I have experienced the same thing. A little water certainly changes the
character of the whisky. I'm not sure I prefer it that way, but its
definitely different. Probably merits more experimentation. It is
essential, IMHO, with cask-strength whiskies, though, for obvious reasons.
I've been comparing the Laphroaig 10yr with the quarter-cask. A little
water in the quarter-cask, the 10y neat. The two whiskies are different
animals. But I'll have to try some water in both and see how they compare.
Another taste influence is the glassware. Vastly different tastes show up
out of snifters, wine glasses, old fashioned glasses etc. I have some of
the Riedel malt glasses that really change the character. They tout the
"research" that went into developing the glass. Good work if you can get