Whiskey Fans Tell Tasting Table This Is The Best Way To Enjoy The Spirit

Whiskey is a powerful, complex spirit, as fascinating to study as it is to sip. There's a whole world of whiskey to explore ... Irish, Scotch, Japanese, Canadian, and homegrown American bourbon, just for starters. The process of making whiskey began somewhere around 1000-2000 A.D., though the process of distillation is much older, according to Bottleneck Management. Scotland and Ireland are the birthplaces of whiskey, with the first written records of the distilled spirit dating back to the 1400s.

The process of making whiskey is surprisingly straightforward, according to Whiskey Made. Grain, typically barley, corn, rye, wheat, or oats, in various combinations, is malted, meaning the grains germinate, then turned into a mash by cooking the malted grain in water. This mash is fermented, a process in which yeast converts the grain's sugar into alcohol. Then, the alcohol in the mixture is volatilized and captured, resulting in a product with a much higher content of alcohol. This distilled spirit is then typically aged in oak to mellow the harshness of the young whiskey and impart the caramel color and rich flavor we love.

If you've always wanted to try whiskey, but you're not sure how to order it, we asked 626 Tasting Table readers if they drink their whiskey neat or straight, on the rocks, with water, or in a cocktail.

How do you take your whiskey?

The number one way Tasting Table readers enjoy whiskey is on the rocks. 38% of you like some ice in your glass when you're sipping whiskey. Why do some whiskey lovers add ice? Vine Pair explains that most liquors are bottled at 80 proof (40% ABV) because it's the legal minimum for the category in the U.S. While 40% alcohol is a pretty stiff drink, many whiskeys are bottled at a higher proof, according to Moonshine University, some even as high as 135 proof. Diluting these high-proof spirits with ice cubes makes their aromas and flavors more accessible. A small percentage of readers — about 8% — drink their whiskey with water, another means of reducing the alcohol content just enough to allow aromas and flavors to bloom.

20% of whiskey lovers are purists, preferring their whiskey neat or straight. Lovers of unadulterated spirits prefer to drink whiskey just the way it's bottled. It's worth noting, as Eight Oaks Distillery points out, that while "neat" always means straight from the bottle, "straight" can either mean the same thing, or it can mean the whiskey is shaken with ice, then strained into a glass. It's best to ask your bartender for clarification. And speaking of bartenders, 33% of you love your whiskey in a cocktail. As the prominent spirit in an old fashioned, whiskey sour, or Manhattan, whiskey plays well with a variety of mixers.