Knowledge Base

On the Rocks or On its Own? What is The Best Way to Enjoy Whisky?

Mary Hemsworth, from Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival shares a few tips with The Drinks Cabinet on the several different ways that whisky can be enjoyed, while appreciate its unique charactertistics. It’s probably best not to reach for the lemonade. 

There are many ways to enjoy a dram or two, but which one is correct? Some people will insist on adding a splash of water, while others would turn away in horror at the prospect of doing anything other than taking it neat. With the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival taking place from the May 2-6, there’s never been a better time to get to know Scotland’s national drink, and the ‘proper’ way to drink it.

Festival manager Mary Hemsworth is often asked her views on the correct way to drink the amber nectar. Her answer is – there isn’t one.


Personal taste


She says, “People always ask me how they should drink their dram, but it really depends on personal taste. Ideally it should be enjoyed on its own but those who are new to whisky, or even certain types of whisky, may find their senses can get overwhelmed easily. It’s best to stick to whatever way is comfortable and working up to a neat drink.


“There are certain ways to really get the best from a malt, especially if it is a strong, quality whisky. They are best taken at room temperature and with a drop of still water – by adding this, the alcohol becomes less intense and flavours and aromas that might otherwise have been missed begin to emerge.


“Ice can have the opposite effect, as it can dull the subtle flavours coming through. While it is a more refreshing drink, ice can make the taste quite flat. This will of course open up again as the ice melts and the drink warms.


A dash of water

“Those who are new to whisky may be tempted to try it with lemonade, but when a quality whisky is involved, it’s similar to eating the finest fillet steak and covering it with tomato ketchup – it shouldn’t be done.

“Try it with a dash of water – and really appreciate the aromas before putting it to the lips. Give the glass a swirl to release all the different notes and savour them. After first sip, try to distinguish the flavours- some may have a honey sweetness to them, or an earthy peatyness. There may be hints of spices or chocolate or even a light floral distinction – take time and enjoy the different sensations.

“Afterwards, savour the finish. The finish can be long, medium or short and it can often be very complex. More and more flavours can reveal themselves, some can be very subtle and others, surprising.”

No matter what the drinking preference, it’s important to have the right tools and the glass can be just as important as what is put in it. Mary continues, “A proper whisky glass is designed to maximize the smell and taste of the drink inside. It should be wide enough to allow the aroma to escape, and then taper at the top to concentrate the smells. Smell and taste should work together to provide the best experience.”   
So with plenty of options to choose from, whisky can be savoured and enjoyed regardless of personal preferences. However there is one whisky sin. “Never, ever try snorting it. For some unknown reason this is a trend in some parts of the world, but really it’s just a waste of good whisky,” says Mary.
The Speyside region will play host to thousands of visitors when the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival takes place from May 2-6. As well as celebrating everything connected with Scotland’s national drink, visitors will have the chance to get acquainted with the region’s natural beauty, sporting attractions, historic properties and first-class food offering.
The Speyside region contains more than half of all Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries – over 50 in total. Tickets for all events in the 2013 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival programme can be bought via the website –

Related Posts