To be clear, how you drink your whisky is your business. Some take it straight. Others cut with soda. Anthony Bourdain likes it on the rocks. And some drink theirs with a splash of water. A new study in Scientific Reports may convince you that the last group might be onto something.
"What came out from our study is that adding water to whisky should make it taste better," study co-author and chemist Björn Karlsson told The Guardian. Whisky is usually diluted from more than 60 percent alcohol in the cask to around 40 percent in the bottle by distillers, which significantly impacts the flavour. Per many whisky experts, it should be further diluted with a few drops of water from the bottle to the glass. Why?
The scientists found that in whisky with lower concentrations of alcohol, taste-making molecules—guaiacol, a compound in single malt Scotches with a smoky flavor—bind with alcohol molecules, and then get repelled by the water. That causes them to cluster at the surface of the liquid. This makes it easy for aromas to emanate off the drink, and for your tongue to taste the flavour molecules.
However, in whisky with higher alcohol concentrations, the alcohol molecules take up all the space at the surface, pushing the taste molecules into the body of the drink, where your senses can't enjoy them as easily.
There's no exact recipe for how much water optimises the flavour of the whisky, says Karlsson. To each their own, just don't drown your whisky in water.