Drinking Whisky Neat: What are the Effects & is it Harmful?

Two glasses containing straight whisky


Whisky (or whiskey) is one of the world’s most popular alcoholic beverages, with about 350 million Litres of Pure Alcohol (LPA) produced for consumption each year.

Its delicious flavor and complex aromas make it an enjoyable drink with or without mixers.

What is Neat Whisky?

Neat whisky is just whisky served at room temperature with no water, ice, or mixers of any kind. Some whisky aficionados suggest that the correct way to drink whisky is “neat”.

They claim that drinking whisky this way gives you a better indication of the qualities of the whisky (although there is some scientific evidence that indicates otherwise).

But is drinking whisky neat bad for your health?

There is a persistent myth that suggests drinking pure whisky may be dangerous.

This article will get to the bottom of this common belief.

Is it safe to drink whisky neat?

Two glasses of straight whisky

Drinking whisky neat is as safe as drinking any other spirit neat.

Enjoying straight Scotch whisky is the same as drinking straight tequila, vodka, rum or any other spirit.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks, including:

Alcohol Poisoning

To be called a “Scotch whisky” a spirit must be distilled in Scotland, have a minimum alcohol by volume (ABV) content of 40%, and aged for at least 3 years.

However, some Scotch whiskies are even stronger, with an ABV as high as 50%.

When drinking such a strong spirit neat, it is much easier to drink a large quantity of alcohol within a short time period.

Knocking back a dram of delicious Scotch whisky is very easy after all!

Unfortunately, this heightens the risk of over-indulging and suffering from alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when the body cannot process the large amount of alcohol that a person is consuming, causing their blood alcohol levels to reach a dangerous level.

It can cause confusion, vomiting, slow or irregular breathing, loss of consciousness, seizures, and hypothermia.

Avoid alcohol poisoning by always drinking in moderation.

Impaired Judgment

A yellow sign with a drunk man on it

Drinking a few drams of Scotch Whisky in a short period will rapidly lead to intoxication.

In many cases, you won’t realize how quickly your blood alcohol level has risen.

This can cause you to become inebriated and suffer from impaired judgment well before you expect it — causing you to make irrational decisions or undertake risky actions.

It’s always important to take it slow when drinking whisky neat.

Long-term risks

If you drink large quantities of whisky for many years, you may open yourself up to chronic illnesses including:

  • Cirrhosis of the liver
    Cirrhosis of the liver occurs when the liver forms scar tissue and begins to harden. It becomes difficult for blood to flow through the liver, leading to a buildup of toxins in the bloodstream.  In severe cases, a liver transplant may be required.  Again, this can be avoided by only drinking in moderation.
  • Addiction
    As with any alcoholic beverage, there is a small chance that you will become addicted. The easiest way to avoid alcohol addiction is by drinking in moderation and having multiple days where you don’t drink each week.
  • Interference with medication
    Alcohol can interfere with the function of certain types of medications including beta-blockers, antibiotics, pain relievers, antidepressants, anticoagulants, diabetes medication, and sleeping pills. If you are taking any of these medications, ask your doctor if it is safe to drink whisky.
  • May exacerbate other illnesses
    Certain medical conditions can be made worse by drinking alcohol, including depression, cancer, and liver disease. If you are already ill, ask your doctor if it is safe to drink Scotch whisky.

What about the benefits of drinking Scotch whisky neat?

It’s not all bad news!  There are also many benefits associated with drinking Scotch whisky neat.  They include:

A runner on a cliff at sunset

Whisky has some anti-cancer properties

During the aging process, Scotch whisky obtains high levels of ellagic acid, an antioxidant that is also found in wine.

It has the capacity to neutralize rogue cells within the body, reducing your risk of cancer.

Lower risk of heart disease

Studies published in the European Heart Journal and European Journal of Clinical Nutrition have found that moderate alcohol consumption can lower the risk of heart disease.

These studies have found that aged single malt whisky had higher levels of health-protecting antioxidants than wine and newly-distilled spirits.

The phenolic compounds found in Scotch whisky are also absorbed more easily by the body compared to drinks like red wine.

The researchers suggested drinking a maximum of seven small glasses of whisky each week.

Avoiding sugary mixers

A bottle and glass of coke

Drinking spirits neat means you avoid mixers like Coca Cola, lemonade, and ginger ale.

This can reduce your sugar intake and risk of diabetes.

There is also no fat, no gluten, and no carbohydrates in a glass of whisky, which makes it a great option for people on a diet.

Stress reduction

Any whisky drinker can tell you that a couple of glasses of high-quality single malt whisky is a great way to relax after a stressful day.

As long as it is enjoyed in moderation, drinking neat whisky can be an excellent tool for stress reduction.

Better circulation

Drinking whisky neat in moderation will help your circulatory system, prevent blood clots that may cause an ischaemic stroke.

So there you have it. Drinking neat whisky is perfectly safe as long as it is done in moderation and it may actually have some health benefits.

The key, as always, is to enjoy your whisky in moderation.