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Whisky Tastes Better with Water: The Scientific Reason

18-08-2017 By Nokulunga Msibi

Two non-whisky drinking scientists have proven that adding water to your whisky does improve its taste, on a molecular level.

The scientific paper titled Dilution of whisky – the molecular perspective was published in the Journal of Scientific Reports on 17 August 2017 by Björn Karlsson and Ran Friedman.

Karlson and Friedman explain that what they discovered is that guaiacol, a taste carrying molecule, is most present at the surface of diluted whisky. Water and alcohol do not completely mix, at a molecular level, but when whisky is diluted, the alcohol is driven to the surface, and many of the taste molecules follow it. The taste that is experienced is therefore enhanced.

The report mentions that “the taste of guaiacol and similar compounds will be more pronounced when whisky is further diluted in the glass. This taste-enhancement is counteracted by the dilution of guaiacol’s concentration.”

The report does however caution against putting a lot of water in your dram. “…there is a fine balance between diluting the whisky to taste and diluting the whisky to waste”.

Diluting Cask Strength Whiskies

The most interesting find from the study is the interaction between water and cask strength whiskies. The taste carrying molecule interacts more strongly with water and is driven into the solution as opposed to the surface and its taste less pronounced. “This explains why dilution of cask-strength whiskies results in a change in the sensory effects of the whisky” states the report.

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