Many cask-aged type liquors take on important flavor characteristics from the barrels they are aged in. The natural oils in the wood leach into the distillate over time and contain a large part of the residual flavor profile that will mark that particular spirit. These oils, although dissolved in alcohol, will partially congeal or “close down” if the temperature of the liquor falls below a certain point. Temperature is important. A subtle chill can enhance the drinking experience; too much can destroy it. Storing fine liquor below 45°F, or adding large volumes of ice, can eliminate important flavor notes.
High-quality spirits are almost always tasted in two ways – neat (no ice) and with water. When taken neat, many liquors can have an edge to them. Our own extensive personal experience tells us, as well as many experts, that a little chilling helps mask the “hot” flavor impression lent by ethanol. When taken with water, a liquor is almost always at cask-strength with the water being added in precise measure. The degree of dilution directly affects the flavors of the spirit. It is a complex and weighty process; one best left to the masters of the trade. Unless you purchase cask-strength, you have no real need to add water. Most bottled whiskies are already diluted with water to bring their strength down to a level that makes it less expensive to produce and more palatable, usually about 40% alcohol by volume. So, the two things you don’t want to do are take temperature below a certain point and dilute unintentionally. This is where adding ice becomes dicey, because it is not a very precise way to either chill or add water to spirits. Too much ice can destroy the complex flavor structure due to temperature or dilution.
There you have it; a slight chill makes for smooth drinking and most of us are already drinking pre-diluted whiskies. No need for added water. A subtle chill without water is exactly what we intend with our unique whiskey stones. We have always said, “Keep it neat, but lose some heat.”