Judging Out of Context
"I don't add ice to my whisky and I don't water it down." Fair enough. These are words that I hear often on the sales floor when I recommend proofing down certain whiskies. If you like the George T. Stagg at full strength, then you are a braver man than I am. There's no harm in sipping full throttle Bourbon or even single malts for that matter, in my opinion, because most of the time it's done by guys who appreciate the whiskies anyway. What worries me, however, is when I hear that same remark after someone decides to buy the Hibiki 12, the new Compass Box Great King Street, or any other blended whisky that was made to drink on the rocks.
I remember hearing someone from the industry trash the Isle of Skye blended whiskies at a trade tasting, saying that it didn't sip as neatly as a standard Talisker. Since when did any one say that we're supposed to "sip" the Isle of Skye? That's a whisky meant to throw down with a handful of ice and a highball glass and it's a darn good one at that. I understand the idea of not enjoying water with one's whisky, but why judge one of these products on the same standard as a single malt meant to be taken neat? If I have people over for some spicy Szechuan cuisine and I open a bottle of German riesling and a bottle of young, tannic Bordeaux, the riesling is going to taste great. The Bordeaux on the other hand might taste terrible with all that spicy chili - a flavor profile it isn't meant to pair with. That wouldn't be the Bordeaux's fault, however, that's my own ignorance at play.
From everything I've learned and experienced about Japanese whisky, it's specifically designed to be watered down - sometimes heavily so. John Glaser specifically crafted the Great King Street for highball cocktails. That doesn't mean that you can't enjoy these whiskies without water, but it does mean that you shouldn't be holding them to the same standards as your after dinner night cap if you choose to drink them out of context.