FRIDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- Marketing and snobbery
aside, what drives some drinkers to reach for top-shelf vodka
brands over more lowly (and lower-priced) "well" varieties?
According to a team of Russian-American chemists, certain
molecule clusters in vodka taste better than others.
Vodka's longstanding reputation as a colorless and tasteless
concoction is coupled with the fact that all vodka brands use the
same combination of 40 percent pure ethyl alcohol (ethanol) and 60
percent pure water, the study authors noted.
That means all brands should have the same faint taste, if any
taste at all. However, mixing vodka's two basic ingredients gives
rise to the development of peculiar molecule clusters, or hydrates
-- and researchers found that some hydrates appear to be "tastier"
Recently reporting online in the
Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, Dale Schaefer of the University of Cincinnati joined with colleagues from Moscow State University in Russia to run a high-tech analysis of the molecular composition of five popular vodka brands.
They found that each brand had a different concentration of
ethanol hydrates, which translates into each brand having a
different internal molecular structure.
It turns out that some brands have so-called "low
structurability," because of a higher fraction of water clusters.
Other brands, however, are notable for their "high structurability"
and contain a higher concentration of ethanol clusters.
The team found that low-structured vodkas are likely to come
across as more watery to the palate than high-structured vodkas,
although the contrast manifests as a difference in perception (of
molecular content) rather than taste in its more conventional
"These ethanol clusters undoubtedly stimulate the palate differently. Even in the absence of taste in the traditional sense, vodka drinkers could express preference for a particular structure," the study authors stated in a news release from the American Chemical Society.
For more on the traditional sense of taste, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.