Whiskey purists might scoff at the notion of enjoying a whiskey on the rocks. The full spectrum of flavors shouldn’t be diluted by a big hunk of frozen water, or whiskey stones for that matter. However, whiskey judges, experts, and distillers will rebut that the best way to drink whiskey is the way that you enjoy it in the moment. Plus, whiskey with ice can offer a bit more refreshment on a hot day. You just want to make sure you’re drinking the right whiskey.
What Is a Good Whiskey on Ice?
Ultimately, how you drink your whiskey is up to you. Figure out which whiskeys, bourbons, and Scotches you like neat, and then try adding a few drops of water and then some ice. You’ll start to understand which flavors you’re actually enjoying and how they shine at room temperature versus on the rocks.
But, if you’re looking for some prescriptive advice, we’d say you want a bourbon or whiskey with a bit of heft. Cold thins down flavors and whiskey on the rocks will dilute over time as the ice melts, so you want a whiskey that can still offer some strong flavors despite being a tad watered down. Cask-strength whiskey as a solid option for these reasons. Similarly, any whiskey or bourbon with bolder, more prominent flavors will stand up well against dilution.
How Should you Serve Whiskey with Ice?
While they had their moment, we wouldn’t recommend using whiskey stones as an alternative to ice. They have a visual appeal, but ultimately they won’t effectively cool down your whiskey. The upside is they won’t dilute it either, but as mentioned earlier, that might not be a bad thing depending on your choice.
Additionally, we don’t recommend any crushed or cubed ice that comes out of your refrigerator ice machine. These are too small and will dilute your whiskey very quickly. Instead, consider purchasing some large cocktail ice cube molds. These larger ice cubes will maintain their shape longer, meaning your drink will cool down without diluting your whiskey too much.
To enjoy whiskey with ice, simply grab your preferred rocks glass, add a single large cube of ice, and pour one of the following whiskeys.
The Best Whiskey to Drink on the Rocks
Despite its resurgence in popularity, Woodford Reserve is still a fairly underrated whiskey. Sure it might not explode with a single impressive flavor characteristic, but the smooth ride of this balanced whiskey makes it a lovely sipping experience. On a hot day, ice makes it even more drinkable. Woodford makes approachable whiskeys that should impress both new and old whiskey enthusiasts.
Four Roses Small Batch
Four Roses Small Batch is among our favorite budget-friendly bourbons. Ultimately, at less than $50, it punches well above its weight in terms of quality and versatility. While it’s wonderful served neat, it can hold its own served with ice. Four Roses Small Batch offers brilliant balance throughout, and, when enjoyed on the rocks, this bourbon reveals some lovely spice and candied fruit notes.
We’ve seen the price of Buffalo Trace creep up in different markets, but it still remains a stalwart budget option. Smooth with just a touch of sweetness, this whiskey is solid under any circumstance. But it’s particularly tasty when enjoyed on the rocks. You’ll find the chill brings out some zest while also keeping this whiskey silky smooth.
Jameson Irish Whiskey
Jameson might not be the best Irish Whiskey on the market, and it’s certainly not a novel pick, but it is among the better whiskeys to serve with ice and it’s available pretty much anywhere. In fact, with that extra chill, Jameson on the rocks is extremely sippable and you’ll find it’s all too easy to polish off your rocks glass in no time. A honey sweetness immediately comes to the forefront along with a more balanced approach to the background flavors with each sip.
Wild Turkey 101
Wild Turkey 101 makes for an excellent whiskey on the rocks thanks to its criminally low price point and seriously high rye profile. Strong spice characteristics shine when chilled, and you’ll find this whiskey with ice is actually pretty refreshing on a hot summer’s day. Plus, it’s readily available, so you don’t need to hunt down any special bottles.
Old Grand Dad Bourbon Whiskey
While it won’t knock your socks off, Old Grand Dad Bourbon Whiskey is the best bang for your buck. It’s not a particularly flashy or sexy bourbon, but it more than gets the job done. Need more convincing? This is a much-beloved option among bartenders and industry folk. Plus, it tastes pretty dang solid as a whiskey with ice. This whiskey on the rocks opens up some of the more subtle fruit notes while allowing the spice to sing.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly rye whiskey to sip on the rocks, Rittenhouse Rye is the choice for you. At 100 proof, this rye whiskey will hold its own with a little dilution and the ice lets some of the bolder flavors sing. Rittenhouse Rye is a bartender favorite for cocktails, so you should feel confident that it can handle a bit of ice and still taste great.
Big Nose Kate Western Whiskey
Big Nose Kate is a slightly more under-the-radar whiskey brand. It’s a smooth, balanced booze that is lovely on the rocks. Stonefruit, vanilla, and caramel flavors pop with a bit of chill and the overall experience is refreshingly balanced. You won’t find one single flavor note dominating, but rather the whiskey comes together nicely for an easy-drinking experience.