whisky in a glass with ice whisky in a glass with ice Whisky is a very personal drink. But there is a right way and a wrong way to drink it. (Photo: Pawel_Brzozowski / Shutterstock)

Science confirms: Adding water to whiskey makes it taste better

This is surely the most fun scientists have ever had in a lab.

Scotch on the rocks? Forget the rocks; let the ice melt and enjoy a little watered-down whiskey.

We promise you won't be labeled a snob. In fact, you might even be the envy of all your whiskey-loving compadres.

In what must have been one of the most enjoyable experiments ever conducted in the name of science, two researchers – Swede Björn Karlsson and Israeli Ran Friedman, both from the Linnaeus University Center for Biomaterials Chemistry – studied why adding a little water to whiskey (or whisky, if you prefer the Scottish persuasion) tends to bring out its flavor.

milk and honey whiskyIsrael's Milk & Honey Distillery just released its first bottles of single-malt whiskey after three years of aging. (Photo: Milk & Honey Distillery)

It's because of a compound in the beverage called guaiacol, which gives whiskey that smoky, bitter taste. In spirits where the alcohol concentration is around 40 percent, the guaiacol is found within the body of the whiskey rather than at the surface. But when diluted to about 25 percent, the guaiacol rises to the top, where its aroma and taste can be fully appreciated.

“We found a result that supports the claims for diluting whiskey,” says Karlsson, who wanted to know why many scotch drinkers have been doing this for so long. Is it because they secretly can't handle the powerful punch of a straight sip? Because they want to keep being invited to parties without looking like a lightweight?

Paul and Ann Tuennerman toured Milk & Honey Distillery, Israel's first whisky distillery.A little water goes a long way in improving whiskey. (Photo: Paul Tuennerman)

No way, they say. Dilute with impunity, because you now have an edge on flavor that can't be achieved by traditional distilling methods.

"When whiskey is diluted, the alcohol is driven to the surface, and many of the taste molecules follow it because they like to be in a slightly less aqueous environment," Friedman, who earned his Ph.D. at Tel Aviv University, told CNN.

And if you're not the straight-whiskey type to begin with, here's good news: you can add a little water to a classic Manhattan recipe. (Look, we know you're already using leftover maraschino cherries from your kids' ice cream sundaes as garnish. Find something else to be pretentious about.)

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