This may sound like a pub lore but popping whiskey's flavor with the use of H2O is actually a science fact!
With the use of a computer simulation, Björn Karlsson and Ran Friedman at Linnaeus University in Sweden keenly observed the molecular motion of the ethanol in whisky when mixed with water. They then added the mixture with a single molecule (guaiacol) which gives such liquor its distinctive smoky and bitter flavour.
Results showed that when the alcohol level of scotch is 40% or more by volume, guaiacol tend mix in the body of the liquor and away from its surface. Conversely, when diluted down to having 25% alcohol content, guaiacol floated to the top and whirls its flavor in your tongue as you sip, not to mention gives you a better whiff of its smoky scent!
“We found a result that supports the claims for diluting whisky,” says Karlsson.
Well, if you've loved drinking liquor for quite some time, having only 25% may seem watery. “There’s quite a lot of snobbery about this,” says Paul Hughes at Oregon State University, who researches alcoholic beverages. However, professionals know how this process would give the full potential of whisky's flavor.
This is because diluting whisky with water can help ethanol spread more uniformly, consequently preventing it in blocking the guaiacol from reaching the liquor's surface. “It all comes back to the strange behaviour of alcohol in water,” says Hughes.
Hughes noted, though, that such mechanism changes when done in different containers. Hence, since the simulation took place in a box-shaped vessel, it is not certain whether the alcohol would behave the same way when in a flask or a mug.
“Sometimes I add water, and sometimes I don’t. I can do what I like,” Hughes says.
Nonetheless, you might want to skip that special menu next time and just go for scotch whisky with a dribble of water! Think of it as our little science experiment. (*winks*)
Get weekly science updates in your inbox!