Wine & Spirits

Chilling and Diluting Whiskey

Chilling and Diluting Whiskey

Nature’s saying everything should be ice-cold right now, but at the risk of being struck down by a rare winter bolt of lightning, I might suggest that doesn’t include your whiskey. I think all whiskey (bourbon, Scottish, Irish, you name it) can become emasculated if overchilled. I’d like to touch on two points here: the temperature of the spirit being enjoyed and the proof of said sprit.

When you use ice to chill and dilute a whiskey, picking the right amount can be quite a tricky thing. Any spirit you taste that’s higher than 66.6 percent proof or so will be too “hot”—too highly proofed—and will overpower and weaken your taste buds. That’s why true connoisseurs will dilute their whiskey with water, down to 55 to 60 percent or so, to be able to fully appreciate the spirit’s flavor. Some people like their whiskey chilled too (I suggest root-cellar temp), but using ice will keep the dilution rate and temp constantly in flux, so I suggest diluting your whiskey to an exact predetermined proof by using distilled water and then chilling it with something that won’t melt over time. The Scottish prefer chilled whiskey stones (although some say they impart a mineral taste), but I suggest using pre-chilled marbles. They look super cool and, being made of glass, will not affect the taste.

Have fun experimenting with different dilution percentages of the same whiskey and contemplating the subtle and nuanced differences. That should help kill some time until spring arrives.

Johnny Michaels is the author of North Star Cocktails and a master mixologist at La Belle Vie and Icehouse.