Now, Science confirms why Whiskey tastes better with Water
Adding a few drops of water enhances the taste of whiskey. The scientists now confirm what alcohol connoisseurs have long known.
Researchers at Linnaeus University in Sweden have found that adding water to whiskey alters the drink’s molecules to make it taste better.
Whiskey is a chemically complicated beverage. After malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturing, for at least three years in oak barrels, it is bottled. However, the first whiskey is usually diluted to around 40% of alcohol by volume by the addition of water. This changes the taste of the whiskey significantly.
Researchers solved a piece of the puzzle that will help us better understand the chemical qualities of whiskey.
“The taste of whiskey is primarily linked to so-called amphipathic molecules, which are made up of hydrophobic and hydrophilic parts,” said Bjorn Karlsson, the chemistry researcher at Linnaeus University.
“One such molecule is guaiacol, a substance that develops when the grain is dried over peat smoke when making malt whiskey, providing the smoky flavour to the whiskey,” Mr Karlsson said.
Researchers carried out computer simulations of water/ethanol mixtures in the presence of guaiacol to study its interactions.
They found that guaiacol was preferentially associated with ethanol molecules and that in mixtures with concentrations of ethanol up to 45% guaiacol was more likely to be present at the liquid-air interface than in the bulk of the liquid.
“This suggests that, in a glass of whiskey, guaiacol will, therefore, be found near the surface of the liquid. Where it contributes to both the smell and taste of the spirit,” said Ran Friedman.
“Interestingly, a continued dilution down to 27% resulted in an increase of guaiacol at the liquid-air interface.
“An increased percentage, over 59%, had the opposite effect, that is to say, the ethanol interacted more strongly with the guaiacol, driving the molecule into the solution away from the surface,” Mr Friedman said.
These findings suggest that the taste and aroma of guaiacol, and similar compounds in whiskey, are enhanced when the spirit is diluted prior to bottling and this taste may be more pronounced on further dilution in the glass.
“How we experience taste and aroma are highly individual. Some people choose to add ice cubes to their whiskey, to cool it down and give it a milder taste.
Scientific Reports published this article originally.