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Drinking Whiskey With Water Improves Flavor, Chemists Say

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There are many ways to drink whiskey, and this bit of news might not be welcomed by those who enjoy it in its pure form. Those who drink their whiskey on the rocks or with water, however, may very well rejoice. According to chemists, whiskey should be diluted with a few drops of water in order to improve the drink and expand its flavor.

Björn Karlsson and Ran Friedman from Linnaeus University Center for Biomaterials Chemistry in Sweden took a closer look at a molecule present in whiskey called guaiacol. This molecule gives whiskey its distinctive flavor and smell, The Spirits Business reports.

Karlsson said, “The taste of whisky is primarily linked to so-called amphipathic molecules, which are made up of hydrophobic and hydrophilic parts. 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.”

The researchers ran computer simulations of different water and ethanol combinations, and found that ethanol content played a huge part in how guaiacol behaved.

At ethanol concentrations over 59%, guaiacol was mixed through the spirit and away from its surface. But at lower ethanol concentrations of 45%, ethanol kept to the surface of the whiskey, along with guaiacol. Freidman said,

This suggests that, in a glass of whisky, guaiacol will therefore be found near the surface of the liquid, where it contributes to both the smell and taste of the spirit.

In short, water enhances the flavor of whiskey.

The study concluded that the taste and aroma of this molecule, and other 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.”

But the researchers were unable to specify just how much water should be added to whiskey, as aroma and taste are a matter of personal preference, they said.

The study was published in Scientific Reports.

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