There are plenty of people who enjoy the warm sadness cowboy drink known as whiskey. While some might have a John Wayne instinct to drink it neat, the real aficionados know that adding a few drops of water to the drink can improve and expand its flavour profile. Now, in the great whiskey war of whether or not one should add water, some chemists have chosen a side: they say yes, you should add water to your whiskey.
According to a new study published today in Scientific Reports, diluting whiskey can indeed improve the drink’s taste. While many people have anecdotally sworn by this trick, researchers from Linnaeus University Center for Biomaterials Chemistry in Sweden have now revealed the science behind it.
In their research, chemists Björn Karlsson and Ran Friedman carefully examined a molecule in whiskey called guaiacol, which gives whiskey its unmistakable smokey flavour and scent. After running computer simulations of various water and ethanol mixtures, the researchers found that ethanol content greatly affected how guaiacol behaved.
At concentrations of ethanol above 59 per cent, guaiacol was mixed throughout the drink and away from the surface. which is about the content the authors found that ethanol interacts more strongly with guaiacol, which means the molecule is driven into the solution away from the surface. But at ethanol concentrations of 45 per cent, ethanol clustered at the surface of the drink, along with guaiacol. This would hypothetically allow the drinker to better take in the nightmarish aroma and flavour of the beverage.
Honestly, you should drink whiskey however you want. My favourite way to imbibe it is to pour it down the drain. But if you’ve been drinking whiskey on the rocks for years, congratulations. Here’s your prize.