the whiskies we drink are 40% alcohol by volume. Put another way, they are already 60% water. Why add any more? :wink:
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Postby Admiral » Fri Sep 23, 2005 4:08 am

After years of critically tasting & assessing whiskies in quite serious and deliberate assessments, I have reached the conclusion that only about 15-20% of whiskies improve with water.

For the rest, water pretty much seems to kill the dram dead. Best example is Macallan Fine Oak 18yo. Adding water to this almost makes it unpalatable. I was reviewing this whisky for an Australian magazine, and - after adding water - my tasting notes read, "Yuuurrrrkkkkkk". My sentiments were shared with two others on the tasting panel.

If I'm going to sit down and enjoy whisky at my own leisure, I am no longer interested in adding water - based on my experience that there is an 80% chance I will ruin the dram.

It is true that adding water sometimes lifts the nose and reveals elements that may not have been obvious beforehand. But then the palate is forever affected. You can't take the water back out again!

Most of the whiskies we drink are 40% alcohol by volume. Put another way, they are already 60% water. Why add any more? :wink:

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby WestVanDave » Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:14 am

Admiral wrote:
Most of the whiskies we drink are 40% alcohol by volume. Put another way, they are already 60% water. Why add any more? :wink:



Well put Admiral. At the Jim Murray tasting's we held last spring Jim summarized his comments on the adding of water by saying:

Scotch Whisky is, by definition, a minimum 40% alcohol - so when you add water and dilute it - it isn't Whisky anymore, now is it...??? :wink:

Cheers, Dave.
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Fine waters for fine whisky

Postby Froagi » Sun Sep 25, 2005 4:49 am

I have a hard time drinking water until the ambient temp exceeds 90F and prefer cask strength drams or anything whisky for that matter over 60 vol. probably don't have a discerning palate yet of any kind but for the sake of argument my first choice would be this; if you need water for your whisky call on the distillery making your favorite and buy some water from them directly which has already been the basis of their own dilution. couldn"t be any better than that. I have a good friend who's an excellent Chemist but spoils his Scotch with water and ice. no point arguing the matter. it's ok with me that he ruins his own Scotch but like the fella on this site says in his quote: don't water another man's whisky and things will be ok. not exact but you get the point.
Last edited by Froagi on Tue Sep 27, 2005 3:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby kallaskander » Mon Sep 26, 2005 8:34 am

Hi there,

Froagi your signature is not so bad, either. About whisky I have the need, the neccesity and the passion for having my own opinion. But each woman or man to their own liking. That makes discussions lively.

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Mon Sep 26, 2005 10:21 am

I used to add a little water - a drop or two - but not anymore. I have no doubts about the ability to nose gets better when diluted but I feel the mouthfeel of the whisky will suffer subsequently.

Skål!
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Sep 26, 2005 12:03 pm

Bill, you raise some interesting questions. Most of us here don't use much water, if any at all. But the mineral thing interests me. It seems to me that one would want as little as possible interfering with one's malt, so I would think distilled or very soft spring waters would be best in most cases. But I think it is incumbent on you to do the research and report back to us! And remember, the first rule is: If you can't tell the difference, then there is no difference.
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Watering Scotch

Postby Froagi » Tue Sep 27, 2005 3:31 am

Howdy back Kallaskander and thanks. It's taken a couple months to discover I really like the cask strength Malts the best and the few higher alcohol Scotches I've tried adding water to seemed to just ruin them. the only CS I can buy locally is the Macallan and it's top notch and one of my favorites. the others I've rounded up traveling. I'm going over to Q&A again and put up a new post about another subject. hope you check it out and give a comment there. thanks much and Cheers all.
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