Traditionally it’s said that hard water is better for brewing and soft water for distilling, but what’s really important is, again, consistency.
Whether you choose to add water to your whisky or not is an emotive subject: some swear by it, while others declare that any form of tampering with their dram is sheer heresy.
Chemist and whisky drinker, Dennis Watson, explains the science behind it all.
I think that the most common misconception about adding water to whisky is that you’re merely diluting it.
You certainly are lowering the ABV, yes, but in doing so, you’re also releasing an entirely new spectrum of aromas.
So there’s more to the act of adding water than you think…
The easiest way to explain it is that flavour is essentially the combination of taste and aroma.
There are essentially very few basic tastes – bitterness, saltiness, sourness, sweetness and umami – so what we detect after we’ve established whether these are present is actually aroma.
Aroma is seriously important when it comes to tasting things.
When we’re drinking whisky we may detect a sweetness or bitterness in the mouth, but most of what we experience is detected in the nose.
Different aromas are released depending on the structure of the whisky.
And this is the important thing: if you’ve added water to your whisky, you’ll have changed the structure – so you’ll be getting something different to what you would have got if you’d left it as it is.
Adding different types of water will have different effects on the whisky as water tends to vary in its composition.
For example, purer water is more acidic than normal tap water, and tap water can often be tainted, which naturally has an unwanted effect.
Beyond adding still water to whisky, lots of people take it a step further and opt for the fizzy stuff – the idea being that carbonation helps release aromas both in he glass and in the mouth. I am definitely of this school of thought. Personally I prefer our whisky with carbonated water and every whisky I drink gets the same treatment. A lot of people reading this might think it’s heresy but that’s the way I like it and that’s the most important thing!
Thank you for your enquiry.
Each distillery will have its own water source and some will use soft water and some will use hard water.
The difference between soft and hard water is due to differences in the ionic content of the water.
Work carried out here at the Institute found that water composition did not have a significant influence on new make spirit quality (flavour or composition).
I hope this answers your question satisfactorily.
Stephen Pearson The Scotch Whisky Research Institute
Firstly, something called 'viscimetric whorls' develop - these occur when liquids of differing viscosities are mixed and can be seen as the water penetrates and mixes with the whisky.
As the alcohol and water combine an exothermic reaction takes place.
This sees the temperature of the whisky rise by around 2ºC and allows it to release more aroma.
It also reduces the strength of alcohol and allows the sense of smell to work better.
The lowering of alcohol strength gives a cooling effect on the palate and heightens the receptiveness of the tongue, particularly in the salty and fruity spectrum.
It also dampens flavours in the spicy and sweet spectrum.
Rachel Barrie (Bowmore)
Source: From the private email letters of Ronald Bijl, he is one of Netherland's whisky experts and an authority on the subject. By the years he collected lots of information in his database concerning al the aspects of whisky.
Many thanks for letting us share this worthful information, Slainthe Mhath Team BestofWhisky.com