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chemistry

“With water, please!”

publicdomainpictures.net Whiskey diluted with water facilitates the release of guaiacol, which is partly responsible for the beverage’s taste and aromapublicdomainpictures.net

Some whiskey aficionados order their drink with a few drops of water – “With water, please!” It is said that this gives the whiskey more taste and aroma. Two researchers from Linnaeus University in Sweden decided to investigate whether there was some chemical phenomenon that improved the taste and aroma of whiskey, and the conclusion they reached seemed to justify the habit. Up to a certain point, diluting whiskey with water facilitates the release of guaiacol, a compound that is one of the main sources of the taste and toasty aroma of whiskeys.  To learn how guaiacol is released in the beverage once it is ready for consumption, researchers Björn Karlsson and Ran Friedman conducted mathematical simulations of how the compound behaved in samples of whiskey containing different levels of ethanol. Just after distillation, the alcohol concentration reaches 70% of the beverage’s volume. This content decreases to some point between 55 and 65% as it is aged in charcoal barrels, and to 40% when it is diluted for bottling. In the simulations, the team of researchers observed that the guaiacol combines with the ethanol and concentrates near the liquid-air interface, which facilitates evaporation when the levels of alcohol change from 27 to 45% (Scientific Reports, August 17, 2017).

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