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Spend a night drinking scotch and you’d be forgiven for going to bed (passing out) without cleaning your glass. And if you do so, you’ll probably find a wild pattern sitting on the bottom of that tumbler the next morning.

Photographer Ernie Button used this as inspiration for his series “Vanishing Spirits.” By using flashlights, lamps, and most likely a ton of Advil, he created these otherworldly photographs. Each brand’s booze gave a tumbler a unique image and pattern for Button to snap a shot of. But why did these patterns form in the first place?

Button contacted Howard Stone, a Harvard and Princeton engineer, to determine what was causing these spectacular images. Through a series of experiments, Stone concluded the main reason for the patterns was the small amount of additives each distillery used in their whisky. By each distillery using different amounts, potentially different kinds, and possibly different removal methods (chill filtering), each distillery’s pattern was unique and consistent.

Now get to drinking and start experimenting for yourself.


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