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Truth - and no Faux Science

There is an article about:


It is unfortunate, but in these days science is mostly misinterpret and also used "wrong".

Strangely people relying on science but don't really understand how. Science seems to be a "new religion" similar to catholicism in the dark ages: people don't read and understand the scientific papers, but rely on the press and on "spokes people" which are simplifying and explaining. This isn't so bad if it comes to popular scientists like Neil DeGrasse or Bill Nye. They are trained scientists and understand scientific reasoning. However when it comes to the press and other people who are "using" science it is a complete other issue;

Let's look at the article to understand what I mean:

    • That's a law - which is difficult to monitor or enforce. Because character, aroma, taste aren't really measurable.
  • Yet vodka makers big and small are pushing a different narrative, one in which vodka is distinguished by its raw materials, whether that be grapes, wheat, potatoes, rice, corn or even whey...
    • ...also not scientific at all.
  • “We were surprised by the textural component, as well as the mouthfeel, of the vodka,” says Alex Villicana. “A lot of that has to do with the chemical glycerol, which is produced during fermentation.”
    • Wait for it....
  • Glycerol is a sugar alcohol with a sweet taste. It’s present in fermented grains and potatoes as well, but the amount of glycerol depends on the amount of sugar in the initial product. 
    • First big fallacy here:
    • The present sugar has not much to do with the mouth of glycerol.
    • In fact yeast does under normal circumstances produce very little glycerol.
    • What is even more important (we are talking about vodka) is, that glycerol isn't easily distilled (under other than specific lab-distillation methods like vacuum distillation) - as it seems to be not heat-stable.
    • So we have got 3 rather scientific points (please correct me, if I am wrong) why glycerol shouldn't be a big effect on naturally produced vodka.
  • “With wine, you have a lot of sugar to ferment, so in the production of the initial wine, you produce a lot of this chemical called glycerol.”
    • This isn't different as before - however it emphasizes the sugar. Which is great for ethanol. Now it suggests that glycerol makes the mash sweet, but in extremely sweet mashes it is rather residual sugar, which keeps it sweet. Yeast can only ferment to a certain degree (%) alcohol. If it reaches this level it becomes inactive or even dies.

  • Some of that comes across in distillation (although an excessive number of distillations and filtration will lead to a more neutral spirit), and it softens some of the harsh edges. It’s not the only compound that impacts taste either.
    • Again - as per my research glycerol won't occur in distilled products (except it is added as food additive after the distillation into the final product). 
  • A 2010 study from the University of Cincinnati and Moscow State University looked into the molecular composition of popular vodkas to find why people prefer some brands over others. It found that a varying concentration of hydrates surround ethanol molecules in different brands, and “these ethanol clusters undoubtedly stimulate the palate differently,” meaning “vodka drinkers could express preference for a particular structure.”
    • This "study" doesn't really show great promise overall. There is no reference about the size of the tasting group. Further the whole hydrate-clusters which are surrounding ethanol molecules are giving me the ever so slightest smell of snake oil. 
    • And well - it is.a study and a theory. No proof - no particular theorem. 
  • For consumers, taste is just one factor influencing a purchasing decision. Sustainability, novelty and a good story are also important.
    • This is off-topic. Really what does this (and the following paragraphs) has to do with science?
    • and - DUH - the good story of a vodka for sure sells it far better than the most scientific snake oil study whatsoever. Not without reason Grey Goose is the best selling vodka (hey - it was the first "super-premium" vodka) - even though it is consistently left behind even standard vodkas in blind tests.
There is a lot of further b.s. (about people who work in vodka bars) in the following paragraphs - nothing has to do with science.
So - the whole science relation of the whole article (don't forget - the headline has been focused on the science aspect) has been these suspicious hydrate-clusters, which are surrounding ethanol molecules - which is not really a lot of evidence (not even a whiff of it). 
On the other hand, there are quite a lot of studies with different size sample groups, which say, that tastings even under experts are pretty much snake oil. And this can be emphasized especially for a spirit which is rather neutral like vodka.
I don't say here, that ethanol with 60% water content is the same as vodka. Ethanol has the unique ability to "adapt" even on the smallest impurities (which are often welcome). Chemical pure ethanol and distilled water might taste quite chemical and unpleasant - only the intrusion of foreign molecules (even in minuscule amounts) will anyway make it palatable. 
But the whole vodka & science thing? I am still waiting for a better article who does that!


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