Im wondering about the aparent perception that cask strength or high abv whiskey should be watered down.
I'm by no means a whiskey expert but I do dabble professionally and this struck me as strange. I'm not talking about people diluting to their own taste but about the way people dilute high abv whiskeys by default and that "cask strength goes further" because you water it down.
It just strikes me as odd that people buy cask strength whiskey and then dilute it down to 40 odd percent instead of buying the regular bottle which in most cases works out cheaper and as far as I know is the same thing...
I had a dribble of Connemara turf mor earlier which is 58.2% abv and the thing that struck me most about it was the way it made my tongue tingle and didn't burn my throat. I then sold a shot and the customer diluted it straight away and later said he thought it was no different from the regular. I know this isn't the same as cask strength but it did get me thinking...
I think people should taste it at cask strength first, then try it with different amounts of water.
Cask strength gives you more options, and adding even a drop of water can change the character. They say it opens it up. The same applies to 40% abv whisky. Some whiskies are good at cask strength, while others are not as good.
Someone said to me that they thought Tyrconnell, for example, is better at lower abv.
And, when you water down whisky that's 40% abv, I suppose technically it's not even whisky anymore.
I'm no expert myself but I never water down any of my whiskeys. Surely it takes away from the taste, even the aroma wouldn't be the same and that's what I love.
It can actually add to the taste. It's supposed to break down the surface tension or something like that.
My Father always did it and said it releases the flavours within !!
Maybe some whiskeys are suited to a drop of uisce than other's?
Would you say that some whiskeys are designed or intended to be diluted and if so why not do it at the source?
I'm not wondering why people dilute to taste but rather why it is generally accepted (in my experience) that cask strength whiskeys should be diluted and therefor why they are sold at all as as far as I know a cask strength Connemara for example, diluted to 40% abv is exactly the same as the regular one other than the quality of water from a pub tap would be different to mountain spring water...
I know of cases where soldiers and sailors would take extra strong vodka or rum in order to make 2 bottles out of one for weight and space reasons but I can't see that applying here.
I think the cask strength Connemara has a different recipe to the standard one. Adding water changes the flavours in many cases, even just a drop. But this effect won't last forever.
A lot of cask strength whiskies are also single cask, so they weren't designed at all. They just took them out of the cask and bottled them.
You water it to taste but generally a little water is a good idea when you're talking about a whiskey at 57%/58% because that high an alcohol concentration tends to anaesthetise the nose and mouth a little and prevent you from tasting the full flavour it.
But is that the flavour that they intend you to taste??
I suppose it's a matter of personal opinion. I would generally add very little water to a cask strength whiskey, certainly not enough to fully dilute it down to 40%. Generally I'll taste it neat and add a little water if I think it needs it. Personally, I find that a little bit of water generally takes the edge off the alcohol without affecting the flavours the whiskey has.
I'd completely agree that just diluting a good cask strength whiskey down as a matter of course is a waste.
Taste is so subjective it is very hard to call in the first place. I think in general people not used to drinking a decent variety of whiskey's find cask strength or high ABV whiskeys very aggressive and fiery.
This I have found common with novices and even regular whiskey drinkers of a single 40% brand.
I personally think the more you taste the more your palate is able to deal with the abv differences. Whether that is right or wrong I don't know.
I have come across many a long time regular whiskey drinker who would water their whiskey much more than say alot of us so called whiskey nuts and I've seen 40% abv whiskey watered by up to triple the amount of water.
I usually taste mine at bottle strength (what ever that may be) and then make a call on it and as Brockagh says add a little water until I get to my happy medium. In general I find a lot of cask strength whiskey are fine as they are but some do need water.