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You Should Not Put Bourbon in a Freezer. This is Why Cold Whiskey is Bad!

 
Written by Mark Pringle |
Updated:

Some bourbon drinkers are adamant about putting their whiskey in a freezer because they enjoy drinking their whiskey cold. Other bourbon lovers put ice in their whiskey. Is there a right or wrong way to enjoy a terrific American whiskey? Should you put bourbon in the freezer or refrigerator?

Clearly, personal preference, and proof tolerance levels play a large part in deciding whether people freeze bourbon or use ice. Some bourbon drinkers want the feeling that results from alcohol consumption, but they cannot tolerate high proof levels. Using ice makes the spirit more tolerable for them. Others simply like drinking their whiskey cold, and in their mind, that makes it taste better.

Personal preferences aside, there are some solid reasons why you should not put whiskey in a freezer. Additionally, there are some things you may want to consider before loading down your favorite bourbon with ice.

Let's Get This Out of the Way. Can Whiskey Be Frozen?

Most bourbon enthusiasts can't freeze a whiskey solid because the typical commercial freezers do not reach a freezing point at which ethanol freezes. Ethanol is the alcohol in bourbons and other whiskeys, and its freezing point at 100% alcohol is -173.5 degrees Fahrenheit or -114 degrees Celsius. Even for a 100 proof or 50% ethanol whiskey, the freezing point is -25 degrees Fahrenheit or -32 degrees Celsius.

To freeze high-proof bourbons, you would have to put them in a freezer at a temperature well below the ethanol freezing point and for a long time. Most people do not have access to those types of freezers.

Freezing Points of Bourbon

Ethanol Concentration
(% by volume)

50

60

70

80

90

100

Temperature

(oF)

-25

-35

-55

-75

-110

-175

(oC)

-32

-37

-48

-59

-73

-115

 

The Science Behind Why Putting Bourbon in a Freezer is a Bad Thing

It is understood that when a bourbon drinker puts his whiskey in a freezer, it is simply to make it cold. As mentioned previously, some bourbon drinkers prefer their whiskey cold and not at room temperature. However, they will be short-changing their bourbon tasting experience by doing this.

Simply put, science tells us that whiskey tastes worse when it's cold. But we freeze Vodka? Bourbons and other American whiskeys are not like Vodka. Vodka is much less complex than bourbon – having less flavor and aroma to begin with. So, you will not notice a discernible difference by freezing it. The same cannot be said for bourbons. The colder a bourbon gets, the more noticeable taste and aroma loss become. Additionally, whiskey gets thicker, more viscous, and loses even more flavor when it gets cold. Why?

Volatile aromatic components (aromas) are decreased when whiskey is chilled. The flavor of whiskey comes from a combination of what you smell (the aroma) and taste. Anything that impacts the smell of whiskey will inherently change its taste because our sense of smell is responsible for about 80% of what we taste.

If you put bourbon or another whiskey in a freezer, your bourbon-tasting experience will be much worse than if you had experienced it at room temperature. 

Should I Put Ice in Whiskey?

The problem with using ice to cool down your whiskey is unmistakable. Even if the primary reason for using ice is to make it cold, ice melts. Thus, it is going to water down good bourbon. Think of it this way, how many people like to drink a soft drink after the ice has melted. Most do not because the flavor of the soft drink has been watered down. Few things are worse than a watery sweet tea. The same principle applies to whiskeys.

The higher the proof, the stronger the flavor. Distilleries already proof down non-cask-strength whiskies by adding water. Adding more water from melted ice dilutes good whiskeys even further.  

Additionally, it has been observed that whiskey drinkers who put ice in their whiskey drink faster than neat drinkers. So, they are not experiencing the whiskey the way neat drinkers do who take their time to enjoy the nuances of the bourbon. 

To get the best tasting experience from your favorite bourbon, do not add ice. 

The Advantage of Drinking Bourbon Neat

Drinking a whiskey "neat" means that it's served at room temperature and with nothing else added. No ice. No water. When you drink bourbon neat, you get the full flavor of the bourbon, and you can accurately evaluate its taste profile.

If you feel as though you cannot tolerate the proof content of a neat drink, simply purchase a whiskey with a lower proof point. Maybe buy a whiskey that is between 80 and 90 proof. However, do not water it down, freeze it, or use ice. Over time you will find that drinking bourbon or your favorite whiskey neat is a much more enjoyable experience than drinking it cold or with ice. You may also find that your tolerance for drinking higher-proof bourbons will increase.

Author: Mark Pringle
Smell IS taste. I am just a guy who has been hit with the bourbon bug and who has come to the conclusion that life is too short to drink average tasting bourbons. Go Gators!
My External Website (External Website Opens in New Window)

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