Ask the Scotch Doc
have heard, and read, varying opinions about the proper
amount of water to add (or not add) when enjoying a single
malt. Some suggest drinking it neat, some with a splash
of water, some with an equal amount of water and single
malt, etc. There are even suggestions about using certain
types of bottled water. Given that enjoying a single malt
is a unique personal experience and there's probably no
one correct answer, what is your preference and/or recommendation?
-- Steve Sirbaugh
The specific question from Steve was
if water should be added to the Scotch single malt and,
if so, how much water? There have been other similar questions
to The Scotch Doc, so let me "lump" them all
together and provide a rather detailed answer that should
satisfy everyone - I hope. I will at least tell you all
that I THINK I know about it and will include some opinions.
I recommend the following:
Place about two ounces of single malt in a 12 oz. brandy
Swirl the contents three or four times.
Place the nose about twelve inches above the rim of the
glass and sniff lightly as you slowly move your nose closer
or farther from the rim of the glass.
Swirl the whisky again and smell again.
Now that you have found the "correct" distance
for YOUR nose and THIS particular single malt, place about
a half-teaspoon of good quality, room temperature water
in the single malt. I keep a bottle of such in my single
malt cabinet. Now quickly swirl the contents a couple
of times and nose again. If the whisky has much character,
you will now most likely have to move your glass farther
from your nose. There may be an intense release of aromas
from the malt- or maybe not so intense. This robust release
of aromas is due to the old Chemistry 104 term called
"heat of solution." In effect, this rule states
that when two chemicals are mixed, they may "take
on" or "release" energy, thus becoming
cooler or warmer. In the case of a whisky and water mix,
the solution becomes slightly warmer, thus releasing the
ethyl alcohols which contain much of the aroma of the
single malt. The "nosing" step of appreciating
the single malt is very important. There are 32 primary
aromas, but only four primary tastes (via the tongue).
Taste is influenced by the sense of smell for more than
most people are aware.
At this point, take a small sip (3/4 to 1 teaspoonful)
of the single malt into your mouth and allow it to coat
the tongue and mouth well (no mouthwash swishing, now).
Swallow slowly and envision the "Bell Curve"
(you would expect a "Bell Curve" comparison
from a professor, huh?) as the intensity of the flavor
builds to a pinnacle and then declines. The more flavor
and the longer it takes for the flavor to reach its flavor
peak, the "taller" the "bell" will
The length of time it takes the flavor to reach its peak,
and the longer the flavor lasts after it attains the peak
(referred to as the "finish" or "after-taste"),
the broader the Bell will be. With careful attention and
regular practice, a great deal of information concerning
the idiosyncrasies of single malts can be learned. More
importantly, however, is the tremendous level of appreciation
for the single malt that will occur. The incomparable
single malt was never meant to be "drank," like
other liquids. It was meant to be savored and "experienced."
In fact, if one takes the time to get educated concerning
the taste, history and mystique of the Scotch single malt,
they may come to actually revere it. To "chug"
a Scotch single malt is sacrilege, and I distance myself
from such an uncouth individual as quickly as possible
before the historically, well-documented, McCoy Celtic
ire is aroused.
I strongly recommend that the Scotch single malt be "approached"
in the same manner that one would a member of the opposite
sex that may intrigue you. An open mind, patience, sincere
attention to detail and an opportunity for it to reveal
and exhibit its unique special qualities may disclose
an "individual" whose company you can enjoy
on many occasions. It could also be that you will meet
that individual who you will want to spend a lifetime
with. That's what The Scotch Doc thinks. What is your
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I am a fairly new Scotch admirer. I
recently bought a 24% lead crystal decanter. My concern
is that I seem to be getting a bit of condensation inside
the decanter. The condensation occurs whether the decanter
is full or half full. I cannot detect any difference in
taste or aroma in the Scotch, however the decanter stopper,
which seems to have a tight fit, has a strange smell.
The stopper is crystal, not cork, and was thoroughly cleaned
(as was the decanter) before any Scotch was put into it.
The condensation doesn't seem to drip down into the Scotch.
The decanter is stored in a cupboard away from any heat
sources (dishwasher, oven, sink). Is this a problem or
should I not be concerned? Thanks for any info you can
pass on. -- Tina
Help me answer Tina's question. In summary, Tina has
a 24% lead crystal decanter in which condensation
forms. The decanter is full to half-full. The crystal
stopper seems to have a tight fit, but has a strange
smell (I assume when removed). Tina's question motivated
me to check my twelve antique crystal decanters that
are in about every room of my house (bathrooms excluded).
I found all but two of my decanters, each with varying
amounts of single malt in them, had condensation.
The two that had no condensation were both in my den;
and the crystal stoppers were apparently "sealed"
from some residue whisky. In fact, I had to place
a few drops of hot water on their "seal"
(which was very brown from oxidation) to get them
Could it be that in washing the decanter before filling
it, a little too much water was left in it? Could
it be that the lids are not tight enough? What do
you think? Do you have this problem?
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