In his answer https://cooking.stackexchange.com/a/24354/6279 @user5561 indirectly makes the claim that it is 'preferable' to mix whiskey with water from the same source as the distillery.

So the answer is that yes, serious whiskey buffs would never mix "good" whiskey with anything except a little water (preferably from the same source the distillery gets their water from).

This is a claim I find intriguing and something I have never previously heard. Can anyone validate this? (or discredit it?)

note: I am skeptical because if there were truth to it I would think one would find branded bottled water in every liquor store.

[Edit/Clarification: When I ask for "validation" of this I am looking for more than just 'confirmation' of the claim, but some evidence or rational that explains why it is true. How does using 'the same water' augment the flavor, more so than 'plain' 'clean' water. What does the water used to create Highland Park do for Highland Park that it doesn't do for Jack Daniels? (and does the water need to be as old as the whiskey?)]

  • 2
    The reasoning is that water from the same turf as used for making the malt gives a better taste. Now, I admit that water tastes differently from place to place, but I doubt anybody can tell the difference in a blind test. As I don't have any data, just commenting. I think this is pure BS. Jun 12, 2012 at 22:59
  • 1
    Some good additional information about how water affects the taste of whiskey here: cooking.stackexchange.com/q/21902
    – yossarian
    Jun 15, 2012 at 14:47

3 Answers 3


I too had never heard of this until I read @user5561's answer. So although it's news to me, I'm going to venture an answer. I believe the "reasoning" is as follows:

The overall taste of the whisky will be comprised of the flavour of the water, the flavour compounds generated by the fermentation and distillation, and finally the flavour generated by aging the whisky. Therefore, if you wish to water the whisky down, you should use the same water the distillery used so that you are not adding additional flavour components to the final drink. If you use a different water, you will be introducing flavours that weren't present in the whisky as it came out of the bottle.

Now there are three assumptions this belief will be predicated on:

  1. There is a human being on this planet with a sense of smell so developed that they would notice the difference.
  2. The water you are using will somehow always make the drink taste worse and never complement what's already there.
  3. The original flavour components in the water the distillery used have not undergone any changes during the fermentation, distillation and aging.

I take issue with the first two assumptions. You won't be able to tell the difference unless you're using water you just scooped out of a swamp and, with good water, there's no reason to believe it could not possibly improve the drink. I doubt the third but don't have any evidence either way.

I've come across a similar argument used for pizza, coffee, stock, etc... For example, since coffee is mostly water it's the most important ingredient. It seems logical until you realize that the neutral flavour of water is so subtle that it's quickly overwhelmed by just about anything you add to it (especially ground coffee beans).

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    I appreciate you taking exceptions to the the first 2 assumptions you identify. I would take exception to the 3rd as the process of turning water into whiskey involves distillation, a process I believe would leave behind anything that might produce a unique flavor from the original water.
    – Cos Callis
    Jun 13, 2012 at 23:08
  • I think 1 & 2 are probably broadly true, but not absolute. If you've ever had the water in Florida near the beach, you'd agree. It's disgusting, with a strong sulfur flavor. It's not good for anything, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if the taste was strong enough to linger in your whiskey.
    – yossarian
    Jun 15, 2012 at 14:38
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    As the person who introduced the original claim (not sure where I first heard it, but I don't doubt that someone, somewhere actually does it), I agree with you. If your water tastes good by itself then it'll taste good in your whiskey, and you don't use much anyway.
    – user5561
    Jun 16, 2012 at 4:10
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    @Ray,although minerals do affect the flavour of water, they are removed during distillation. The minerals and ions are removed. This is precisely why distilled water is used in car batteries and radiators. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distilled_water So which will affect the flavour of your drink more, the water you're used to or a strange one you've never had before?
    – Swoogan
    Jun 18, 2012 at 14:59
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    Too late, but I would add that while it's true that minerals are removed during distillation, any whisky not sold as "cask strength" (usually 50-60%ABV or so) will be watered down by the distillery to 40% (or maybe a bit more), thus adding the minerals back.
    – user5561
    Dec 27, 2012 at 5:35

According to whisky lore, the best water to use is the same natural, pure spring water used in the production of the whisky itself (every distillery has its own natural water source). Unless you live near the distillery (or buy ridiculously-priced local spring waters sold by some distilleries), this is impractical. Your best bet is to use bottled natural spring water, or a mild bottled mineral water (taste it first, it should taste clean and clear and not like chemicals). If your tap water is drinkable and not especially hard or soft, or if you use a filtration pitcher, you can use this water in a pinch too. Lastly, this water should be ROOM TEMPERATURE or just slightly cool. Cold water will do the same injustice to the whisky that ice does, and dull its


  • Thanks for the confirmation that this claim has been heard by others, perhaps even documented. I'm looking for "How" this can be the case.
    – Cos Callis
    Jun 13, 2012 at 1:14
  • If it stems from "folklore" then maybe you won't get a "how" answer, it may just be a tradition, a custom, a popular belief, that has been carried on throughout the years. I guess before tap water and Chemicals to cleanse it came about they did use the local spring water,"Fresh"from the spring water with no additives would always make something taste better ? Just a guess on my behalf, I just thought the link had some useful tips about Whisky. Jun 13, 2012 at 1:51
  • indeed if it is mere folk lore then all I should expect to hear is just that...and that is really all I expect.
    – Cos Callis
    Jun 13, 2012 at 4:12

When making whisky, water is used at several stages; first, it's used in the vat to give the yeast more mobility to fully digest all the starches (and to ensure the alcohol concentration stays low enough to not inhibit the yeast's growth). That water is removed during distillation (which typically produces a spirit between 140 and 150 proof; a traditional open-air still simply cannot remove all the water from the alcohol), and then a little fresh water is added back in, producing a "cask strength" somewhere in the 100-120 range. The extra water slows evaporation of the alcohol and keeps the barrels hydrated during the aging; regardless, some of the spirit is inevitably lost to the air (the angels' share) and to the wood of the cask itself (the devil's cut) as the barrel sits in the aging vault. Finally, just before bottling, the cask's proof is tested and the whisky diluted to 80-100 proof for sale in the U.S.; a few distillers also market a "cask strength" that doesn't get this last step.

Therefore, the whisky in the bottle contains a good dose of whatever's in the water in the brook flowing by the distillery, typically referred to as "peat" as most of the water in that region filters through layers of peat moss before arriving at a stream (and over in the Islay reagion, it's less stream, more peat bog, leading to the quite extreme flavor of whiskys like the Laphroiag).

It's traditional to add a splash more of water to a whisky to "open it up"; the whisky loses some of the powerful alcohol sting and displays more of the complexities of its taste (two primary variables in Scotch are a smoky note from the char of the barrel and the earthy peat from the water). Filtered water is generally acceptable, especially across the pond where local water from the distillery is hard to come by, but hardcore Scotch connoisseurs who look for those earthy peat tones unique to the spirit will prefer to add more of that same flavor in the water.

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