Any avid whiskey drinker recognizes the importance of having a large ice cube, rather than a bunch of smaller ones, to chill your spirit. While it slows down the dilution process, you may be wondering how much water to put in your whiskey before it takes over the flavor profile and natural aromas. Science has the answer.
In a study from Foods, a trained panel tested 25 samples of bourbon, rye, single-malt and blended Scotches, and Irish whiskies at six different dilution levels: 100%, 90%, 80%, 70%, 60% and 50% whiskey to water ratios. They also tasted six whiskies at four water-to-whiskey ratios: 100%, 80%, 60% and 40%.
During four sessions, the panel evaluated the intensity of the aroma levels of each spirit at all ratios by means of a series of standards taught by the researchers, observing various bacon, cedar, malt, oak and vanilla smells over a period of time. Each session had 12 samples present, as each sample was tested twice.
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Turns out, for whiskey consumers, the 80% whiskey and 20% water ratio might just be the sweet spot. The findings concluded that the higher the water content in the whiskey, the harder it was to distinguish the aroma differences between the different samples, making them all smell relatively similar. Anything lower than 20% water retained its distinguishable aroma, retaining its natural properties and compositions.
Another interesting finding in the study was how the water dilution impacted the bourbons and Scotches. The two actually became more distinguishable from one another with more dilution, as mentioned by Food & Wine. The Scotches started with a smokier smell that became lighter and fruitier by the time they became over-diluted. The bourbons ended up smelling like grains and corn, losing the oaky and vanilla aromas they had initially.
Depending on your flavor preferences, there may be a certain ratio level you prefer to enjoy the majority of your drink. If you’re unsure, the 80/20 precedent may be the right one to try.
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