The science of why you should add water to your whiskey

The secret to enjoying a good whiskey? A dash of water.

Whiskey drinkers have been doing this for centuries to heighten certain flavours and reduce burn.

Science has two competing theories for why this works. One explanation suggests water traps bad flavours. Whiskey contains a compound called “fatty acid esters”. These compounds interact with water in an interesting way. One end repels water molecules and the other end attracts it.

This dynamic could trap unpleasant flavours and smells. The second theory suggests water improves flavour. It involves a molecule called Guaiacol. Guaiacol gives your drink it’s smoky, spicy aroma. Normally, a certain amount rises to the surface where you can smell it.

But adding water causes even more guaiacol to rise. So the trick is to find the right balance. Too much water, and your drink will taste watered down. No water, and you won’t get the same smoky aroma.

Most experts suggest a few drops but feel free to run some tests of your own.

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