Scientists unravel vodka`s tasty secrets

Last Updated: Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 15:55

Moscow: Ever wondered why some people
prefer one brand of vodka over another although all are
colourless and tasteless? Scientists say the high-end liquor`s
popularity may rely upon its internal chemical structure.

Theoretically, all vodka brands should have the same
faint or undetectable taste as the liquor represents a
solution of 40 per cent pure ethanol and 60 per cent pure
water. But the popularity of some premium vodka brands in
recent years has puzzled scientists.

To find out an answer, researchers at the University of
Cincinnati in Ohio teamed up with their counterparts at Moscow
State University in Russia and carried out a major study to
know what actually increases a brand`s appeal, LiveScience
reported.

The team analysed the composition of five popular vodka
brands and found that each brand had different concentrations
of certain clusters of molecules, called ethanol hydrates.

They discovered that brand preference essentially
translates into a preference for a certain distribution of
these molecular clusters within the liquor.

"Even in the absence of `taste` in the traditional sense,
vodka drinkers could express preference for a particular
structure," the researchers wrote in the Journal of
Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The new study started with the past work of Russian
chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, known for developing the Periodic
Table of Elements.

Mendeleev`s 1865 doctoral dissertation had observed that
clusters of molecules called hydrates appear in solutions of
40 per cent ethanol and 60 per cent water.

That proportion of alcohol in classic vodka became
enshrined as the legal standard near the end of the 17th
century, based upon the Russian Czar`s edict of 1698.

About a century later, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus
Pauling suggested that hydrate clusters may consist of an
ethanol molecule surrounded by a hydrogen-bonded framework of
water molecules.

To follow up on those ideas in the new study, researchers
carried out tests on some vodkas brands such as Belvedere,
Grey Goose, Skyy, Stolichnaya, and OVAL.

Their aim was to identify the chemical fingerprints of
each brand.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 15:55

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