Tasting a fine spirit like whisky is as much art as it’s science. That said, it also takes as much time to become accustomed to it, especially after experiencing a burning sensation as you take your first sip.
This article shares some reasons why whiskey can burn your throat and tips on reducing such unpleasant experiences.
Whisky Burn: Why It Happens?
Whisky is a distilled alcohol made from fermented malted grain, particularly rye or barley. To know more about whisky, you can read more here.
Whether you’re a first-timer or have grown accustomed to drinking whiskey, you may compare its taste and smell to gasoline that burns your throat as you drink it. So, why do we experience whisky burn?
When you drink whisky or any other type of alcohol, the liquor affects the delicate tissue lining in your mouth and throat. These tissue linings have nerve cells known as Vanilloid Receptor-1 (VR1). When these nerve cells are activated, they send stress signals that alert your brain when you drink or eat something that’s too hot and can hurt your body.
In this case, the VR1 cells cause the burning sensation to stop you from drinking or eating when the brain senses that it can burn or cause you pain.
Then, the receptors are triggered by your body temperature, sending signals to your brain, which will interpret as having a fiery drink. Typically, VR1 receptors react to temperatures from 108 degrees Fahrenheit. However, bonding with ethanol, which is a component of most alcohol, can lower the response temperature to 93 degrees Fahrenheit.
How To Reduce Burning Sensation When Drinking Whisky
- Chill Your Drink
If something burns, put some ice. Same with alcohol.
Most whiskey connoisseurs will argue that it is best enjoyed at room temperature to experience its unique flavour and taste. However, chilling your whisky for about 2 hours in the fridge before drinking can help in reducing the burning sensation by slightly numbing your senses, thus allowing it to go down smoother down your throat.
Accordingly, you’ll probably find it much enjoyable and easier to drink chilled whisky without the sting compared to one that’s at room temperature.
However, if you can’t wait for two hours for your drink to chill, you can add ice to your drink.
- Drink Then Exhale
One of the easiest tricks to reduce the stinging sensation of a whisky is simply exhaling after taking a sip.
It’s all about science: Inhaling as you drink or after you take a sip allows alcohol vapours to hit the back of your nasal passage and mucus membrane, which increases the burning sensation.
So, as you raise your glass of whisky to your mouth, take a deep breath in, exhale a bit, then take a sip. After swallowing, exhale the rest of the air. Don’t inhale right away and let most alcohol vapours pass.
Doing this not only allows you to enjoy whisky without the burning sensation but also makes it easier to pick up on its subtle flavours.
- Add A Mixer
Most whisky enthusiasts will tell you that it’s best to enjoy your whisky neat, which means drinking without any flavour dilution. However, there’s no right or wrong way to drink whisky, and it depends on your preference if you want to mix whisky as a cocktail, to enjoy it with flavour and eliminate the sting.
The best mixer for whisky is a ginger ale or ginger beer. Ginger is spicy and sharp perfectly complements the dark sugars and fruity flavours of a good whiskey. Soda such as 7Up or Sprite also works well, especially for light Irish whisky or young bourbon.
You can also try experimenting with different types of fruit juices and choose one that suits your flavours and tastes. On the contrary, avoid using string juices such as grape juice since it can destroy the natural aromas and flavours of the whisky.
- Mix Some Water
If you don’t want to add a flavoured mixer, you can simply add a bit of water. Water dilutes alcohol, which helps reduce the burn and emphasizes the flavours. This way, you can enjoy it straight.
Make sure to add water slowly using a pipette. Start with three to five drops of water and take a small sip. Add a few more drops until you reach your desired dilution if it still burns.
And there you have it!
Most whiskies will certainly burn your throat, regardless of the brand or quality. However, by following and experimenting with the above methods, you can reduce the burning sensation and allow you to fully enjoy and taste the unique, deep flavours created over the years.