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How Much Sugar Is There in Whiskey?

sugar in whisky

Whiskey first appeared in 1494 in Scottish tax records as ‘Aquavitae’. Each Scottish firm made its own whiskey for its own use. It was easier to deal with the hard work with a glass, and there were enough occasions in social circles to toast one another. The “water of life” gave energy and made people happy (unsurprisingly). Counting the calories of whiskey – that would probably have entered the thoughts of nobody in the humble 15th century.

Even today, the consumption of alcohol factors enjoyment over health. Nevertheless, alcoholic drinks such as whiskey have great potential for energy, so it doesn’t hurt to know how many calories are actually hidden in a glass.

What nutrients does whiskey contain?

Calculating the calories contained in whiskey is in principle not difficult. This is because whiskey ingredients are almost exclusively water and alcohol. Protein, fat or carbohydrates, which we normally measure in food, are all missing in pure whiskey. Responsible for the taste of whiskey are substances such as tannins, lignins and vanillins. These come from storage in wooden barrels, but they are irrelevant during the calculation of calorie content.

Calculate the calories of whiskey

If you want to know the amount of calories in whiskey, you first have to find out how many grams of pure alcohol are actually in the bottle. A glance at the bottle reveals that the percentage of alcohol is usually 40%. So is there 100 grams of whiskey in 40ml of alcohol? No, because the density of alcohol is only 0.8 grams per milliliter.

In relation to the density of alcohol (40 ml alcohol x density 0.8) 32 grams of alcohol is obtained from 100 ml whiskey. In its purest form, 1 gram of alcohol has 7.1 calories. If you drink 100ml of whiskey (with 40% alcohol), you will consume 227.20 calories. For an average man this is about 9% of their daily caloric intake (2,500). For a woman it is 11% (2,000).

This means a man would have to drink about 1.1 litres (a woman about 881ml) of whiskey with 40% alcohol content to meet the daily calorie requirements. However we do not recommended this diet, to prevent every nutrition expert face-palming simultaneously.

How many calories does a glass of whiskey with 40ml have?

At home or in the bar, you do not usually drink 100 ml of whiskey at once, so here’s what we do here for a normal 40ml tasting glass:

40ml of whiskey contains 16ml of alcohol

16ml of alcohol is 12.8 grams of alcohol

12.8 grams of alcohol equals 90.88 calories

A dram of whiskey (a 1/8th of an ounce) has almost 91 calories! By comparison, if you drink half a litre of Hefeweizen, you’re drinking a decent 260 calories. So, be careful if you’re a regular whiskey drinker, the alcohol content will likely catch up your calorie intake.

Where does whiskey get sugar from?

There are 3 sources that supply whiskey with sugar: wood, sherry and sugar colour.

This means there is no way that whiskey could be sugar free, even if it contains no dye, because whiskey inevitably has to go into a barrel. Since it must ultimately consist of oak, no whiskey doesn’t contain at least some sugar.

1st cause: Wooden barrel

Since every scotch, Irish or bourbon whiskey must ripen in oak barrels, they inevitably have at least one source of sugar. You might be asking yourself why there is sugar in wood, and we wouldn’t blame you. If you chew a piece of wood, it would be a lot of things, but sweet isn’t one of them.

The reason for this lies in 3 gigantic molecules that make up wood:

  • cellulose
  • hemicellulose
  • lignin

2nd cause: Previous barrel content

In some cases, rum distillers sweeten its products before bottling in barrels. This is done either directly with sugar or with molasses, sugarcane juice or fruits. It usually ranges between 5 and 20 grams per litre.

3rd cause: Dye addition

The sugar content in dye varies enormously. On average, however, it accounts for between 20% and 40% of the dye. And here the trick: between 10% and 20% of them are entirely sugar.

However, you should not demonise all whiskey with dye now, as the amount provided in whiskey is usually well below 1 gram per litre.

Sugar colour only enhances the perception of vanillin and other sweet flavors while suppressing sulphurous notes.

What effect does sugar have on whiskey tasting?

The sugar content can affect your whiskey in 3 ways:

  • sweeter taste
  • oily texture
  • sweet aromas

We probably haven’t told you anything new by revealing that sugar makes whiskey sweeter. No matter how it gets into your glass, it stimulates your sensory cells for classic sweet taste.

Add to this the fact that the more sugar it contains, the oilier the texture becomes. Meaning its heavy body then lays over your tongue like a veil.

What many whiskey fans are unaware of is the fact that a sweet taste seduces us. We suddenly recognise flavors that we did not perceive without the golden drink.

Above all, this affects notes of vanilla, caramel or various fruits. But let’s be honest: if the whiskey was not manipulated by E150a (caramel colouring) or any other substances, then we are little thankful for the sugar. After all, it’s just one of many flavour carriers in whiskey. One that has a clear influence, but leaves enough room for his other tender friends.

This is a great video which breaks down how many calories there are in whiskey.

If you enjoyed this post check out our other blogs on spirits. If you are brand new here follow our guidance on drinking healthily by following the process on our start here page. Thanks!

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