Dilution of Whisky – The Molecular Perspective

Interesting new paper published in Scientific Report by Björn C. G. Karlsson and Ran Friedman:

Despite the growing knowledge of the nature of water-alcohol mixtures on a molecular level, much less is known on the interaction of water, alcohol and small solutes. In particular, the nature of the interaction between the solvent and taste-carrying molecules, such as guaiacol, is not known. To address this gap, we used MD simulations to study the distribution of guaiacol in water-alcohol mixtures of different concentrations. Our simulations revealed that guaiacol is present at the air-liquid interface at ethanol concentrations that correspond to the alcohol content of bottled or diluted whiskies. Because the drink is consumed at the interface first, our findings help to understand why adding water to whisky helps to enhance its taste.

I loved this line:

Overall, there is a fine balance between diluting the whisky to taste and diluting the whisky to waste.

I got this via The Verge, who ran it with the headline “Here’s the Scientific Reason It’s Better to Drink Whiskey on the Rocks”. That headline surely turned heads (and generated clicks) because neat versus on-the-rocks is a polarizing debate, but it’s not supported by this paper. Karlsson and Friedman report only on the effects of adding water, not changing the temperature. That said, in yours truly’s humble opinion, almost all whisky tastes better with a large ice cube.

Thursday, 17 August 2017