“Wait a minute,” you might say, “I don’t ruin my good whiskey with water!” Well, unless you’re drinking nothing but cask strength (like this excellent example), you certainly are drinking whiskey and water since master distillers cut their high proof spirits to a more palatable 80 or 90 proof level for most brands. You can certainly do this yourself and I’ve been to tastings where they have graduated cylinders that indicate how much water to add to an ounce of barrel strength to experience different proof levels.
If you enjoy your scotch or bourbon straight up or with a single ice cube, your drink can still benefit from a small splash of branch water to help open up the ester molecules that contribute so much to the nose of a good whiskey. Of course, if you’re adding water to good brown liquor, it’s critical that you use purified water that won’t contribute any undesirable flavors to the glass.
I usually keep a glass vial with water from my refrigerator’s water filter in my liquor cabinet. It might seem a little pretentious (like I give a flying flip), but I use an eye dropper to add just a few drops of water to my whiskey when I pour it in a snifter or highball glass. I figure that letting any possible sediment settle out of the water as it rests in the little vial is even beter for the taste after filtration.
The folks behind Bowmore Scotch have taken my water snobbery to the enth level. They have developed what they call “The Tilter,” a hand-made and individually numbered dispenser that tilts on an axis and allows a fine flow of water to be dispensed from one side or in small droplets from the other. As wacky as this might sound or look, the addition of a few drops of water really can change the character of whiskey.
And I could imagine using the droplet side to present a really cool absinthe presentation, which is a fun ritual where you slowly drip water over a sugar cube suspended on a slotted spoon over a glass of absinthe. This ancient ritual sweetens the absinthe and makes it grow cloudy, both of which are important traditional elements of how it was consumed decades ago.
If you do decide to try out some absinthe, make sure to buy the best. Herbsaint from Sazerac is also the basis of one of my favorite cocktails. Remember, to us Sazerac lovers, the glass is aways half full.
So do a little thinking about your water and how to use it to enhance your drinking pleasure. We’re lucky to have some great water here in Nashville; so much better than some other cities in the South. Cough, Baton Rouge, cough.
If you want to experiment with how water affects sprits, buy yourself some really good scotch and try it with and without. May I suggest Glanfarclas or the Dalmore? Mainly just because I love to say “Glanfarclas,” but also because they are some excellent whiskys.
Here’s water in your eye!