Whiskey lovers understand that single malt whiskeys have consistent quality and great flavor. It is aged, blended, and bottled to be enjoyed properly. But many liquor buyers fail to consume it as intended, often sensing only a portion of its overall flavor. If you’ve bought your first single malt, you should know the best way to drink it so you can maximize its flavor and aroma without letting its burn overwhelm you.

The best way to drink single malt is by pouring it into a tulip glass, without ice and with spring water on the side. You can either add water to the whiskey or can alternate between sips of water and whiskey. It is important not to shoot whiskey or swirl it.

In this article, you will learn the nuances of drinking single-malt whiskey. It covers small missteps that minimize whiskey’s flavor alongside how to avoid them. You will also find recommendations for diluting your whiskey without changing its taste towards the end of this post.

But first, let’s go over the steps of drinking single malt properly…

1. Source The Right Whiskey

Source The Right Whiskey

The first step in an enjoyable liquor-drinking experience is getting the right liquor. With vine, this is fairly easy, as you can always bet on age. When it comes to whiskey, older is not always better. There is a degree of predictability in how flavors morph across time, with younger whiskey being fruitier and older having more depth. Young and old whiskeys have their merits.

You should know what you prefer in a whiskey and should source your single malt accordingly. Most distilleries produce whiskeys aged between 4 and 20 years, with most single malts being under 10. Sampling different whiskeys can help you develop a preference, which can guide your whiskey-drinking experience.

2. Replace The Rocks Glass With A Tulip Glass

Replace The Rocks Glass With A Tulip Glass

Traditionally, whiskey is served in a rocks glass meant to house multiple cubes of ice in a straight column-like arrangement. The glass is slender enough to keep ice from melting and allows the drinker to control the flow of whiskey into his mouth.

This type of tumbler is great for pretty much any blended whiskey. It is even recommended for single barrel whiskey if said liquor is consumed on the rocks. But true connoisseurs like to have their scotch without the rocks. And for undiluted whiskey, the best glass is tulip-shaped.

Its shape keeps the aroma of the single malt from escaping. More importantly, it has a lower liquid flow for how much it is tilted. However, a tulip glass is important only if you drink whiskey without ice. But if you have your whiskey with ice, then using a tulip glass will get you strange glances.

3. Consume At Room Temperature

Consume At Room Temperature

As mentioned earlier, the best way to drink single malt is without ice and at room temperature. There are two ways to have it without the burn. Firstly, you can drink the whiskey with water on the side, alternating between sips of scotch and water.

Secondly, you can add water to your whiskey, gradually increasing it until the whiskey is diluted just enough for your preference. Neither method of drinking is inferior. Just like “older” is not “better” when it comes to whiskey, “concentrated” doesn’t equal “better,” either.

Whiskey is far more straightforward and pretension-free. What you like is what is better. And your favorite whiskey serving method is going to be one of these:

  • Whiskey on the rocks – This is the easiest way to drink whiskey without worrying about its concentration. 
  • Whiskey with water added to it – This is considered a medium-tier drinking method acceptable among high-brow and general whiskey lovers. 
  • Whiskey with a side of water – This way of drinking whiskey ensures that you get the maximum flavor for a manageable burn. It is considered the afficiandaos’ favorite.

4. Have Spring Water On The Side

Have Spring Water On The Side

Unless you have whiskey on the rocks, you should pair it with spring water. Tapwater and mineral-loaded bottled water are considered too loud for single malts as they can interfere with their taste. A small bottle of spring bottle should be on the same serving tray as the whiskey bottle and tulip glass. Whether the drinker adds water from it to the whiskey or alternates between water and whiskey is up to his preference.

If you cannot serve spring water, then you can stock up on distilled water. In fact, many whiskey purists prefer distilled water over spring water. Usually, distilled water is used to lower the proof of whiskey, and spring water is used to lower its burn without altering its flavor.

5. Sip Without The Swirl

Sip Without The Swirl

If you love wine or have seen people drink it, you will be tempted to swirl your whiskey like wine. But it is best not to swirl whiskey because its flavor can be diminished by the alcohol released in the process. Swirling a drink can encourage alcohol release, which improves the wine-drinking experience. But the same alcohol can easily overpower the subtle flavor elements of whiskey.

When drinking single malt, you should keep the drink as still as possible and should have it slowly. Sipping is preferred overshooting, and you should take your time with the drink. As covered in the pairing section, it is better to have water on the side instead of pouring a single malt on the socks.

One of the reasons behind this recommendation is that whiskey without ice can be consumed over a longer period. There is no pressure to finish your drink before it gets watery. So, aside from sipping without swirling, you should remember to sip with long pauses in between.

6. Overload With Ice If Drinking On The Rocks

Overload With Ice If Drinking On The Rocks

Sipping whiskey slowly is a non-negotiable practice that helps you enjoy its flavor and avoid overconsumption. But it is also advisable to choose what you like. What if you like to drink chilled whiskey on the rocks? Should you sacrifice the slow drinking pace, or should you hold the ice in favor of a drawn-out drinking time?

The fix for this dilemma is pretty simple. You should overload your whiskey with ice so that you can afford to drink it slowly. Any liquor lover would understand that having more ice delays dilution. Ice cubes can keep each other cold, preventing individual cubes from rapidly melting in the drink.

A rocks glass or ice glass is best for loading up the rocks when serving single malt. In a tall, narrow container, the glass is constantly in touch with the ice, keeping it from interacting too much with the liquid by reducing its available surface area. As a result, the ice doesn’t melt as quickly.

As long as you use a rocks glass and fill it up with ice cubes, you’ll b able to take your time sipping whiskey. The only problem with this is the compromised olfactory experience.

The olfactory experience (smell) plays a major part in whiskey drinking. And only tulip glasses can trap the aroma of the single malt properly. When you choose to add ice, you have to let go of a part of the olfactory experience.

Single Malt Whiskey Drinking FAQs

Single Malt Whiskey Drinking FAQs

What is the best water to pair with single malt whiskey?

Premium spring water or any type of distilled water is great for single malt. Spring water can taste different depending on the brand, so you should stick to ones with a great reputation.

Acqua Panna Spring Water and Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water are the best options to pair with whiskey. Happy Belly Distilled Water is great if you want to add distilled water directly to your whiskey.

Is spring water or distilled water better for whiskey?

Distilled water is good for diluting whiskey, while spring water is better sipped alongside whiskey. As long as you don’t use tap water to dilute the whiskey or reduce its burn factor, you’ll be able to enjoy your single malt as intended.

Should I have whiskey with ice?

You can have blended whiskey on the rocks, but single barrel and high-priced single malt whiskeys are best consumed at room temperature with a side of water.

Do you spit whiskey?

You do not spit whiskey during tastings because how smoothly it goes down is a major quality-determining factor. Wine, on the other hand, is spit because its opening and middle notes are most important, with its smoothness being pre-determined.

Spitting whiskey doesn’t give you complete information regarding the quality of the liquor. You sip whiskey as if normally drinking it, even if you are at a tasting. Just remember to limit the sample quantity to avoid getting drunk.

Final Thoughts on Drinking Single Malt Whiskey

Final Thoughts

Drinking single malt is pretty straightforward. You pour it into a tulip glass without ice and sip it straight without swirling it. Of course, it is likely to have a high burn, for which you should use spring water or distilled water.

As long as you follow these guidelines, you will enjoy your single malt. But if you want to change any specific “rule” in the post above, you can change it.

The only thing that matters, in the end, is whether you enjoy your whiskey. The directions in this article are just a round-up of what you’re most likely to enjoy.