Ice and Whisky: The Great Debate

13-10-2017 By Whizzky Team

Should whisky drinkers be adding ice to their drams or not? This is a seemingly endless debate, one which will most likely continue for years to come.

Being a scientific bunch, the Whizzky team has decided to weigh in on the matter – which may (or may not) help you put your mind to rest around this confusing and often controversial issue.

Water and Whisky

Research shows that ethanol and guaiacol molecules in whisky stick together. Guaiacol gives whisky its distinctive overall flavour and aroma.

When water is introduced to whisky, the guaiacol molecules move upwards towards the top of the glass – which means you will end up getting more taste and aroma when taking a sip.

It has been proven that the higher the alcohol (ethanol) content, the more the whisky will benefit from introducing a small amount of water prior to drinking. This is particularly true for cask strength whiskies.

So, should you be adding water to your whisky? This is where science and personal preference come into play. Many whisky ambassadors recommend that when tasting a new whisky, you should first try it neat. Take your time and swirl it around in your mouth. Enjoy the finish and aroma. Next introduce a few drops of water and take another sip. One thing you should notice is the release of increased flavour: this is a scientific fact. Which do you enjoy most? It’s up to you… So where does the ice come in? Well, it's not always about contemplating every sip. While the experts give advice on how to identify flavour profiles, not every whisky-drinking occasion is necessarily such a seemingly serious affair. That's where personal preference comes in: if you happen to enjoy your whisky over ice or even (gasp) in a cocktail or with a mixer, there's no reason why you shouldn't continue doing so. The mixer debate is one for another day...

In the meantime, let's continue debating the point at hand: ice or no ice.

Ice block size and quality

If you're going to add ice, how many ice blocks should you add? We recommend one large block to do the trick.

Adding many smaller blocks will dilute your dram quickly as it melts – this is precisely the reason behind the new trend of “Ice Balls” and the perhaps longer-standing option of “Whisky Stones”.

Whether you choose to go the route of ice balls or ice cubes, one thing you should always do is ensure your ice is “fresh”. If you can use distilled water to make your ice, you will definitely taste the difference.

Balls vs. Stones

For the serious whisky drinker, there are two options on the market at the moment that are on trend.

Whisky Balls

These are ideal for the whisky drinker who wants to keep his dram cold with a gradual release of water (and by extension, the gradual release of flavours).

Our recommendation: Froz Ice Ball Maker available for $6.99. Buy Now

Whisky Stones

Don’t want to dilute your dram, but still want to cool it down? Whisky Stones are an ideal solution. Simply pop them into your freezer and add them to your whisky once they are chilled.

Again, there are a few options, here are our recommendations:

Natural Soapstone available for $8.95. Buy Now

Stainless Steel available for $13.99. Buy Now

Granite available for $12.99. Buy Now

The final say on the matter really depends on you. At the end of the day, we advocate enjoying your dram in whichever way you please... As long as there's a dram in your hand!

We pitched the question to Bernard Gutman and here are his thoughts: