The right Water for Whisky Tasting

Water is an important Addition to Single Malt Whisky!

This article describes why you should perhaps dilute your whisky with a little water and which water is best to use for this purpose. In the video you will also learn what influence the water has on the taste of the whisky.

Nothing works in life without water. We can survive for 10 weeks without food because the body has built up food reserves. But after a few days without water, our life is on the brink. Our body consists essentially of water, of which we constantly lose large amounts through breathing and sweating. The average person consumes between 1.5 and 2.5 litres per day, which they need to replenish as quickly as possible. If you put in extra effort or exercise, this requirement can easily double. In addition to our tap water, Westerners cover part of this water requirement with mineral water. On average, every German drinks about 100 litres of mineral water per year.

Water is the all-round agent in our body that regulates all vital functions. Water is the solvent that transports nutrients and waste products. Water also regulates body temperature. The evaporative cooling of sweat on the skin cools the overheated body.

The Mineral Content in Water

Mineral water is one of the most natural foods. The taste of mineral water ranges from completely neutral to strongly acidic or salty. Where does this taste come from? It is the dissolved minerals and other inorganic substances that the water brings with it on its way to the earth's surface.

If you fill a container with mineral water and immerse two metal plates in it, you can stimulate the ions in the water to move in an orderly fashion by applying a voltage. The positive ions separate on the negatively charged metal plate (cathode). They are therefore also called cations. The same happens with the negative ions (anions) at the positively charged anode.

The most frequently encountered ions are listed in the following table.

MagnesiumHydrogen carbonate

Mineral waters are divided according to their mineral content into 'poor' and 'rich' types, depending on how much mineral content the water contains. The maximum values of 'rich' mineral waters are more than 40 grams of minerals per litre (g/l). The 'poorest' varieties include water from Hawaii with only 5mg/l (5-thousandths of a gram per litre).

Mineral waters with less than 1g/l include the well-known 'French' Volvic, Evian, Perier and Vittel.

The most common cation and anion combinations in mineral waters result from the rock strata through which the water flowed.

Limestone layers Hydrogen carbonate watersGypsum layers Sulphate watersCommon salt deposits Chloride waters
Sodium-calcium hydrogen carbonateSodium sulphateSodium-calcium-chloride
Calcium magnesium hydrogen carbonateCalcium sulphateSodium-calcium-magnesium-chloride

Sodium ions and chloride ions together make common salt. Mineral waters with predominantly these components will therefore taste salty. Salt consists of 60 percent by weight of chloride ions and 40 percent by weight of sodium ions. So you only have to divide the amount of chloride in a water by 0.6 to get the amount of common salt dissolved in the water. However, this is only true as long as the amount of sodium in the water is sufficient for the formation of salt. Otherwise, you have to divide the amount of sodium by 0.4 to get the amount of table salt.

Diluting Whisky with Water

Whisky is usually bottled at 63.5 % vol. Alcohol is usually filled into the barrels for storage. With storage over many years, the whisky usually loses alcohol strength as the alcohol escapes through the cask wall. At the same time, the whisky absorbs ingredients from the wood, which gives it some of its flavour. Every year, the whisky loses between half a percentage point and one percentage point of alcohol strength in the cask. At bottling, the whisky usually has only 50-60 % alcohol left. However, at this strength, the alcohol would still numb our taste buds on the tongue and in the roof of the mouth. Our sense of taste would be massively impaired. So we have to dilute.

High-quality whiskies are increasingly bottled at cask strength to leave it up to the connoisseur to decide in which dilution the whisky wants to be enjoyed. Start with a low strength (strong dilution) and increase it as your palate gets used to the taste.

The Choice of Water

What water should we use to dilute the whisky at home? Should we use a 'healthy, rich' medicinal water? Or should we use a 'poor' or deionised water that tastes of nothing at all? Should we use soda water, as we see played over and over again on TV in the numerous agent films, or will the whisky be more interesting with a strong fizz?

From my point of view, there are two lines of argument that stand up to critical scrutiny:

1) Use distilled or deionised water to reduce your whisky to drinking strength, as the neutral taste of the water does not distort the whisky's own flavour. Scotch whiskies that come out of the cask with 50 to 60 % vol. alcohol, are reduced to the required bottle strength with this water. The Scotch Whisky Act makes this procedure compulsory for bottling outside the distilleries.

2) Scots use only fresh spring water of local origin to dilute their most beloved drink. If you order a whisky in a Scottish pub, you also get a jug of spring water straight from the tap. So what could be more stylish than diluting the national drink of the Scots with local water?

Scotland is largely made up of granite rocks and sandstone. Rainwater flowing over or through these rock layers contains very few minerals.

The wide variety of mineral waters available commercially unfortunately have a much higher mineral content than the tap water in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. When choosing your water, look at the analysis results on the bottle. Also, please use only still mineral waters, as bubbly waters make the whisky unsteady on the tongue and negatively affect the taste with their dissolved carbon dioxide.

The greatest influence on the taste of a mineral water is the salt and the hydrogen carbonate. Avoid waters that have a high content of these.

Original Scottish or the well-known French still and poor mineral waters and naturally distilled or deionised water are best.

OberseltersHighland Spring

Warning: Never drink large quantities of pure distilled water. The lack of ions can seriously disrupt your body's mineral balance and even be life-threatening. For this reason, always add an appropriate amount of single malt whisky to your distilled water ;-)