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Did you know that one shot (1 oz.) of whiskey contains almost 30,000 1-microliter droplets?

Our research analyzes the microstructures that remain after a single microdrop of bourbon has been evaporated.

Go to our News & Events page to view websites and articles available to the general public. Below are technical publications related to whiskey webs.


Introduction   |   Science Articles   |   Videos   |   Whiskey Webs at Home

Science Articles (Journal Articles)

  1. Whiskey webs: Fingerprints of evaporated bourbon Physics Today 2021.
  2. Multiscale self-assembly of distinctive weblike structures from evaporated drops of dilute american whiskeys ACS Nano 2020.
    Free to download and read!
  3. Whiskey webs: Microscale "fingerprints" of bourbon whiskey Phys. Rev. Fluids 4, 100511, 2019.


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Our work was featured on Bourbon Pursuit's podcast , "317 - The science of whiskey webs with Stuart Williams from the University of Louisville".

There is a brief five-minute video available to download that highlights our ACS Nano article. (mp4 file)

Here is a TV segment created by Mark Hebert for "UofL Today with Mark Hebert".


Introduction   |   Science Articles   |   Videos   |   Whiskey Webs at Home

Whiskey Webs at Home

February 2021:

I have updated the 'at home' protocol. The primary challenges associated with the April 2020 post (below) was (i) a clean hydrophobic surface and (ii) phase-contrast lighting. To answer this I have created a 'light box' to be used with a patterned teflon slide (pictured below). These updated at-home kits will be available soon after they have been evaluated and modified.

April 2020:

If you are reading this then you must be interested in making your own whiskey web at home! I developed this initial procedure at home in March of 2020, during COVID19. I will tell you what I have done and what I have learned. If you are successful please email me your images and your procedure, I am interested in improving this!

I focused on materials that you may have round the home. Here is a list of materials you will need, and their purpose:

  • American whiskey (ex: bourbon): so far we have created structures more easily with this type of whiskey compared to others. If you happen to have a very hydrophobic surface you can try other whiskeys, but I recommend starting with bourbon. Barrel proof bourbon or others of elevated proof typically perform better.

  • Filtered Water: I used filtered bottled water. Faucet water did not work well for me (at least in my house).

  • Measuring spoons: You eventually need to dilute your bourbon whiskey to a range of 20-25% alcohol-by-volume (40-50 proof). You may need measuring spoons or similar methods of doing this. Sometimes this is an easy task, for example a one-to-one dilution of 90 proof bourbon creates a 45 proof mixture.

  • Glass plate: A rigid, transparent surface is needed. I took a small glass plate from a picture frame. You might be able to use plastic, but it may have scratches or it may not be as transparent as glass. A rigid, flat surface will also help with imaging.

  • Tape (transparent): You need to make your glass surface hydrophobic such that the droplet will ‘bead up’ on the surface. You can do this with a piece of tape, I tested three different types (imaged below - for me the J-Lar worked the best). You want your tape to be transparent for better imaging. Some of you may have hydrophobic sprays (ex: RainX, NeverWet, etc.) – you can use that instead of tape.

  • Black paper: You want a dark background for your imaging. Black construction paper or a non-reflective surface should work.

  • Twist tie: Grab a twist tie that contains a metal wire. Strip off less than an inch of the rubber to expose the wire. I will describe how to bend it later.

  • Smartphone and lens/microscope: Most of you don’t have a microscope at your home, but don’t worry! You will be imaging something that is about two to four millimeters in diameter. There are many DIY-methods of micro-imaging using your smartphone. There are also some inexpensive options available, I have used a small lens ($7) as well as a USB microscope($25) - either should work for you, though I like the microscope better.

  • Now that you have gathered everything, here is what you do:

    1. Take the exposed end of twist tie and make a loop at its end at the tip. The diameter of the loop needs to be small, I used the tip of a ballpoint pen to form mine. Refer to my images below.

    2. Apply the tape to the glass plate. Avoid fingerprints and scratches, you want the surface to be as clean and transparent as possible. You may wipe and clean it, but be careful to avoid smudges and streaks.

    3. Measure and mix your bourbon and water to the appropriate ratio to get 40-50 proof, sometimes 30-60 proof will work. Below is an equation that will guide your dilution.

    4. Set your glass plate on a flat surface. Submerge your wire loop into the liquid and carefully pull it out. You should see a droplet trapped within the loop (hooray for surface tension!). Take this droplet over to the tape and carefully ‘tap’ the plate, transferring the drop. Do not smear or spread the drop – you want it as ‘balled up’ as possible. Repeat the process to create as many drops as you like, not all of them will form webs using this approach. I highly recommend adding to an existing drop two or three times, making it bigger and ‘ball up’ more.

    5. Let the drops evaporate. Environmental conditions matter (do not breathe on it!), so I covered mine with a bowl during evaporation. It will take at least ten minutes, up to an hour, for the drops to evaporate. Evaporation depends on the size of the droplet, temperature, and humidity.

    6. Drink your remaining bourbon dilution (optional).

    7. Take the evaporated glass plate and elevate it above the black background. The elevation is to make the dark background blurry such that the background elements don’t interfere with your droplet image. I used a roll of tape to elevate my glass plate.

    8. Take a picture! You will need a steady hand. Also, be aware that you may scratch some of your droplets while you position your camera.

    Cleanliness matters! If your mixing cup is dusty or your glass plate has residue your results will be impacted.

    You are imaging the features using scattered light. This means that the light is coming in laterally and is reflecting off of the features. You may be able to alter the lighting and background to optimize your contrast.

    Good luck! Email me your images and describe your approach at stuart dot williams at louisville dot edu.

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