The study found that adding water to whisky enhances the taste.
The study found that adding water to whisky enhances the taste. Credit: Jessica Gow / TT

Not so neat: Study finds the best way to drink whisky

Researcher: I was not a big fan of whisky, but maybe now I will be.
5:04 min

The ultimate way to drink whisky has divide people for centuries – Is it best neat, with ice, or a splash of water? A new study by two Swedish researchers at Linnaeus University Center found that whiskey tastes better with water – but exactly how much water is still up for debate.

Researchers Björn Karlsson and Ran Friedman focused on one specific part of the molecular chemistry of whisky when it is diluted with water - guaiacol. It is one of the key molecular compounds in the spirit and it what gives whisky its smoky flavor.

The research found that when water is added to whisky the guaiacol molecules are driven to the top of the glass resulting in an enhanced peaty taste.

Karlsson told Radio Sweden that their study looked at the behavior and chemistry of molecules, but they did not use taste tests as a measure.

“Taste and smell have a lot of variation – It varies from person to person. Some people might think having a lot of water in whisky, making it milder in taste and smell, is a good thing. Other people say that you should not put water in at all because they like the high ethanolic concentration in their whisky,” he said.

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