by Graham Pierrepoint
We all have different tastes and preferences – and when it comes to enjoying the odd tipple, there are numerous different recipes and preparations which are said to bring out the flavor of certain drinks more than others. Whether you enjoy your spirits neat (without mixer), on the rocks (with ice), or with mixers or water – there is allegedly no ‘true’ way of drinking alcohol such as whisky. That is, however, until recently – as two chemists at Linnaeus University in Sweden found that one particular way of drinking whisky in particular carries more flavor than any other. Brace yourself – as it looks like anyone more than a bit iffy about putting mixers such as water into their drinks may have been barking up the wrong tree.
Ran Friedman and Bjorn Karlsson found during a study which has now been published as a paper that watering down your whisky is more likely to bring out its flavor – as science appears to back up the fact that allowing good old H2O into a drop or two of the strong stuff could really provide for a tasty tipple on the tongue. It’s thought that water can provide whisky with a unique boost – as certain flavor elements towards the surface of the alcohol react with H2O to provide a more concentrated smell and taste.
Both Karlsson and Friedman advise that while they may not be particularly big into their whisky personally, they are passionate about chemistry – and that the science on display advises that the flavor release is more intense when water comes into play. The scientists observed reactions of just three chemicals – ethanol, guaiacol (which provides whisky with its flavor) and water – in order to see what would happen. On observation, the chemists found that – quite remarkably – diluting whisky by 18% increased guaiacol density at the top of any given drink by 33%. This is somewhat conclusive – and may certainly explain why so many booze aficionados choose to water down their drinks!
Therefore – if you enjoy your whisky as much for the flavor as for the warming effects – you may do well to start watering it down completely – or to start introducing at least one ice cube to start driving flavor to the surface. Give it a go – science says it works – so it may well be worth a go next time you sit down with a cheeky glass or two!