Alcohol, such a broad statement, yet so much that can go with it. Have you ever taken a drink of rum, whiskey, or gin and thought about how it came to be three separate drinks? Why each one looks, tastes, and smells different? There is a simple explanation to why it happens, you just have to look into the chemical reactions taking place within each product.

Compound Interest has simplified the chemical makeup of rum and whisky. In the article Chemistry of Rum, one can see that not a lot of things go into making this form of alcohol. For instance, one learns that this form of alcohol comes from molasses which is a byproduct of refining sugar cane. Water is added to this molasses, alongside yeast to being the fermentation process. After fermentation is complete, the liquid is distilled to make the alcohol content and aroma become a lot stronger. As soon as that is over, the rum is transferred into barrels to commence aging. Through this process rum takes on a different taste as well as different color; depending on the barrel used. Once this rum has been aged it is then mixed in with *distillates to create a consistent produced across the board. (*Distillates- liquid taken from distillation)

You might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with chemistry? Well it has a lot to do with chemistry! For instance, esters are formed in the process. These esters are responsible in giving the rum its fruity aroma as well as giving it a flavor palette. Although all alcohols have some amount of ester, rum is the only one that has been found to contain a larger amount of esters. The reason that rum has more esters is due to the fact that it has more short-chains of carboxylic acids floating around. These short-chains allow for more acids to react with the alcohol contents producing more esters. Because rum contains different acids that contribute to the aroma and taste one can get different flavors and smells. Rum is a simple product to make yet it is very complex in its unique way.

Compound Interest

The Chemistry of Whiskey, is another article that explains the components that go into creating a great whisky. To create a whisky you have to start off with dried barely that is later socked and let dry once more. After, the barely is then made into a wort, which is just a mash of barely and water. This process helps the starches found in barely break down creating simple sugars that later will help feed the yeast.  Once the wort has been created the yeast is added to start fermentation. Once fermentation is complete the “wash” is the transferred into a copper still to being the distillation process. Next the product is poured into barrels to age for at least three years.

With whisky you will find different types of compounds that are not present in rum. For instance, one sees phenolic compounds. Phenolic compounds are a result of the second drying process the barely undergoes before it becomes a mash. These compounds also can become present after the whisky has been in a barrel. This compound gives the whiskey that bitter and smoky flavor. In addition, whisky contains whisky lactones which contribute a coconut flavor to the whisky. Whisky lactones come from the barrel itself and is transferred into the whisky. Furthermore, esters can be found in the fermentation, distillation, and very small amounts in the final product of whisky. The reason that not many esters make it to the finally product is because the contents of esters can make the whisky cloud up. Slowly through each process the whisky goes through more and more esters are removed. Over all whisky can contain many compounds not found in other alcohol products.

Chemistry of Whisky

Compound Interest

Rum and whisky go through a very similar process from the very beginning yet end up being totally different products. This can be attributed to the yeast strand, distillation process, and what types of flavors are allowed to form. Although they both get some type of yeast added to their very early stages the yeast is comprised of very different strands. Not only do the strands differ but the way the yeast get their food also differentiates. For example, the yeast for rum gets its food directly form the molasses while the yeast for whiskey gets its food supply from the sugars created through the breakdown of the barely. Furthermore, the distillation of the rum happens within a post-still while the whiskey is distilled in a copper still. The way the distillation happens is very important to what kind of product one ends up with. The post-still is much different than the copper still for one it is not necessarily made of copper. In addition, the still is made of long tubes versus the copper one looks like a tear drop. The shape plays a role as to how the product with condensates and what amount of alcohol will remain. Not only does the distillation process have an effect but also the esters that are allowed to remain present with in the product is what give each one its signature taste. Without the esters each one would very peculiar tastes and aromas that people would not like.

We all know what happens when you drink too much of either of these products, right? That lovely feeling you get the next day after a long night of drinks with your friends has a name, a hangover. But what causes a hangover? You will get all these myths and theories of how to get rid of one but why do people think these things work? That is very simple; science! Alcohol has a component that can lower the levels of antidiuretic hormone vasopressin, which leads to frequent urination as well as dehydration. Many people believe that the more dehydrated one is the worse the hangover symptoms are but that is not necessarily true. Acetaldehyde is actually one of the components that is most responsible for strong hangover symptoms. Our bodies are able to break it down into acetate but the more you drink at once the harder it is for the body to break it down. Likewise, the more one drinks the harder it is for your body to break down methanol over ethanol. The remnants of methanol in your system are also what gives hangover symptoms. Drinking sounds like a fun idea but in the long run it has a lot components you need to think about.

The hangover, the whisky, and the rum articles all interconnect in their own unique ways. Rum and whisky both contribute to the hangover effect because they both are comprised of a strand of methyl which is also a leading cause of hangover symptoms. In addition, the more you drink the more likely you will be to develop hangover symptoms. Your body needs some time to break down the different components in alcohol in order for you to continue on drinking. It is always suggested that you drink small amounts of alcohol at a time to give your body time to break down those enzymes.



Presentations can be a bit scary when you think about it. They are not something many people are very good at straight off the bat. They take time, effort, and practice to master. The more one hears others present the more one learns. The mistakes others make one tends to notice and strive very hard not to repeat them over again. When someone does a fantastic job with their presentation one tends to try to mimic the attributes that the other person had. Altogether, one can learn several things of the dos and the do nots from watching and listening to others present.

Last week in lab we had the pleasure of learning about different ways to use tires, how glass can help in crime scenes, how to help clean out water in India, and much more. The tire presentation was all about how tires can be used in different ways as well as letting us know that tires do not break down very easily. Typically one does not stop and think about what happens to tires after they have served their sole purpose. One goes about life knowing nothing more than tires are made of rubber and the mechanic takes care of getting rid of them. But tires do not just disappear into thin air! They actually go to different plants and facilities that break them down into pellets for football fields, playgrounds, shoes, and even for new tires. Sometimes the tires are not so lucky and end up in a dumps, where people can set fires to them and have them explode. Either way tires are not decomposing back into the soil if anything we are finding a place for them to go.

Have you ever thought of glass being a vital piece in investigations? Whether you did or you did not glass brakeage can be one way of finding what happened the night of the accident. During this presentation one learns about the way glass breaks, how it can inform the detective from what side the glass was hit, as well as the different angle it was hit from. I would have never thought of glass breaking as a way to solve mysteries but it is one way investigators solve crimes that have glass pieces scattered about. Another pretty interesting fact about the glass is that the investigators can tell whether lights on a vehicle were on or off. The filament inside the bulb will react with the O2 in the air creating a yellow/white coating around it if it was on. It was amazing to hear all the different things one can learn from broken glass.

Furthermore, we got to hear about India’s huge problem with arsenic in the water supply. Once you sit down and start listening to the presentation you learn that arsenic is a huge problem in the country! People are getting poisoned and are becoming really ill with the amounts of arsenic in the water supply. The most interesting part of the talk was learning about the way people in Bangladesh are filtering out the water. They are taking these buckets that have a lining that will react with arsenic in the water allowing the arsenic to filter out with clean water. This system can last for a couple of years which is great for the areas that cannot afford to replace these buckets over and over again. In addition, we also learned that they are finding different ways to remove the arsenic straight from the tap versus getting it out of the tap placing it into buckets and then pouring them out into filter buckets.

All in all these three presentations stayed more vividly in my mind not only because they have the most impacting on the world around us; but instead because of the way the material was presented to the class. The presenters all seem to know the material they were presenting, they spoke clearly, and seemed to have gotten very familiar with the material at hand. The best presenters have practiced multiple time and also speak of a topic that most interests them. More times than not if you like the subject you will feel more relaxed during the presentations.


Chem “Free”

Take a trip down to your local store and start reading labels. What do you see on the labels? Probably a ton of names that you cannot pronounce even if your life depended on it. But what do these names mean and why should you care about them? The answer is very simple, all those names are part of different chemical compounds or extracts of different plants and animals. Many people do not question what the name implies. Most people just let those funky names just be. No questions asked.

Now you might ask yourself what about those products that say “chemical free,” what makes there label different from the rest of the labels. Well to start they want to advertise to those very few people that care about what goes onto, into, and around them. The ones that will not use bleach because it is to harsh on the skin. The ones that have pets or small children and know some of the chemicals can be very harmful to the health of the animals and kids. The ones that learn different chemical names and see them as being totally wrong. Those types of people make the production industry change their product labels to “chemical free”. But is what they are selling really “chemical free?”

Beeswax Butter Balm clams to be free of chemicals. The company Made from Earth, names a couple of natural occurring ingredients under their label but does that really mean that they have no chemicals what so ever in the balm? If the product was really a natural representation of the ingredients the balm would be a totally different color. Although the company uses “natural” ingredients in the product “natural” does not always mean straight from the ground. Science has come so far that now a days the things that are labeled “natural” actually just refer to the fact that the actual compound was extracted from the natural occurring substance. The substance then was denatured in a lab somewhere to find all the chemical compounds that make it the substance it is. Then in a lab the scientist take the chemical compound and reproduce it in large quantities, selling it to the world as “natural”.

Each product has some sort of chemistry in it. After all atoms are everywhere! The Beeswax Butter Balm can get away with saying “chemical free” because technically they are not adding harmful chemicals into the mix; instead they are adding natural occurring chemicals into it. But lying to the public about chemical contents is not appropriate. The consumer has the right to know what exactly is inside the product they are about to buy. Some customers are less educated than others and automatically assume that “natural” or “chemical free” means healthier. In reality that is not true! The labels are a way to get more consumers to buy the product versus other products in the same field of work. Instead of “chemical free” labels the products should advertise safer chemicals than most. Even though that also might be an incorrect way to label the product.

Next time you go to the store and read labels make sure you know all of the story not just part of it.


Work Cited

Chemistry of Food, Dr. January Haile