Should You Add Ice to Whisky?

“I don’t like ice in my whiskey. I like bullets. Why? Because for every ice cube I don’t use, an Eskimo gets to keep one square inch of his igloo. So I’m saving twice the lives by using bullets and not using ice.” – Jarod Kintz

Whilst we’re not advocating adding bullets to whisky, the addition of ice to the spirit is one of those perennial debates among fans. Here, we look in to what actually happens when you add ice to your whisky, so at least you can make an informed decision. As always, our advice is to drink it as you like it – go with what works for you!

Should You Add Ice to Whisky

Should You Add Ice to Whisky?

What Happens When You Add Ice to Whisky?

When we discussed adding water to whisky, we mentioned that this can help to release some of the aromatic compounds within it, altering the nose and taste to varying degrees (depending on the amount and type of water added, and the whisky itself). This process is often referred to as ‘opening up’ the whisky.

Conversely, when you add ice, you actually chill the spirit and this results in fewer aromatic compounds being released in to the air. Adding ice can also help reduce alcohol burn – if that’s something you’re not keen on – both through cooling and slightly diluting the whisky. So far so good.

However, that’s not all there is to it. Whilst adding ice might initially reduce the number of aromatics emanating from the glass, and thus entering our nose through the nostrils, that is not the only route to flavour.

Whenever we eat food (or drink whisky!) we also gain some of the flavour profile from smells which enter the nasal cavity through the back of the mouth – this is called Retronasal Olfaction. So, even if you add ice to whisky in the glass, when you drink it the heat from your mouth will begin to release some of the aromatics that the cold ice masked initially.