29 Agosto 2017 07:47
Now you know why the bartender always looks at you like that
It might be counterintuitive to think that watering down something would actually improve its taste, but any enthusiast knows it's true: a dash of water substantially enhances whisky's flavour. For those of you who still need convincing, you'll be pleased to hear that researchers have been hitting the bottle to find a scientific explanation behind the phenomenon.
To understand how and why water enhances the taste of whisky, we need to appreciate the role played by guaiacol, a molecule that develops when the grain is dried over peat smoke, providing the drink's smoky flavour.
According to Björn Karlsson of Linnaeus University – who co-authored the study with Ran Friedman – Guaiacol is an amphipathic molecule, which means that it is made up of two parts: hydrophobic (water repelling) and hydrophilic (water attracting).
Karlsson and Friedman carried out computer simulations of water/ethanol mixtures in the presence of guaiacol to study its interactions. They found that guaiacol was preferentially associated with ethanol molecules and that in mixtures with concentrations of ethanol up to 45%, guaiacol was more likely to be present at the liquid-air interface than in the bulk of the liquid.
This is why whisky is usually diluted to around 40% of alcohol by volume by the addition of water before it is bottled. However, the optimal quantity of water to put in your whisky is hard to determine: 'How we experience taste and aroma is highly individual.
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,' Karlsson concludes.
So now you know. Next time you serve yourself a whisky, don't be afraid to add water to taste.
[Via Linnaeus University]