Could the Taste of Vodka be Related to Molecular Makeup?

May 28, 2010 by Miranda Marquit weblog
Image source: free-extras.com

(PhysOrg.com) -- When we think of taste, we don't normally think about how something's molecular makeup influences our tongues. A group of scientists at the University of Cincinnati and Moscow State University tested the molecular structure of different vodka brands, and began working out some parameters that might indicate which type of vodka is more "smooth", depending on its chemical properties.

It seems a little strange to consider this, since vodka is, for the most part, just a mixture of and . But, upon analyzing five different brands of vodka, the researchers discovered that there slight differences in . RSC offers this on the vodka study:

"We observed measurable differences among the brands," says [Dan] Schaefer. Analysis of the Raman and IR spectra indicated all the solutions contained four components - pure water, pure ethanol, and two hydrates. However the concentration of one of these hydrates, E·5.3H2O, varied between vodkas.

"It looks like this can be used as a measure of the physical properties of vodka," says Schaefer.

The taste, suggests the researchers, could be influenced by the way the water molecules create a cage around the hydrate in question. If there are higher amounts of the , then there are fewer free water molecules, and that could influence the taste of vodka. Of course, reports RSC, not everyone is impressed with the vodka result:

Dirk Lachenmeier, head of the alcohol laboratory at the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Laboratory in Karlsruhe, Germany, thinks the team's conclusions are conjectural. "There is no basis to push that this might be the holy grail of vodka taste differentiation," he says. ...And, although thought of as a "pure" spirit, Lachenmeier says vodka manufacturers are allowed to slightly influence the taste with different additives such as citric acids.

The effort to quantify items that seem purely subjective, like taste, are likely to continue. Schaefer wants to do additional studies to use a parameter to correlate the seen in vodka brand preference amongst consumers.

Explore further: Celebrating 100 years of crystallography

More information: Manisha Lalloo, "Vodka's molecular cocktail," RSC (May 27, 2010). Available online: www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/New… 010/May/27051001.asp

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User comments : 5

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akotlar
2.3 / 5 (3) May 28, 2010
Ok, so RSC, you're saying that the distillation process lowers the concentration of these hydrates and therefore changes the taste profile of the vodka?

Great, so now I know the molecular reason behind why I prefer more distilled vodka. Why are researching spending time studying vodka again? Last I checked there was an oil spill, a cancer & hiv pandemic, and frightening problems with carcinogen leaching, non-degradable plastics lining the ocean floor. They could also research the biological reason why morality is the square inverse of power. There's plenty of stuff to blow your money on RSC, but thanks for this.
Skepticus
not rated yet May 29, 2010
Go have your coca, tea or whatever. Leave us alone with our vodka to soften the depression tihinking of the messes the world is in that you mentioned...
dacarls
not rated yet May 29, 2010
Utter rubbish.
goldengod
1 / 5 (2) May 30, 2010
If they can make a perfect vodka it will be easier to keep people drunk and therefore easier to manipulate and control them.
theknifeman
5 / 5 (1) Jun 02, 2010
Could the taste of everything you put in your mouth be related to molecular makeup?