A new study dives into the reasoning behind why a little water makes whiskey taste better. Some may think it is because water dilutes the strong alcoholic beverage down, but there is a scientific reason around the enhancement of flavor water offers whiskey. And two Swedish researchers analyzed the molecular chemistry around it all. After all, whiskey does encompass various molecules that are mixed together resulting in its taste. One of which is a compound known as guaiacol; this also happens to be the molecule the team zeroed in on for the study.
The team reviewed cask-strength and bottled whiskey for the study; with bottled whiskey that was diluted down from 70 percent alcohol to 40 percent from distilling, as well as cask whiskey with about 55 to 65 percent alcohol by volume.
What the team ended up discovering is that guaiacol is mostly present at the diluted whiskey’s surface, which is the reason behind the fact that adding water makes it ‘taste’ better, as the taste molecules are at the top of the drink.
As Ran Friedman, co-author of the study, relayed, alcohol and water don’t exactly mix (from a molecular perspective), rather there are clusters of both water and alcohol molecules. He goes on to note that when one’s whiskey is diluted with water the alcohol heads to the surface of the glass, with many of those taste molecules following it. Therefore, that does explain the enhanced taste one would experience when adding to water to whiskey. Still, Friedman does go on to say there is a limit to this. He noted that diluting the drink too much would concentrate and decrease taste compounds, making the bevvy meager.
Note to self: water plus whiskey is good – just not too much water!
CNN reported that what’s even more interesting than the results of the study was how this data was compiled. Although one would think tasting the water plus whiskey seemed like the obvious choice, the team used simulations of molecules via a computer! The chemical process on screen was as if the study team were viewing a ‘molecular movie’. And if you are curious, the team downed back some cold (and undiluted) Swedish snaps (a.k.a schnapps) during the study.
Lastly, the team believes these whiskey study findings can be applied to other aged alcohol such as tequila, brandy, and rum – as they are made up with similar taste compounds, solutions, and alcohol volume.