When is it ok to drink whisky with ice? Anthony Bourdain reveals his golden rule

The celebrity chef's approach to drinking whisky could ruffle some feathers 

Kashmira Gander
Wednesday 02 August 2017 14:29

What celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain says, goes. Anything from his tips on whipping up scrambled eggs to what will be the latest food trend are taken as gospel. But is he right about drinking whisky on the rocks?

Bourdain recently revealed that he drinks his scotch with ice regardless of how old it is. To whisky traditionalists, who only sip whisky neat or with a few drops of water at most, diluting the drink with ice is nothing short of sacrilege.

The New York chef made the revelation in an interview with writer Dan Dunn on his podcast Drinky Fun Time. Bourdain recalled that when he visited Antarctica recently, a member of his group served up scotch with chunks of ice from a nearby glacier.

“The ice I just put in your drink is like thousands of years older than even the idea of whisky,” the team member told Bourdain, he said on the show. He added that the water had remained frozen for hundreds, if not thousands of years. That deserves more respect than even the oldest whisky, he argued.

Discussing how he is developing a taste for whisky, Bourdain told Dunn: “I'm sure many people don't like when I say it, but unless it's something really, you know, rare and high-end like this, I'll put a rock or two in,” he said. “It seems to open it up a little in a way I like.”

He went on to reveal that his rule for deciding whether or not to drop a few ice cubes into his whisky comes down to its age. Anything older than 23 years, he’ll drink neat. Otherwise, he’s happy to ice it.

“For recreational, sitting by myself at the bar listening to Tom Waits, I'd be drinking this with a rock in it,” Bourdain told Dunn. And who are we to argue?

So, we posed the question of to ice or not to ice to some whisky buffs, including Heather Nelson, the managing director of Toulvaddie Distillery in Scotland.

"Whisky is there for the enjoyment of the drinker, if that means adding ice, water or whatever it is that enhances your whisky drinking experience, then that is what you should do," she told The Independent.

"I drink different whiskies in different ways, some I add ice to, some water, some neat, some even with ginger ale – so a lot of it depends of the whisky and your mood. There are no rules on how to drink whisky, have it the way you like it."

"Drink whisky how you like it," chimed Kieron Hall, business development manager of The Lakes Distillery and an ex-bartender. "If that’s neat by a warming fire or on ice in the lighter months. You’ll find adding a drop of water releases many of the aromas and flavours of a whisky that you won’t get otherwise.”

"I'm with Tony on this," adds David Moore, the owner of Michelin-starred London restaurant Pied-a-Terre. "I recently did a whisky tasting with a very serious pal and collector of rare bottles. He wouldn’t let me put an ice cube in mine and whilst I recognise the flavour and aromas are more pronounced when only a touch of water is added, I didn’t enjoy it."

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