While most scotch whiskey terminology veers towards the religious, the so-called “water of life” has been subjected to more scientific scrutiny than one might expect. But it's still a work in progress. Earlier this week at the New York Academy of Sciences, Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador for Ardmore and Laphroaig distilleries, appeared in his traditional clan tartan to walk a crowd through the chemistry behind the whiskey.
According to Robert Hicks, Master Blender at the Ardmore distillery, scientific analysis of scotch has uncovered over 800 chemical compounds that affect the flavor of the whiskey. While some of those chemicals exist in only small quantities (the iodine flavor chemical makes up only 5 parts per billion in Laphroaig), their impact on the taste can be immense. However, despite all the technology available to distillers, most still test their scotch the old fashioned way. “There’s a lot of analysis that’s done at the lab,” said Brookings, “but for us down in the distillery, we still like to do it by taste.”
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