Is bourbon better neat or on the rocks?

Answered by Dustin Gorski

As an expert sommelier and brewer, I firmly believe that drinking neat is the best way to fully experience and appreciate its flavor profile. While some may argue that adding ice, or drinking it “on the rocks,” can enhance the drinking experience, I believe that doing so dilutes the rich and complex flavors that bourbon has to offer.

When you drink bourbon neat, you are able to fully savor its distinct characteristics without any interference from other elements. The nose, or aroma, of the bourbon is often the first thing that captivates your senses. The subtle notes of caramel, vanilla, oak, and sometimes even hints of fruit become more pronounced when the bourbon is enjoyed in its purest form.

By sipping bourbon neat, you allow the flavors to evolve on your palate. Starting with the initial sweetness that coats your tongue, you can then detect the warm and robust flavors that follow. The layers of complexity, ranging from spicy to smoky charred oak, can be fully appreciated when the bourbon is not diluted by ice or mixers.

I remember a time when I visited a distillery and had the opportunity to taste a variety of bourbons neat. Each one had its own unique flavor profile, and I was able to discern the nuances and subtleties that made them special. It was a truly enlightening experience that allowed me to fully understand and appreciate the art of bourbon making.

Additionally, when bourbon is served neat, you can appreciate its mouthfeel, or the way it coats your mouth. The rich and velvety texture of the spirit adds another layer of enjoyment to the drinking experience. This is something that can be lost when ice is added, as it tends to numb the taste buds and dull the overall sensory experience.

That being said, I understand that some people may prefer their bourbon on the rocks for various reasons. Some individuals enjoy the slight chill that the ice provides, which can help mellow the burn and make the bourbon more approachable. Others simply prefer the sensation of drinking a cold .

However, it is worth noting that when bourbon is served on the rocks, the melting ice can further dilute the spirit, altering its intended flavor profile. This can be a drawback for those seeking to fully experience the complexities and nuances of the bourbon.

While there may be differing opinions on the matter, I firmly believe that drinking bourbon neat is the best way to fully appreciate its flavor profile. By enjoying it without any mixers or ice, you allow the bourbon to shine in all its glory, revealing the intricate layers of flavors and aromas that make it a unique and cherished spirit. Take the time to savor each sip, and you will be rewarded with a truly exceptional bourbon experience.