If you have ever had a bourbon whiskey, you will be aware of the notorious burn it causes to the back of the throat. While you can get used to this burn with time, it can still be an issue to some. So, how do you get rid of the bourbon burn? In fact, why does bourbon burn our throats to begin with? Let’s now go into the scientific details of why high-proof alcohol causes the throat to burn…
Why Does Bourbon Feel Like it Burns?
In short, bourbon feels like it burns because the alcohol molecules are reacting with the throat’s VR1 heat receptors. This reaction makes the heat receptors more sensitive and reduces the activation temperature by 8°C. This is enough of a temperature drop for your heat receptors to be triggered by your own body heat, which results in your body responding with a burning sensation to warn you of danger.
The body responds this way because it needs to bring attention to the fact that what you’re ingesting may hurt you. The nerve cells in the delicate tissue lining are screaming for attention. These cells can’t simply be told that you’re enjoying a class of bourbon on a Friday afternoon.
You may have experienced a similar burn when eating something spicy, like your favorite curry. The spice compounds trick the VR1 receptors into thinking that you’re eating something hot – it’s like magic! However, alcohol actually binds with the VR1 receptors, which lowers how much heat they can handle. So spicy food and alcohol give the same outcome, but the cause is very different.
But how does the alcohol trigger the nerve cells in your gums and throat? Well, alcohol causes the cells to dry out, which results in the cells sending stress signals to your brain. To prevent this from happening, you may want to add some ice cubes or whiskey rocks to your drink, which will limit how the alcohol will pull moisture from your cells.
All high-proof liquors give the same burn as bourbon. The higher the proof, the more your throat will burn.
How to Reduce Whiskey Burn?
As you become a more expierenced bourbon drinker, you will be able to enjoy the flavour profile without feeling like a fire has just been ignited in the back of your throat. However, the burn will always be there. Well, unless you follow these helpful tips to reduce bourbon burn…
1) Dilute with Water
You can reduce the bourbon burn by adding a small amount of water. You can still enjoy the bourbon flavor, but adding a bit of water will help to lower the alcoholic percentage. In fact, many experts believe that a small amount of water works to increase the flavor profile of all whiskey. It’s important to add the water slowly. You can always put more water in, but you can’t take it out.
There is a secret breathing technique for reducing bourbon burn. It may sound strange, but you can reduce burn by quickly exhaling when you swallow the spirit. You want to limit the amount of alcoholic vapors that hit the back of your throat. It works by inhaling air as you take a sip, drinking your bourbon, then exhaling when you swallow the bourbon. This breathing technique also allows you to enjoy the subtle flavors of your bourbon.
This is quite a controversial topic, as some bourbon purists believe that bourbon should ONLY be consumed at room temperature, not chilled and this is one of the reasons why it gets cloudy. They believe this because the bourbons natural flavor profile is muted when it has been chilled to low temperatures.
However, some people actually like when the flavors are slightly muted, as it allows the drink to go down a lot smoother. The coldness alleviates some of the burn, which results in a more enjoyable drinking experience.
Here are the most efficient ways to chill bourbon whiskey:
- Chill the bottle in the refrigerator
- Chill your whiskey glasses in the refrigerator
- Use bourbon stones
- Add ice cubes to your drink
4) Add a Mixer
Just like cooling, bourbon purists enjoy drinking their bourbon neat. But this doesn’t mean you have to do what they say. After all, bourbon is best enjoyed your way.
The most common bourbon mixer is ginger beer, and we can see why! It gives a sweeter flavor that has a little kick of spice. This can be effective enough to get rid of the notorious bourbon burn. You may want to try lemonade or cola if you dislike the taste of ginger.
So, that’s why bourbon burns the throat. To confirm, bourbon feels like it burns because the alcohol molecules are reacting with the throat’s VR1 heat receptors. This reaction makes the heat receptors more sensitive and reduces the activation temperature by 8°C. This is enough of a drop for your heat receptors to be triggered by your own body heat, which results in your body responding with a burning sensation to warn you of danger.
As you become a more expierenced bourbon drinker, you will be able to enjoy the flavour profile without feeling like a fire has just been ignited in the back of your throat. However, the burn will always be there. You can reduce the bourbon burn by diluting your drink with water, adding ice cubes, adding whiskey stones, or adding your favorite mixer.