Why whiskey tastes better with a little bit of water

"How we experience taste and aroma is highly individual," researcher Björn Karlsson said. "Some people choose to add ice cubes to their whisky, to cool it down and give it a milder taste."
By Brooks Hays   |   Aug. 18, 2017 at 5:54 PM
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Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Whiskey has long been diluted by water before bottling. Many whiskey drinkers also add a few drops of water to their glass. Water makes whiskey taste better. But until now, researchers weren't sure exactly why.

"The taste of whisky is primarily linked to so-called amphipathic molecules, which are made up of hydrophobic and hydrophilic parts," Björn Karlsson, a researcher at Linnaeus University in Sweden, said in a news release. "One such molecule is guaiacol, a substance that develops when the grain is dried over peat smoke when making malt whisky, providing the smoky flavor to the whisky."

Karlsson and his research partner, Ran Friedman, used computer simulations to study the behavior of molecules in different concentrations of water and ethanol. The simulations showed guaiacol molecules are closely linked with ethanol in concentrations up to 45 percent.

The guaiacol-ethanol association causes guaiacol to concentrate at the liquid-air interface, lending a glass of whiskey a more pleasant taste and aroma.

Karlsson and Friedman published the results of the simulations in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers say, however, that there isn't necessarily a correct amount of water to add.

"How we experience taste and aroma is highly individual," Karlsson said. "Some people choose to add ice cubes to their whisky, to cool it down and give it a milder taste. Thus, there is no general answer to how much water you should add to your whisky to get the best taste experience."

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