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Why the water you add to your whisky matters — and the best to buy…

From a mineral water bottled on Ben Nevis to an American limestone-filtered spring water, here are the best waters for your whisky...

Whisky is neat. But you know what makes it even neater? Adding water. The purists may disagree — it’s a little like that frosty, ongoing ice debate — but the science proves it: Adding a dash of mineral water to your whisky will awaken a wider, deeper and richer palate of aromas.

Back in 2017, two Swedish chemists from Linnæus University published a paper that proved it. They discovered that diluting a whisky from 45% to 27% increases the density of a naturally-occurring organic compound called guaiacol in the spirit, thus intensifying flavour. The water also reduces the dulling and sometimes overwhelming sensation of alcohol on the tongue.

But enough about that. Because you’ve likely already got an opinion about adding water to your whisky — and this article isn’t going to change your mind. But, if you — like those Scandinavian scientists — are partial to adding a drop or two to your dram, we’ve done some research of our own.

There are several spring waters on the market explicitly intended to be added to your whisky — and others that hail from the same Highlands and Islands as the spirits themselves. So we put a batch of these bottles to the test to discover which water can make your whisky taste even better…

Franklin & Sons ‘Scottish Artesian Water’

Where’s it from? A mountain spring in the Scottish Highlands. Specifically, a historic spring that flows — with water gently filtered through layers of rock for around 50 years — at Pannanich Wells, near Balmoral Castle.

Why is it special? Allegedly, this water emerges under its own pressure at the spring, ensuring its exceptional quality. This, says Franklin & Sons, gives it a purity capable of unlocking even the subtlest flavours and aromas.

What whisky would it work best with? Again, the brand has a suggestion; high cask strength whiskies. By adding to a stronger spirit, such as a Dalwhinnie 20, the heat sensation is lessened, and shyer notes can shine through.

Deeside Mineral Water

Where’s it from? Almost the exact same spring as the Franklin & Sons water above. Deeside’s bottles are filled with water sourced from the Pannanich Wells; renowned in Victorian times to produced ‘miracle waters’.

Why is it special? It’s unusually pure. Which means, for a mineral water, it’s got a surprisingly low amount of minerals in it. This makes its taste clearer, its mouthfeel fresher and its finish smoother.

What whisky would it work best with? Try something closer to Scotch’s official lower ABV boundary of 40% here. The Deeside water is so pure, it’ll tease out hidden flavours — without washing them away altogether. It’s a light touch; a precision worker.

Uisge Source ‘Allt a Mhullin Mountain’ Water

Where’s it from? This characterful water flows down the northern slopes of Ben Nevis — through peat soil and granite rock. It emerges as a pure, clear, refreshing water — and one of the softest in Scotland.

Why is it special? For that very reason. Due to its innate lack of calcium carbonate, magnesium or any other minerals to speak of, this mountain spring water serves a similarly function to the delicate Deeside bottle above.

What whisky would it work best with? Uisge Source, who also sell an ‘Islay’ water for spicier whiskies, a ‘Speyside’ water for fruitier whiskies and a ‘Highland’ water for peatier whiskies, suggest introducing a couple of drops to something rich and clean, such as the new Ben Nevis Coire Leis.

Uisge Source ‘Allt a Mhullin Mountain’ Water

Uisge Source ‘Allt a Mhullin Mountain’ Water


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Highland Spring Water

Where’s it from? The majestic Ochil Hills, just north of the Forth Valley. Highland Spring, though readily available across Britain, draws its water from pollution-and-pesticide-free protected land to ensure it can be certified as organic.

Why is it special? Because ‘only the best water makes it through’. That’s the brand’s way of explaining that, as the hills contain an impermeable layer of sandstone, only water that falls on high land — and is therefore filtered through tons of basalt rock — makes it into their bottles.

What whisky would it work best with? We’d opt for something from nearby — such as a Glenturret 15 Years Old. Non-chill filtered and natural in colour, it’s a marriage made in pure, unsullied heaven.

Highland Spring Water

Highland Spring Water


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Hildon Natural Mineral Water

Where’s it from? A single, protected source on the Hildon Estate in the Hampshire countryside. That’s right, this one’s not from Scotland — but rather 160 acres of unspoiled nature, 400 miles south of the border.

Why is it special? The consistency. Stringent audits maintain a balanced level of minerals in Hildon’s water — meaning the brand can attest its bottles’ calcium, nitrate and mineral content to the milligram.

What whisky would it work best with? Why not try it with something similarly English? The Cotswolds Distillery’s ‘Founder’s Choice’ is an ideal option; a 60.5% bottling that could benefit from a drop of water or two.

Hildon Natural Mineral Water

Hildon Natural Mineral Water


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Old Limestone Mixing Water

Where’s it from? A little further away than Hampshire. Old Limestone Mixing Water is sourced from the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon country; a pure limestone-filtered spring water bottled to mix with your US-made whiskey.

Why is it special? Because it’s the same stuff that those world-famous Kentucky distilleries use to create their actual whiskey. And, as it’s the same water you’ll find in your spirit, they guarantee it’s the best water to open up those nuanced flavours.

What whisky would it work best with? Pretty much any whiskey you can find distilled in Kentucky. And, as approximately 95% of all bourbon is produced in the Bluegrass state, that’s a lot of options. We’d recommend Maker’s Mark 46.

Want more whisky tips? These are the best whisky glasses (to do your Scotch justice)…

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