Why whiskey tastes better with a splash of water

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There are so many ways to enjoy whiskey; neat, straight up, on the rocks, in an old fashioned, or mixed with lemon-lime drink as the saddest excuse for a whiskey sour at that one really sticky club where you made out with that equally sticky person. Not that we’re saying there’s any wrong way to enjoy your vice, however, a splash of water in your whiskey might actually be the best way to do it, suggests science.

Whiskey is made through distilling fermented grains. The flavour is derived from what kind of grains are used, how it’s distilled, and the ageing process in wooden casks. More specifically, a compound called guaiacol attributes to flavour and aroma. Guaiacol comes from the wood used in the casking process and is why a lot of whiskeys, scotches, and bourbons are described as having a sweet, caramel/vanilla smoky flavour. A study published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that adding a bit of water to your whiskey will concentrate guaiacol on the surface of your drink and enhance the flavour. Whiskey is typically found at a dilution of 40% and in the study, when diluted to 27% there was a significant increase in the accumulation of the flavour compound at the surface. Another reason is that the water will just decrease the alcoholic taste to make it a smoother drink.

So the next time you’re at that one really sticky club, a cheaper and perhaps more palatable option is to just get a splash of water in your whiskey and maybe you’ll look cultured enough to bag a non-sticky person – but hey, we’re not telling you how to live your life.