Monday, August 27, 2007
Congeners are by-products of the fermentation process and are responsible for the taste and aroma of alcholic beverages (and some say for hangover symptoms as well). The maturation process alters the congener composition which is why a 20-year old whiskey has a different taste and aroma than a 5-year old single malt. Recent research has shown that the altered congener content also alters pharmacokinetics and neurological effects of ethanol. Using mice as their test-subjects, researchers found that the older (20-year) whiskey slowed ethanol metabolism and prolonged the neurodepressive effects of ethanol causing a longer period of drunkenness (measured by duration of loss of righting reflex). The evidence points to increases in the amount of nonvolatile congeners in the more mature whiskeys. If this is true, it means that states of drunkenness would be different among spirits with the same alcohol content - a vodka (low congener content) would give you a shorter buzz than a bourbon whiskey (higher congener content).