Finally, we can turn our attention to the right ice for scotch! This statement will undoubtedly be met with disdain by many scotch purists, as it is generally accepted that drinking scotch “neat” or “straight up” is the best way to enjoy high end glasses. This is true if you want to enjoy every flavor of a carefully prepared and crafted spirit. However, it is also well known that a few drops of water can allow a glass of scotch to breathe and open up, releasing aroma and flavor. If you however, insist on adding a bit of ice to your scotch – something many Americans choose to do – then there is no better ice to use than gourmet ice. Gourmet ice is called by a variety of names – octagon ice, top hat ice- and is produced by a few different ice makers. These ice makers produce undisputedly the best ice for scotch and whiskey.
If you are going to add a bit of ice (one to three cubes is perfect with gourmet ice), it should be the cleanest, clearest, and purest ice you can find. That is exactly why gourmet ice sports the name it does. This ice is free from contamination, free from impurities, and contains no minerals. This is due to the way in which it is produced. Air is eliminated during the freezing process, and all of the heavier, mineral laden water falls back into a reservoir, allowing only the cleanest, clearest ice to be frozen. If you’ve ever seen cloudy ice cubes offered in a bar or restaurant, or perhaps from the ice maker in your freezer, you may have noticed the way the flavor of your scotch is altered due the quality of your ice cubes. The scotch may retain a funky taste from lower quality ice cubes. That does not happen with gourmet ice. Adding a few of these ice cubes to your scotch will not alter the flavor, nor will it water it down excessively. It will simply cool the scotch and allow its flavor to become a bit more pronounced.
Gourmet ice makers are generally smaller, undercounter units that are perfect for the bar at home, the private club, or as a supplemental ice maker behind the bar. These ice makers will not produce enough ice to fulfill the needs of a large bar or club, since they produce no more than 85 pounds of ice per day. Most store around 25 pounds of gourmet ice in their self-contained bins. If you own a scotch bar however, and wish to fulfill the wishes of those who like their scotch or whisky “on the rocks”, then you may wish to serve it accompanied by best ice for scotch. Gourmet ice makers make a great addition to establishments like this. Gourmet ice makers also measure no more than 35 inches tall, so they don’t require a great amount of space to operate.
In Scotland, many bars will offer water native to the area that can be added to your scotch if desired. In the United States, this is not as feasible (unless you have a good connection who doesn’t mind shipping you water from Scotland). The next best thing is adding ice that is 100% free from impurities- quality, elegant, gourmet ice produced by a gourmet ice maker. These ice cubes will allow your scotch to unwind while you unwind. Undercounter gourmet ice makers work well to serve the scotch bar, home bar, or private club incredibly well. Currently, there are five gourmet ice makers offered at Ice Machines Plus: The Scotsman CU50, Scotsman’s CU0515, Ice-O-Matic’s ICEU070, Hoshizaki’s AM-50BAE-AD, and Manitowoc’s SM-50.
While the “proper” way to enjoy scotch is still considered to be neat, straight up, or with a bit of water, we encourage you to imbibe in the way you see fit – whether you enjoy it straight from the bottle, or over a full glass of ice. There is also a very good article from scotchnoob.com on how to maximize your scotch enjoyment. For those that do enjoy their scotch with a bit of ice, make sure it is the highest quality ice possible – elegant, impurity free, gourmet ice.