WHY IS WHISKEY BEST SERVED NEAT?
There’s a certain romance to ordering your whiskey neat. No ice, no mixers, no distractions – nothing to come between you and that amber glass of pure, unadulterated pleasure. Plus, it sounds cool, like you’re an international spy or a bank robber on the lamb.
We’d never go on record as saying you shouldn’t drink your whiskey neat, because we love it that way. (Yep, even at cask strength.) But we’d also never go on record saying you should only drink your whiskey neat. Because the reality is, as delicious as neat whiskey is, whiskey cocktails are…also delicious. And so is whiskey with a splash of water, or even—gulp—an ice cube or two (no, it’s not sacrilege).
Let’s walk through the various ways it’s possible to consume that most delicious of spirits, and the perks and drawbacks of each.
A whiskey served “neat” just means it’s served straight up, with nothing else in the glass. A neat pour lets you appreciate the true flavor of the whiskey—for better, or for worse. If you’re sipping something lackluster, you’ll find yourself quickly reaching for the ice and/or your favorite cocktail book. But if it’s a special whiskey, there’s no better format for appreciating its true complexity than a neat pour.
One thing to keep in mind the proof of the whiskey. All of Barrell Craft Spirits’ releases are cask strength, which means we bottle straight from the barrel to the bottle, no water added.
We love drinking cask strength spirits neat. In fact, the heady experience of drinking straight from the cask was what inspired us to start Barrell Craft Spirits in the first place. As far as we’re concerned, a neat pour of one of Barrell’s Single Barrel Bourbons is the closest most of us can get to the experience of drinking bourbon right from the barrel.
That said, if you’re not used to cask strength spirits, they can taste a little strong. There’s no shame in adding a few drops of water to a neat pour. Not only can it help tone down the intensity of the alcoholic burn, but adding water can actually help uncover new flavors in the whiskey.
We love adding a few drops of water to our Infinite Barrel Project, which is made up of small portions of dozens of different barrels. Neat, it’s almost unbelievably dense and complex. A few drops of water really give the flavors room to blossom.
IN A COCKTAIL
If you want to make a really great cocktail, you’ve got to use a great whiskey. A whiskey that’s bland or low-proof will get lost in your shaker. You want something punchy, high-proof, and richly flavorful—which pretty much describes the Barrell house style.
At Barrell Craft Spirits, we love cocktails so much that we hired Nic Christiansen, one of Louisville’s top mixologists and a guest cocktail expert on Top Chef, to run our single barrel program and develop cocktail recipes that show off Barrell Craft Spirits at their best.
Need a few ideas? Visit our blog for some of Nic’s recipes. Start with classics like a New York Sour made with Barrell’s Dovetail, then move on to modern concoctions like the Moon Dance, which pairs Barrell Bourbon Batch 025 with Barrell American Vatted Malt. No matter how you mix them, Barrel’s cask-strength spirits stand up to dilution with gusto, while those intense yet balanced flavors sing alongside accenting notes.
Drinking your whiskey on ice gets a bad rap. On the one hand, we understand. Ice both dilutes whiskey and drops its temperature, both of which can tone down flavor. In Scotland, for instance, it seems to physically hurt your fellow drinkers if they see you put an ice cube in your Glencairn.
But we think the sanctimonious finger-wagging about ice misses a finer point. In much of the United States, it’s hot. Sometimes, even inside the house. If your whiskey is room temperature on a day when the room feels like a sauna, it won’t be pleasant to drink. So go ahead. If it sounds good to you, add an ice cube or two. Our American Vatted Malt is particularly tasty with an ice cube, preferably enjoyed out on the porch while the coals get going.
At the end of the day, here’s the most important part: It’s your whiskey. You can drink it however you like.