Introducing Uisge Source – the drop that makes the dram
Water’s water, right? Wrong… and Uisge Source have the science to prove it!
At the Summerton Whisky Club, we are dedicated advocates of drinking Whisky the right way – and before the Whisky aficionados attack – by the right way, we mean the way that you, personally, enjoy it. Taste is subjective, and that’s the wonderful thing about the world of whisky – every drop is different with elegant floral numbers, fresh and fruity, rich, spicy, through to the pungently peaty and smoky.
Whatever your preference, we also encourage a little experimentation – it’s at the core of the club, and the reason we spend so much time exploring unique and interesting whiskies to deliver to our members.
That experimentation shouldn’t end with simply trying new whiskies; rather, it should extend to new experiences – for example, whisky cocktails and cooking with whisky, and perhaps trying your whisky with a little water…
When it comes to the age old question ‘should I add water to my whisky?’ you’ll discover a great divide – the die-hard scotch connoisseurs for whom adding ANYTHING to a single malt is seen as sacrilege, through to those who believe a drop or two of water reveals the distinctive aromas and complex flavours of your whisky.
But WHY add water?
It’s all down to the distillation process, and the strength of the alcohol within your whisky…
- Whisky casks are filled with spirit for maturation that is typically between 60 and 70%.
- Some distillers add water to their whisky prior to filling, as research suggests that whisky matures better in the 60-65% region.
- Casks are then stored for several years (a minimum of three years to be classed as whisky).
- Over this time, evaporation of the alcohol (as much as 1% per year) through the cask walls decreases the alcohol content, while the spirit takes on unique flavours and colour from the cask wood.
- This evaporation typically brings the alcohol content down to between 50-60%, and sometimes lower depending on the length of time the whisky is in the barrel, and the quality of the barrel!
- A growing number of distilleries are bottling their whisky at full strength – this is known as ‘Cask Strength’
- More commonly whiskies are further diluted with water prior to bottling to reduce the alcohol content (with a legal minimum of 40%), with the intent of maximising flavour.
As you probably know, cask strength whisky can pack a punch, with the strength of the alcohol numbing our taste and smell. Equally, even lower ABV bottlings can offer quite a strong alcohol taste and smell. This is where adding water comes in. The aim is to reduce the ‘hit’ of the alcohol, allowing the flavours and aromas of the whisky itself to shine through. The amount of water you add, as well as the type/source of the water will both have a noticeable impact on your whisky experience.
Okay, so which water is best?
The water most of us would have access to would be either from tap, or bottled mineral water. Both of these sources contain relatively high levels of minerals – such as sodium-calcium-hydrogen-carbonate, sodium-sulfate, sodium-calcium-chloride, calcium-magnesium-hydrogen-carbonate, calcium-sulfate, sodium-calcium-magnesium-chloride. The balances vary depending on the rock layers the water flowed through prior to bottling. Water also contains sodium chloride (salt). These minerals and salts, whilst low in levels, can influence the flavour of your whisky somewhat. With that in mind it makes sense that adding water that is closely matched to the water used to create the whisky will best enhance the true flavours of the whisky.
That brings us to a rather interesting product from Uisge Source, a company based in Edinburgh who specialise in bottling spring waters from private sources either close to, or from distilleries in the whisky regions of Scotland. The chemistry of Uisge Source waters matches the chemistry of the waters used in whisky distillation in each region:
- Hard, mineral-rich spring water from the Highlands for adding to Highland malts.
- Soft, low-mineral spring water from Speyside for adding to Speyside Malts.
- Islay spring water with higher natural acidity for adding to Islay Malts.
I attended a Scotch Malt Whisky Society tasting in London on Tuesday evening and was introduced to Uisge Source Water. I was blown away with the presentation by Graeme Lindsay, his explanation & theory behind Uisge Source was superb but of course the most important part of the evening was the tasting, both my friends and I were amazed at how differently a single malt could taste just with a change in the water (it obviously makes sense….. now). Suffice to say, anyone who enjoys a Single Malt MUST try this water, its fantastic, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Scotch Malt Whisky Society
The really cool thing about Uisge Source is that it’s not just water they sourced from these regions; they actually tell you about the chemistry of the water. I was surprised at how much these waters with subtle differences brought out pronounced differences in the whisky and to find that each water tasted best with its regional water! Awesome.
While still sitting in front of my notes and glasses during each tasting, I was quite simply astounded. I was laughing out loud out of the sheer joy of being proven so wrong. Each region’s water’s impact on whisky was indeed dramatic and individual. Now, I stand before you amused and more than a little humbled. The experience of combining regionally-sourced water with complimentary whiskies was far more illuminating than I had anticipated
Joshua St. John
The WhiskyWash Blog
Why not try your next dram with a drop of water – and if possible take it to the next level and use water from as close to the original source as possible – it may just open up a whole new whisky experience for you!
Try this… pour five drams Of your favourite whisky into separate glasses – add a couple of drops of your chosen water to the first, and increasing amounts to each of the others. Taste each to find which balance suits your palate.
You can purchase waters to complement Highland, Speyside and Islay whiskies direct from Uisge Source
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Want some whisky to go with your water?