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Waterford Whisky Drinking Pleasure
January 29, 2024 | article | 5 minute read

A well-versed whisky drinker will know how best to enjoy their dram – with their own preferred serve, in their own preferred glass – in their own preferred seat, even. Any extra tips are best saved for the bartender. Fair enough.

But as we’ve wandered various gastronomic paths, meeting friends in the world of whisky, wine, mixology, food and far more besides, we’ve often encountered curious drinkers who ask us how best to enjoy a dram of Waterford Whisky.

So we’ve compiled a few guidelines – certainly not hard and fast rules – that we like to consider when we’re drinking Waterford Whisky ourselves.

PUTTING THE WATER INTO WATERFORD

As we’ve seen in this article, without water there would be no whisky. Water flows, quite literally, through the whole whisky-making process. But in this piece we are considering only the addition of water to a glass of whisky poured fresh from the bottle.

Let’s address the elephant in our room: we’re talking a natural, unadulterated, enzyme free, colouring free, non-chill-filtered whisky – which means that it can handle water properly – bottled at a respectable 50% ABV – because we expect you to add water to it, to enjoy and savour slowly. 

Should your whisky be served at 40% ABV, filled with artificial caramel colouring, and chill-filtered to remove flavour compounds then your results will be greatly different, and perhaps not all that rewarding. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

We’ve seen before that the addition of spring water to a glass of Waterford Whisky can also be to the drinker’s benefit. Small quantities of spring water ‘unlock’ aromas and flavour compounds, unclenching the molecular clumps known as miscelles – a process you can literally see happening through those mesmerising viscimetric whorls that spiral through your glass when even a teaspoon of water is added. So long as the whisky is still and natural; unctuously textured, this addition is a veritable plus.

This is not, of course, true for all whiskies. A recent study undertaken by Washington State University (Ashmore, et al., 2023) showed that commercially treated whiskies lower in strength and body quickly lose character with the addition of water. When one considers the practices of chill-filtration (which literally removes textural elements from a whisky  particularly amino acids, one of the four flavour compound groups), it’s reasonable to deduce that whiskies which have undergone such commercial processes have a weakened ability to withstand dilution. And of course barley is known to be the most flavour-complex grain, giving our whiskies an additional advantage.  

Admittedly we don’t believe it to be an exact science, and indeed enjoy playing around with different levels of dilution in each of our whiskies.  The minimum, to activate – hydrate – the aldehyde flavour group is a mere tear drop. But we can add more depending on the whisky, the time of day we drink it, the company we keep and the mood we are in. 

The extraordinary integrity of our bottling, the natural character  of our whisky, allows for surprising level of dilution without loss of texture or aroma. We are more than comfortable with a whisky to water ratio between 3:1 (75/25), 2:1 (66/33) –  even as much as  1:1 (50/50). So don’t be afraid to experiment to find the optimum level for your time and place.

Still, spring water, free from additives and minerals is preferred, but soft tap water will do when neither too hard, chloride or mineral.

Glassware

Like any great wine, the naturalness of our whisky reacts to movement, air, temperature and time.

In more temperate climes, if taken from the post office, cellar, or the car boot, it will benefit from being allowed to repose and warm to room temperature – chambré. Gentle warming in one’s hand can also help release aromas, and our glassware recommendations are made with this in mind. 

The ubiquitous Copita glass, with its restricted glass neck, was designed for technical nosing, engineered specifically for this respect. We use these in the lab where the heady flavours of new spirit are focused under the nose for analysis. They have been widely adopted for drinking whisky but restrict the expansive flavour profile of our natural whisky.

The classic, remarkably staid whisky tumbler, is as undeniably pleasing in weight as it is to use. The rounded bottom variant sits comfortably in the palm, warmth transmitted through the glass’s more open mouth allowing for larger measure and oxidative capacity. It has evolved over centuries for drinking pleasure: oxidation, comfort, ease and the mood of a shared moment.

Increasingly we find ourselves reaching for a middle ground –  the wine glass. Tapered towards the rim, yet with a cavernous bowl for oxidation of aromas to concentrate within. In tropical climes, the stem prevents over warming of the spirit. Importantly, they are indelibly linked with gastronomy – just as we view our own whisky. Unconventional, perhaps, for single malt – but that’s never stopped us before. Try 50ml of Waterford Whisky, with a splash of spring water, in a wine glass. We suspect it will take you by surprise.

What of Ice?

Ice is a potentially more vexed question. In the first instance, it certainly plays a key role in many of the considered cocktails that our mixologist friends around the world have based around our single malt. (This selection from the legendary John Lister, based around our ‘wild child’ Cuvée: Argot are particular favourites).

Adding ice to ubiquitous commercial whisky is customary. However, adding ice to natural whisky is often less successful.

Ice anaesthetises the hard-won flavour compounds, causing them to clump and cluster, suppressing aromas, neutralising flavour.  Albeit, as the ice melts, temperature is regained, so flavours will be released in a time delay action.

To appreciate the complete flavour profile of Waterford Whisky, we’d recommend avoiding ice. If, however, a cooler drink is required, try the addition of chilled water from the fridge  in place of room temperature. In tropical climes, the regular addition of a small ice cube – or shards – to maintain that cooler temperature works well, subtly regulating the balance between flavour release and preferred temperature.

The benefit of natural whisky is we have not only a lot of aroma, but also texture to spare – and if ‘over ice’ is your preferred way – go ahead.

Perfect Ice

What is the difference between normal ice and clear ice? Minerals that occur naturally in water usually make ice cubes cloudy. Water also contains minuscule air bubbles, which when frozen will also turn ice cloudy. Clear ice contains neither of these.

Clear ice suits whisky better as it has less impact on the overall flavour. Water quality also varies from place to place, but clear ice, with its removal of minerals, guarantees consistency of flavour wherever it is used. 

Clear ice can be achieved using a technique called directional freezing. Water is placed in a container that is insulated on all but one side. When water starts to freeze, minerals and air bubbles are pushed to the top in the unfrozen water. Freezing is halted just before the water on the surface has frozen. All minerals and air should end up in this remnant water and the resultant ice will be completely clear. 

Size of ice is also important. Smaller ice cubes will melt a faster than larger, meaning whisky may become more diluted than desired. In that case, an oversized cube or cylinder should be considered to slow dilution down, retaining a whisky’s fullest expression for much longer.

Adrian’s perfect over-ice serve 

Our in-house mixologist, Adrian, recommends the following for those who prefer their natural whisky over ice:

50ml (or 2 oz) of Waterford Whisky, with a large cube or cylinder of ice, in a generous wine glass. Maximised flavours and aromas, minimal dilution.

There is no need to add any extra water when serving over ice. Ice that is slowly melting into whisky should give necessary dilution in and of itself. Once all components are combined, allow 1-2 minutes for ice to melt slightly. 

When, where and how?

Perhaps the most critical elements to the enjoyment of natural whisky.

Time is a luxury we famously seldom allow ourselves, but it is precisely what these whiskies require – and what you deserve – to be appreciated fully. This whisky is not intended for slamming, chasing or rushing. Our Cuvée Concepts, particularly, will slowly, slowly reveal their complex layers only with warmth, oxygen, time in the glass, and those dashes of spring water that allow aromas to fully unfurl. So get comfortable, sit back and relax, and allow the whisky to express itself.

Natural whiskies are always best shared. Conviviality, good company, comparisons, moments enjoyed together, ideally around a table. We enjoy Waterford Whisky around the dining table most of all, seeing ourselves as one natural stitch in a broad gastronomic tapestry, but farmhouse tables, fishing hut tables, coffee tables and kitchen tables have all been the stage for these moments of shared joy. It’s the company, after all, that is most important.

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