The Heady, Intricate Beauty of Watching Whiskey Evaporate

When American whiskey evaporates, it leaves behind webs, or fingerprints of sorts, that could help sleuths identify counterfeit swill.

1/16/2022 4:49:00 AM

What the heck is this, you ask? It turns out evaporated whiskey leaves behind webs, or fingerprints of sorts. Only American whiskey does this, and each brand forms its own distinctive pattern. More here: 📷: Stuart Williams

When American whiskey evaporates, it leaves behind webs, or fingerprints of sorts, that could help sleuths identify counterfeit swill.

pandemic, perhaps getting very drunk on American whiskey. Spill some on the table and something fascinating will happen as it dries out: If it’s on glass, and you shine light sideways at the residue and take a photo, you’ll see that a striking weblike pattern has formed.

But don’t bother with Scotch or Canadian whisky (those folks spell it without the “e”)—as researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Louisville report in a heady new paper, early indications are that only American whiskey does this, and each brand forms its own distinctive pattern. Such “whiskey webs” might serve as a fingerprint of sorts, one day helping sleuths unmask imposter swill.

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Very interesting article. Thank you. An American who likes whisky but leaves out the '3'! That's Tool next album cover sorted. I’m conducting an experiment as we speak. MaxHJohns remind you of anything? Whiskey should not evaporate🥃 What 'holics: 'What sick ba$tard would let whiskey evaporate away?!!' JackDaniels_US is delicious 😋

We know this is a death metal band logo. Why only American Whiskey?

Is that what causes those killer hangovers? That's just amazing This is the residue that death metal leaves when the slime evaporates There’s a opportunity here, somewhere.

coronavirus pandemic, perhaps getting very drunk on American whiskey. Spill some on the table and something fascinating will happen as it dries out: If it’s on glass, and you shine light sideways at the residue and take a photo, you’ll see that a striking weblike pattern has formed. But don’t bother with Scotch or Canadian whisky (those folks spell it without the “e”)—as researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Louisville report in a heady new paper, early indications are that only American whiskey does this, and each brand forms its own distinctive pattern. Such “whiskey webs” might serve as a fingerprint of sorts, one day helping sleuths unmask imposter swill. "I believe it is possible to identify counterfeits, but a lot of work needs to be done between now and then," says University of Louisville mechanical engineer Stuart Williams, coauthor on the in the journal ACS Nano . They for instance need to amass a library of images to evaluate against. "We have also observed that environmental factors—temperature, humidity—impact results, which is why we need to produce a standardized testing procedure and evaluate human error with this test." If you’re worried that scientists have been wasting precious whiskey for this research, fear not: Each photographed sample was only one microliter of liquid, or a millionth of a liter. It would take 30,000 of them to make a single shot. Samples came from the researchers’ local bottle shops and distillers or were “generously donated by colleagues.” In addition to each sample being tiny, the researchers had to dilute them down to 20 to 25 percent alcohol by volume, thanks to a chemical quirk of booze. “You may have heard that if you add a few drops of water to whiskey, you get some flavor compounds, you get some aromatics,” says Williams. “One of the reasons is that when you add water to it, the chemical compounds want to escape—they hate water.” The ethanol in the whiskey wants to escape as well, so it comes to the surface with those chemical compounds. Four Roses Barrel Strength, OBSO Courtesy of Stuart Williams You can watch these chemical reactions happening in real time at home, if you happen to have a laser pointer. If you’ve got a few fingers of whiskey in a glass, add water bit by bit. “It'll get cloudier and cloudier, and if you shine your laser through, you'll see that effect,” says Williams. “I got a lot of weird looks in the store because I'd bring a laser pointer and shine a laser through these bottles just to see how foggy they are from the get-go.” If you’ve got a tiny bit of whiskey, though, and you let it dry out, the water-hating chemical compounds form a skin, or monolayer. “Then as it evaporates, the surface area will crumble and buckle,” Williams says, and