When you sidle up to the bar and order a drink, Ben Abraham doesn’t seem like a science man, he’s too laid back.
But start talking to him about how whiskey gets its flavour and the co-owner of Wollongong’s Howlin’ Wolf suddenly resembles Einstein.
Mr Abraham, 27, will be taking people on a journey – and tastings –through the science of whiskey at Science Space on Friday night.
“We’re doing some digging into the science and stuff including what happens inside barrels, how they get all the different colours and flavours and how that smoke flavour comes about in some whiskeys,” he said.
Drinking the spirit with a touch of water is like “walking through a rain forest when it’s wet”, according to the barman.
The humble H20 helps “open a bunch of aroma particles” and increases the intensity of the smell of the drink.
“There are certain whiskeys where a little bit of water is much better in, and certain whiskeys a bit of ice makes it a bit better – they’re all quite different,” Mr Abraham said.
But how do producers infuse the amber liquid with a sweet or smokey texture? It’s all in the barrel – with many distilleries recycling barrels that once housed something else, such as sherry.
“Time and heat force the liquid in and out of the wood, and that’s when all the colour and 60 to 80 per cent of the flavour comes from,” Mr Abraham said.
“The inside of barrel is all caramelized burnt wood, plenty of sugars.
“At a scientific level there’s different molecules and compounds existing within different liquids and different flavours and it’s those that are left behind that the whiskey picks up and takes.”
Regardless of molecules and compounds, Mr Abraham believes the best way to drink whiskey is whichever way makes you happy.
Tastings of six assorted spirits will be part of the Science of Whiskey – the final of the Up Late series for 2018 at Science Space.
“This brings to a conclusion our fantastic premiere series … which has brought everything from Pink Floyd, Astronomy, Spooky Science, Wine and now finally Whiskey,” Science Space director Stuart Creal said.
“[It’s] a wonderful way to toast another successful year at the Science Space as we have introduced new audiences to the varied world of science.”
The Up Late series will continue in 2019 with themes like the Science of Sex and the Science of Cocktails.
Since upgrading their planetarium system at the beginning of the year, Wollongong’s family friendly facility has been creating events purely for the adults.
The Science of Whiskey will also include live music and gourmet grazing platter. Tickets are $37.74 and can be purchased via www.eventbrite.com.au