In case you were wondering, it’s still winter. So how about a nice blog about whiskey to help warm you up? Seriously, we all know how whiskey may warm our hearts and take the chill out of our bones, but have you ever wondered about the science behind whiskey itself? Luckily, our friend and colleague Eric Simanek, Professor of Chemistry at Texas Christian University (TCU), knows a thing or two about the golden nectar.

Eric and Rob Arnold have co-authored a terrific book, Shots of Knowledge: The Science of Whiskey. The book offers a view of whiskey at the molecular level, including some things we’ll bet you never considered:

  • Fixing carbon dioxide (CO2) with a “molecular bucket brigade.”
  • Alcohol dehydrogenase, a group of enzymes that play a role in everything from fermentation to processing of alcohol in the human body. 
  • An in-depth look at the chemical processes involved in aging whiskey: extraction, evaporation, oxidation, concentration, filtration, and coloration.

In fact, Eric has used whiskey as a lens through which to foster a love of science, through numerous essays and lectures on the subject. He even teaches a course at TCU, Whiskey: Science and History, that takes a deeper look at mixology and more. As Eric puts it, the popular courses focus gives students “something to talk about in terms of their college academic experience in a way that ‘organic chemistry,’ regrettably, does not.” 

We find this approach to presenting science in a medium that’s relatable (and enjoyable) for the layperson extremely refreshing, especially at a time when we need good science more than ever. Eric said of his class: “At its best, it provides a road map for navigating the kind of polarizing conversations we’re all having now — without being driven to drink.” We’ve previously worked closely with Eric to bring the story of plate tectonics and continental drift to life. Here’s an animation we put together with him: 

(You can check out more of the Pangea animations here.)

Here’s to Eric and our other clients like him who share our passion for the wonder of the greater world around us! We raise a glass (of whiskey, of course) to you!