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eugenep

Disruptive technology may change the whisk(e)y industry - Economist mag

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Posted (edited)

New producers believe they can make a "chemical?" compound to make an equivalent to scotch whiskey without the aging. 

 

It might work - anyone tried it? 

 

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https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2019/03/07/disruptive-technology-may-change-the-whiskey-industry

 

Choice quotes below in case of paywall 

 

Endless West, based in San Francisco, is one such. It has done away with barrel-ageing entirely. Using a gas chromatograph, which separates a mixture into its constituents and then spits out an analysis of that mixture’s make up, the firm’s researchers claim to have identified the molecules which give different whiskies their flavours.

 

Josh Decolongon, Endless West’s chief product officer, says a compound called 4-ethylguaiacol transports him to, “a chilly holiday night spent indoors...burning logs and sweet spices”. Ethyl butanoate, on the other hand, he associates with candied apples, tropical fruit or perhaps grapes. Mr Decolongon and his team use a mixture of techniques, including distillation and solvent partitioning (taking advantage of the different solubilities of most chemicals in water and oily liquids) to extract these and other compounds from things like plants, yeasts and barrel wood. Once they have obtained these flavours, they add them to pure ethanol bought from an outside supplier. The result is Glyph, a spirit that takes around 24 hours to make and sells for about $40 a bottle.

 

Endless West is the only company so far to eliminate ageing entirely, but at least seven others are speeding the process up. In Los Angeles, for example, a firm called Lost Spirits inserts heated barrel wood into distilled spirit and blasts it in a reactor to quicken the process. That takes six days, and produces a drink called Abomination: Sayers of the Law.

 

All this will count for little if age-defying whiskies taste bad and people will not buy them. The Scotch Whisky Association, a trade body which represents Scotland’s whisky industry, bristles at the idea that production can be rushed or replicated. 

 

Abomination has received some excellent reviews, and chromatographic analysis of it reveals a similar chemical signature to that of conventionally aged whiskies. Glyph’s reviews are mostly mediocre, although your correspondent found it tastes good when mixed with a slug of ginger ale.

 

Both firms’ products are proving popular with tech-minded youngsters who enjoy the stories about a break with tradition. Meanwhile another age-defying distillery, Tuthilltown Spirits, in upstate New York, is trying a different approach. It agitates its barrelled whiskies to accelerate maturation. Its workers do this by placing bass shakers around the warehouse and playing loud music through them. They say bass-heavy dubstep works best.

 

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Edited by eugenep changed the photos to WSJ bc they look better (log)
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"Hmmm....what would Don Quixote do?" 

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Posted (edited)

Is nothing sacred?

 

Better living through chemistry be damned. They can gin up any Scotch lookalike, tastealike they choose. I'll stick to my Macallen or Glenmorangie single malt, thank you very much.

 

ETA: "Gin up," rather than referring to the alcohol of the same name, is a Southernism meaning, roughly,  "to create," and more particularly, to create something that isn't really needed or desired.

 


Edited by kayb (log)
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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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I have heard the same thing is happening with wine (which quite frankly excites me far more).

 

They are able to take a $1000 bottle of say, Chateaux Margaux and identify the flavour profiles which make it, well, a Margaux - and replicate it for a small fraction of the cost.

 

 

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I was thinking how it could make super expensive scotch and wine available to average people with a moderate income. 

 

I drink scotch and wine but not regularly because of the cost

 

I would prefer the real thing but the lab version might have a place 

 

..think about drinking 50 year scotch on a daily basis (with moderation of course) 


"Hmmm....what would Don Quixote do?" 

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The big problem is that the taste of the top stuff is not given by only a handful of molecules, it's given by hundreds / thousands. Knowing what are the main molecules responsible for a given taste is not enough, you get an approximation lacking all the complexity. People who are willing to spend big money for top spirits do so for their complexity, I doubt they would be inclined to spend few money for a simplified clone. I certainly wouldn't. Difference would be similar to tasting pure vanilla powder and vanillin powder: main taste is the same, what's lacking is the complexity and so the real pleasure. If I don't have money to spend on expensive spirits or foods then I much prefer a top quality beer than a bad clone of Chateau Margaux, or a perfect fruit to a pastry cream made with vanillin.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Teo

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This kind of thing is always interesting. If they succeed, that's interesting. If they fail, so is that. Whatever they learn along the way is guaranteed to be interesting. 

 

The fact that we know so little about what's in most fermented+distilled+aged foods is fascinating in and of itself. I like that there's mystery there. That doesn't mean I'm opposed to attempts at solving the mysteries, or finding more efficient ways to duplicate results. 

 

On another note, when I saw the photo attached to the Economist article, I thought it was going to be about something else: vacuum distillation. This, I'm convinced, will be a new frontier. When it takes off, we will taste whiskeys and brandies with flavors like we've never experienced. 

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Notes from the underbelly

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per the TV shows . . . .

 

the done-gone legal moonshiners demonstrated an extremely accelerated process to turn moonshine liquor into 'fine aged whiskey'

 

so, the jury is out. 

but anyone producing an inexpensive bottle of booze that is +/- not indistinguishably from the real deal, to the average tongue, will have a winner.

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I'm not so sure that adding a few chemicals will give raw ethanol the full body of a great scotch. I'd imagine that there are hundreds of flavor molecules in scotch, the sum of which gives the taste.

 

This effort may run afoul of NAFTA and EU liquor definitions which I assume stipulate aging as a part of being scotch. I know they played hell with the definition of bourbon, labeling Tennessee paint remover (Jack D) as a legitimate bourbon .

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On 7/14/2019 at 9:23 PM, gfweb said:

I'm not so sure that adding a few chemicals will give raw ethanol the full body of a great scotch. I'd imagine that there are hundreds of flavor molecules in scotch, the sum of which gives the taste.

 

With most complex stuff (especially fermented / distilled / aged stuff) there are thousands of organic compounds present. But scientists usually find it's a relatively small number that are responsible for the sensory qualities. The trick is figuring out exactly which ones matter and which ones don't. With something like scotch, the knowledge is probably incomplete. This doesn't mean it won't be solved eventually.

 

I don't see the labelling / regulatory barriers as being a problem. Why does it have to be called scotch? If you call it something else, you won't run afoul of the rules, and you won't piss off the purists (as much).

 

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Notes from the underbelly

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Posted (edited)

If money were no object, I think I would be tempted to put aside a supply of the real thing In the near future. Especially after seeing on the news, last night, the story about the tainted alcohol deaths in Costa Rica. It seems as if it is only a matter of time before one will have to pay an even greater premium to be assured of the provenance of what's in your liquor cabinet.

HC


Edited by HungryChris (log)

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It’s interesting that one can come close to duplicating something that took years to make in the lab

 

Call me old fashion but there is something I like about the time honored process of distilling and aging in wood and the chemical reactions that occur in the barrel.  

 

Two barrels lying next to each other in the rickhouse with the same distillate barreled at the same time can be so different.  Yet the position in a rickhouse can in itself create a significant difference if it’s a multilevel structure due to temperature differences.   

 

Just like people, I like diversity

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3 hours ago, scubadoo97 said:

It’s interesting that one can come close to duplicating something that took years to make in the lab

 

Call me old fashion but there is something I like about the time honored process of distilling and aging in wood and the chemical reactions that occur in the barrel.  

 

Two barrels lying next to each other in the rickhouse with the same distillate barreled at the same time can be so different.  Yet the position in a rickhouse can in itself create a significant difference if it’s a multilevel structure due to temperature differences.   

 

Just like people, I like diversity

 

And then the rickhouse burns down.  Me, I put trust in folks like Takaminine Jokichi.

 

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Posted (edited)

Artificial "aged" wine pairs well with food with artificial truffle oil.

 

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

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