PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Whiskey and rum are just a couple of distilled spirits that students study at Oregon State University’s Department of Food Science and Technology.

OSU Associate Professor of Distilled Spirits Paul Hughes knows all about distilling — and is teaching others about the fascinating research that can go into it.

For starters, Hughes believes there is a process to enjoying a glass of whiskey.

“It’s actually a multi-sensory experience. So you probably start off by sniffing, smelling the spirit, say, whiskey comfort zone and then taste might think it’s too strong. You want to dilute it a little bit, add some water, retest it,” he said.

Of course, his work doesn’t focus on drinking, but it can’t hurt to have a fascination for what’s being distilled, and Hughes offers a couple of options for students.

“There are two ways of looking at it if you want to go the more academic route. The first citation science program here is pretty good. It covers beer, wine and all spirits,” he said.

There’s also a path for a Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) course.

“That’s four days where they get to listen to me go on about some of the background to distilled spirit production. Then we come in here and we have a gin-making competition and so forth, just to give them a hands-on experience. Because, unlike beer and wine, you can’t make spirits at home, at least not legally,” Hughes said.

The classes are giving people more knowledge and experience — to innovate and shake up the next wave of distillers and drink makers.

“The other thing we’re about to launch is a what we call an undergraduate certificate, which covers beer, wine and spirits in what we think is an unprecedented detail. Because as these beer wine spirits, as they innovate, they come closer together in space,” Hughes said. “Sherry is brandy, plus wine. Desperados — made of Heineken — is tequila and beer. So I think someone who has knowledge of all three categories is in a unique position to join the alcohol industry if you like.”