Ernie Button, a photographer in Phoenix, found art at the bottom of a whisky glass. Howard A. Stone, a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor at Princeton, found the science in the art.
Eight years ago, Mr. Button was about to wash the glass when he noticed that leftover drops of Scotch had dried into a chalky but unexpectedly beautiful film. “When I lifted it up to the light, I noticed these really delicate, fine lines on the bottom,” he recalled, “and being a photographer for a number of years before this, I’m like, ‘Hmm, there’s something to this.’ ”
He and his wife began experimenting. The Scotches with smoky, peaty flavors, like those from the islands of Islay and Skye in western Scotland, were inconsistent, needing more trial and error to produce the picturesque ring patterns. By contrast, those from the valley around the River Spey in northeastern Scotland “seem like they’ll work every time,” Mr. Button said.
“It takes just a drop or two to create a really nice image,” he said. He started photographing the residues, using colored lights “to give it that otherworldly effect,” he said.
He called the series “Vanishing Spirits — The Dried Remains of Single Malt Scotch.”
Mr. Button’s experimentations revealed other liquor insights. A 12-year-old Scotch made patterns indistinguishable from a more expensive 18-year one. Bourbon, the American whiskey made primarily from corn, generally works, too, although not the young ones like Jacob’s Ghost from Jim Beam, which sit in barrels for only about a year. “Any aged whiskey will make these rings,” Mr. Button said.
Cognac, a liquor distilled from grape wine, does not dry out in this pretty manner.
After several years of creating these photographic prints, Mr. Button was curious about the underlying science of what was going on. (Photography is just a successful sideline for Mr. Button. He is a speech therapist. “That is how I got my interest in science and research,” he said.)
Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here: adafruit.com/editorialstandards
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.