Drinking Science

The production of alcohol probably began by accident, but today it is a highly scientific and increasingly well-understood process, whether that’s fermenting beer and wine or distilling spirits. In this section we discuss questions around topics such as the accelerated aging of spirits, when and why certain products spoil, and even whether absinthe can make you go crazy. A lot of our coverage here is experimental, with deep dives into everything from glassware to various types of beverage cooling systems.

Top Drinking Science Posts:

Experiment: Ice vs. Whiskey Stones vs. Tilt Chilling Sphere
Does Absinthe Make You Hallucinate?
What’s the Difference Between a Pot Still and a Column Still?
All About Dusties: 1970s vs. 2018 Bourbon Tasted Side by Side
Does Glass Shape Affect the Way a Whiskey Tastes?
How to Build a Better Bourbon: The Science Behind Buffalo Trace and the Lessons of the Single Oak Project
Cork vs. Screwcap: Here Comes the Science
Why Are Some Spirits Rested in Stainless Steel?

Review: Barrel Char in a Jar

By Robert Lublin | September 28, 2018 |

At its most basic, whiskey is simply distilled spirits aged in wood. For bourbon, the spirits are produced at least 51% from corn and aged in new, charred oak barrels. For single malt scotch, the spirits are drawn from malted barley and typically aged in ex-bourbon or ex-sherry barrels. Irish, Canadian, and Japanese whiskies may…

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Why Are Some Spirits Rested in Stainless Steel?

By Christopher Null | July 28, 2018 |

In our recent review of Charbay’s Double Aged Rum, reader Taylor Fox inquired as to the point of the first round of that double aging. The rum spends five years in stainless steel tanks, then three years in oak barrels. Well, what’s the point of that? We’ve long been told that stainless steel tanks are…

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How to Analyze, Score, and Review Whiskey

By David Cover | November 21, 2017 |

The first time I watched Ralfy on his YouTube channel, it was a revelation. With the right glass and some experience you can learn to get so many different notes out of a whisky! Then you could score it, and share it, letting others know what you think. Many believe that this dark art of…

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The Whiskey Hype Train: Expectations vs. Quality

By David Cover | October 21, 2017 |

Working at a whisky festival the other day, I was very fortunate to be able to try Pappy Van Winkle 20 and 23 year old for the first time. I think it’s reasonable to say that these bottles are pretty “hyped,” with tales of huge sums of money being exchanged, second mortgages being taken out,…

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Peat, Phenols, and ppm: Why Scotch Tastes Smoky

By David Cover | October 8, 2017 |

My first taste of peaty whisky was Talisker 10, and like they say with other things, you never forget your first. I wasn’t sure if I liked it, it was like someone had put a bonfire in my whisky. Now, I love it and feel like smoky notes give a complexity to many whiskies, especially…

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What Grains are Used to Make Whiskey (And Why?)

By Ivan Lauer | September 27, 2017 |

You might think that there’s not much to making whiskey: it’s just grain, right? Like beer, but distilled? But there’s actually more to it than that, and like gin, what goes into the whiskey can wildly change the taste of what you get in the bottle. It’s true that, at its simplest, whiskey is just…

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What’s the Difference Between a Pot Still and a Column Still?

By Ivan Lauer | September 21, 2017 |

If you’re a shrewd imbiber, you may notice that some bottles of liquor — for instance, Irish whiskey like Redbreast — advertise a particular kind of still used to produce the spirit, in this case “single pot still.” Elsewhere, you may notice other bottles — like Japanese whisky Nikka — instead touting something called a Coffey still…

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How Is Brandy Made?

By Ivan Lauer | September 12, 2017 |

“Claret is liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.” – Samuel Johnson So you understand what different kinds of whiskey are called and why, and you can name the aromatics used in gin without a second thought, but brandy is still a spirit that eludes…

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What’s the Best Way to Cellar Wine?

By Ivan Lauer | August 4, 2017 |

So you’re a fan of good wine, and you’ve just acquired a nice bottle. It’s not something you’re going to drink right away, and perhaps you want to put it down for a while and let the passage of time potentially improve what’s inside. If this is your first time cellaring a bottle of wine,…

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Do Bitters Go Bad?

By Ivan Lauer | July 22, 2017 |

Reader Sam writes: “Hi Drinkhacker, love your articles. I have a question maybe you can answer. I’ve had a bottle of bitters on my shelf for a while now, and I was wondering if bitters ever go bad. Thanks for reading and keep up the good work.” Sam’s question is a good one. If you’re…

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