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Info Article #2 - Creating Flavorful Spirits

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  • Harry
    Creating a Flavorful Spirit Scott L. Hegenbart Alcoholic beverages have grown in number thanks to an ever- expanding range of flavors. Flavoring an
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 29, 2006
      Creating a Flavorful Spirit

      Scott L. Hegenbart


      Alcoholic beverages have grown in number thanks to an ever-
      expanding range of flavors. Flavoring an alcohol-containing
      beverage, however, requires much more than sensory profiling to
      determine the correct use level. (No matter how much fun such
      extensive sensory testing may seem.) Naturally, alcohol's strong
      effect on a beverage's flavor profile is a major concern, but
      product designers also must address many challenges that differ
      greatly from typical product development concerns. In fact,
      creating, selecting and using a flavor in an alcohol-containing
      beverage requires product designers to delicately balance technical
      issues, legal issues and consumer issues.


      Flavor essentials
      Unlike many food products, added flavors often are the sole source
      of distinguishing flavor in an alcoholic beverage. In the last
      decade or so, the importance of added flavor has increased
      tremendously as consumers have demanded unique products, such as
      flavored beers, that aren't possible to achieve through typical
      processing/brewing.
      According to David Dafoe, president, Pro-Liquitech, Louisville,
      KY, this all started with the wine-cooler craze. Previously, the
      alcoholic beverage market consisted simply of spirits, wine, beer,
      cordials and so on. Suddenly, wine coolers came on the scene, making
      wine more mainstream and taking market share away from beer.

      "That was all achieved by using flavors," Dafoe says. "They just
      diluted the wine to a lower proof, added sugar and flavors, and they
      could make wine taste like anything they wanted it to."

      Within each cooler company, the same wine base is used for pretty
      much every product in the line. The only major difference between a
      citrus cooler or a berry one is the flavor.

      "Now the same thing is happening with malt-based beverages," Dafoe
      adds. "Processors simply take the malt base and use flavors to make
      a strawberry, or whatever."

      Using a malt base and wine base presents the further flavor
      challenge of compensating for the flavor contribution of the base
      itself. Why not just use more neutral-tasting spirits? The main
      reason is ingredient costs. More specifically, the tax rate of the
      alcohol-containing ingredients.

      "Grain neutral spirits are taxed at $13.50 per proof gallon. The
      alcohol itself is around $1 to $1.25, depending on the quality,"
      Dafoe says. "A proof gallon is actually a wine gallon at 100 proof.
      Grain spirits at 190 proof would almost be double that, so you're
      talking about $26 on top of the $1."

      For example, a prepared cocktail may have originally been
      formulated with rum taxed at about $13.50 a proof gallon. Switching
      to wine base allows product formulators to achieve a beverage with
      the same proof, but with an alcohol-containing ingredient taxed at
      less than $2 a proof gallon. Malt base is taxed at a still lower
      rate per proof gallon, making it even less expensive to use. The
      time and expense of masking the flavor of the base with added
      flavors is usually insignificant compared with the ongoing tax
      savings once the product is in production.


      Taxing legal issues
      Although many formulation challenges present themselves when
      flavoring an alcoholic beverage, it's the legal requirements for
      alcohol-containing products that put the real pressure on.
      Unlike juices and other nonalcoholic drinks, which are either self-
      regulated or regulated through the U.S. Food and Drug
      Administration, all alcoholic beverages are monitored by the Bureau
      of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). The BATF not only must
      approve a product's formula, but it must approve and assign an BATF
      number to any flavor ingredients used therein.

      If such hurdles weren't enough, consumers' tastes change very
      rapidly in the alcoholic-beverage category. This is true not only
      for flavor varieties, but in the types of beverages they desire.
      Meeting consumer demands on a timely basis, while covering all of
      the legal bases, requires careful planning and working closely with
      flavor suppliers and the BATF.

      The first step in getting a flavor approved involves sending an 8-
      oz. sample along with an information sheet to the BATF. This sheet
      doesn't have to disclose all of the ingredients, so it retains the
      flavor's proprietary nature. However, certain restricted ingredients
      must be listed, including: vanillin, ethyl vanillin, synthetic
      maltol, ethyl maltol, ester gum, brominated vegetable oil, sodium
      benzoate, gum arabic, propylene glycol, BHA and acetic acid.

      The BATF disclosure sheet must include the specific ppm of these
      ingredients. The reason for this is that the BATF sets maximum
      finished product use levels of these ingredients, and will use the
      information provided to set a maximum use rate for the flavor when
      it is approved.

      Approval or disapproval is largely determined on whether the
      flavor is potable. A flavor ingredient can't be a beverage on its
      own, so someone at the BATF actually drinks a sample of the flavor
      as the official test. If the flavor turns out to be potable, it's
      rejected.


      How long is does this approval take?
      "It depends on the activity at BATF," says Bruce Roberts, manager,
      beverage business development, McCormick Flavor Division, Akron,
      OH. "It can take as long as a month."
      New procedures, however, have slimmed the process down. Flavors
      may be submitted for approval and be linked with the finished-
      product formula supplied by the beverage processor.

      "Now, because BATF prioritizes (approvals) based on an active
      product being worked on, it'll say 'here's a flavor going into a
      product' and speed (the process) up," Roberts says. "If there really
      is time pressure involved, approval can even be as fast as a day."

      As with many things with alcoholic beverages, the potability issue
      is a matter of taxes. Alcohol in a beverage is taxed. That which is
      used as an industrial chemical, such as a solvent in flavor
      ingredients, is not. If a flavor contains 50% alcohol, for instance,
      the flavor supplier pays taxes on that alcohol first. When they sell
      a flavor, they file a form with the government and eventually get
      reimbursed for the tax. The approval process is part of the system
      that allows the BATF to track and monitor the taxable vs. non-
      taxable alcohol.

      "The BATF rules are very sketchy," Dafoe says. "The same flavor
      could be approved one day and rejected another."

      With some of the new changes, waiting for flavor approval may not
      seem like such a hurdle. But keep in mind that it is only the first
      of three approvals necessary for a beverage product. The next two
      are BATF approvals for the beverage formula itself and for the
      label. (The approval procedure for beverages and labels is detailed
      in "Getting the Spirit In: Creating Alcoholic Beverages," December
      1995 Food Product Design.)

      To make the approval more efficient, flavor houses strive to
      develop close working relationships with the BATF. Many companies
      also offer entire lines of flavors already formulated for alcoholic
      beverages that are approved and ready-to-use. These off-the-shelf
      flavors don't take into account variations in the formula and the
      potential effects of different ingredients. They also aren't
      suitable for a company looking for something unique. Consequently, a
      custom flavor still may be necessary, and product designers must
      plan for the extra time in the development timetable. Designers can,
      however, make flavor development easier by understanding how a
      flavor might interact with key alcoholic beverage ingredients.


      Behavior modification
      One reason flavor development is so critical to alcoholic
      beverages is the effect that alcohol itself has on flavor
      ingredients. Alcohol is a strong base with which to work. First, the
      alcohol will contribute a burning sensation upon consumption that
      must be masked with higher flavor levels. Next, it will misbalance
      the flavor perception of the product.
      "Alcohol does indeed change the way flavors are delivered," says
      Dafoe. "Essentially, it brings out the esters, and tends to hide
      some notes that would ordinary be in the background."

      Let's say, for instance, a designer takes the flavor from a
      successful apple-flavored soft drink and uses it in a 70-proof apple
      cordial. Although it may have worked perfectly in the soft drink,
      all of the flavor's subtle nuances -- the middle and the back notes -
      - will be lost. On the other hand, the esters in the flavor will be
      highly accentuated giving an unusually strong fruity taste and
      aroma. The consumer would taste the burn of the alcohol and
      fruitiness, but not be able to identify it as apple.

      "It changes the whole balance," Dafoe says. "You taste 'fruity,'
      but may not be sure what fruit it is, because you lose all of the
      notes that identify that flavor as an apple flavor."

      The challenge for the flavor company is to take that flavor and
      rebalance it. All of the missing middle and back notes may need to
      be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in order for them to be
      perceived correctly in the finished flavor.

      Things can become even more complex when using a malt or wine base
      instead of grain neutral spirits. Here, not only does the alcohol
      affect the flavor profile, the inherent flavor of the base can
      interfere, too. Even a highly processed wine base will have some
      flavor of its own.

      "It may have a lot of esters that must then be reduced even
      further in the flavor to re-balance the profile," Dafoe says. "In
      malt base, you have all those yeasty notes that must either be
      covered up or used in the flavor profile somehow."

      Dafoe adds that working the residual flavors of malt base into the
      flavor profile is very challenging. Most designers will probably
      choose to cover these flavors with higher sugar levels, higher acid
      levels, higher flavor levels or some combination of the three.

      "If a consumer tastes those yeasty, hoppy flavors in a cooler,
      their expectations will be disappointed," says Dafoe. "The industry
      makes a great effort to mask or minimize the effects of any flavors
      in the base."

      In spite of the best efforts of product designers and flavorists,
      some flavors just can't be done with a malt base. Tropical flavors
      work well because they have sulphury notes that blend in well with
      the malt. Citrus flavors and raspberry or strawberry, however, never
      seem to be able to overcome it.

      "That's why you see strawberry-kiwi or raspberry-passionfruit,"
      Dafoe says. "The combination gets around it."


      Cooperative efforts
      Besides customizing the flavor for a proper profile in the
      finished product, custom flavors also give product designers better
      creativity in the volatile beverage market. Some beverage companies
      tend to use the same flavors over and over. They already are
      approved, have a proven shelf-life history and avoid the hassles of
      adding a new ingredient to the purchasing system. This practice,
      however, has a major downside.
      "Over time, all the products a company makes can seem a bit
      similar," says Dafoe. "Sometimes, you can tell when a certain person
      is developing a product because they tend to be recognizable."

      Take care not to get too accustomed to working with the same
      flavors. Strive not only to be a little different from the last
      product created, but different from recent entries by competitors as
      well.

      Custom development is well worth the time and effort. With a
      little knowledge about what might happen to a flavor in an alcohol-
      containing beverage, designers can better coordinate the development
      of a flavor ingredient and its BATF approval with the formulation
      and BATF approval of the product itself. In this way, products will
      be more unique, but still be on the market in a reasonable amount of
      time.

      When working on a custom flavor, try to describe as much as
      possible what the project objectives are. Most flavor companies have
      staff members who specialize in testing flavors in various bases to
      see what will work and what won't. Take advantage of this
      experience.

      Flavor companies that are accustomed to dealing with alcoholic
      beverages will at least want to know the sugar level, the alcohol
      proof and if it's to be carbonated. Initially, they may send
      something off the shelf to start bench-testing. These results will
      help guide the supplier's flavorists when they adjust the flavor to
      the product.

      An experienced product developer might even give the flavorist
      instructions as to which flavor components need to be raised or
      lowered, or describe the effect they want. Any such information can
      greatly help the flavorist determine how to reformulate.


      Processing (non)issues
      With most food products, the processing method can cause
      significant flavor changes. This is mainly due to flash-off and off-
      flavor development during cooking or pasteurization. Although
      flavors designed for alcoholic beverages are no different in their
      sensitivity to such changes, they tend not to be exposed to much
      heat.
      "Generally, in processing, there is very little heat, because you
      don't want to flash the alcohol off," Dafoe says. "Unlike juices,
      etc., that are pasteurized, alcoholic beverages don't have to share
      this concern."

      Yes, brewing and distillation do require heat. However, most
      flavors are typically added after the brewing or distillation
      process is completed, so they don't receive the exposure.
      Pasteurization is rarely, if ever, done, because alcohol is a
      natural preservative.

      "Anything over 20 proof is naturally preserved and doesn't require
      pasteurization nor a preservative," Dafoe says. "Some of the low-
      proof cocktails just use preservatives instead of pasteurization, so
      heat is not an issue."

      Although they may avoid heat exposure in the plant, flavors in
      alcoholic beverages still must be protected from light, excess heat
      and excess cold that can change flavors over time during
      distribution. Even minor changes in a flavor can have a dramatic
      effect on alcohol beverages because they contain anywhere from five
      to 10 times more flavor ingredients than other nonalcoholic
      beverages. It's not uncommon to use 2.5% to 4.0%. This is especially
      true in cordials, where a strong flavor impact is desired, and in
      higher-proof beverages that have more alcohol flavor to mask. At
      such high use levels, the whole product can change dramatically with
      only slight changes in the flavor.

      For the most part, special packaging -- such as colored bottles,
      or tall multipack cartons combined with low neck wraps -- help
      conceal the product from light. Temperature variations, however, are
      not so easily overcome. One of the main problems in storage is the
      heat encountered in many warehouses, even in the winter months.

      In the past, most alcoholic beverage distributors only carried
      spirits. Wine wasn't that popular and beer is distributed by a
      different system. In a hot warehouse, ordinary spirits are
      unaffected. Some, like bourbon, actually improve. With the flood of
      new products with different alcohol bases in the last 20 to 25
      years, these same warehouses now carry heat-sensitive products.

      "I know of warehouses in parts of the south that reach 140°F every
      day for months," says Dafoe. "At a minimum, product developers
      should do elevated-temperature shelf-life studies."

      Malt base is the most delicate of bases, as it generally has a
      short shelf life similar to that of beer. The flavor of malt base is
      likely to change as much as, if not more than, that of any added
      flavors. Consequently, the product may end up tasting "skunky," even
      though the flavor itself hasn't changed. Wine bases present a
      similar sort of problem, but they tend to be more stable than malt
      bases.

      Flavors do have the tendency to marry and fade over time. In
      addition, keep in mind that these flavors are delicately balanced to
      deliver a desired profile in the presence of alcohol. Testing and
      sensory work must confirm that certain components of the flavor
      ingredient aren't fading or being accentuated over time to destroy
      this delicate balance.

      "Say you have a product in which the esters are fading," Dafoe
      says. "You may be left with none of those fruity notes."

      In such cases, it may be best not to adjust the overpowering
      fruitiness of the esters in the flavor ingredient. The product may
      not taste quite right when it's first made, but after three weeks --
      the time it takes to go through the distribution system -- it will
      be fine. The only way to determine this will be through shelf-life
      testing.

      Balancing technical, legal and consumer issues is definitely the
      key to flavoring an alcoholic beverage. In addition to all of the
      typical product development concerns, BATF approvals, special shelf-
      life evaluations and distribution studies can make such projects
      seem frustratingly challenging. By taking the time to understand
      what happens to flavor in alcoholic beverages, product designers can
      take advantage of suppliers' flavoring experience. That way, they
      can give consumers the variety of new beverages they want within a
      timetable that gets it to them when they want it.


      Unnaturally Natural
      Unlike other product categories, certain alcoholic beverage
      flavors can be called "natural" even though they may contain
      artificial ingredients. This category is called "BATF Natural." BATF
      Natural flavors may contain up to a certain ppm of specifically
      restricted flavor ingredients in the finished product. (See examples
      below).
      Examples of BATF Limitations for Artificial Ingredients:

      Additive--Limitation in Finished Product
      Acetic Acid -- 1,500 ppm

      BHA -- <0.5% of essential oil

      Brominated Vegetable Oil -- 15 ppm

      Ester Gum -- 100 ppm

      Ethyl Maltol -- 100 ppm

      Ethyl Vanillin -- 16 ppm

      Gum Arabic/Acacia -- 10,000 ppm

      Propylene Glycol -- 50,000 ppm

      Sodium Benzoate -- 1,000 ppm

      Synthetic Maltol -- 250 ppm

      Vanillin -- 40ppm
      Furthermore, a BATF Natural flavor may contain up to 0.1% of any
      nonrestricted artificial flavor ingredient. Why is this rule in
      place? Flavoring alcoholic beverages is difficult. It requires very
      high levels of flavor to overcome the burn of the alcohol. In some
      cases, the only thing that will overcome this is artificial flavor
      ingredients.

      An added benefit of this rule is that it can help control flavor
      costs, an important point considering the high use levels in
      alcoholic beverages. For example, a certain flavor component may be
      very expensive. The flavor supplier can use an artificial version
      for up to the 0.1% allowed. Since most artificial counterparts are
      less expensive, this can help lower the cost of the flavor.

      -------------------------------------------------------------------


      Slainte!
      regards Harry
    • Robert N
      Harry yet again, I am in ore of your knowledge on this subject, not to mention the time it takes to research and read through the tomes of knowledge to find
      Message 2 of 6 , Jan 30, 2006
        Harry yet again, I am in ore of your knowledge on this subject, not to
        mention the time it takes to research and read through the tomes of
        knowledge to find such gems. Then the time it takes to write constructive
        answers to us that have less time to spend at such a worthy hobby.



        Wondering how the authorities would take it if you were nominated for an
        Australia Day Award (seriously) for your effort.



        Yours in Spirit



        Robert N

        _____



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Lindsay Williams
        What sort of ore would he be?? Gold ore? I can just see Harry cringing with the publicity for being an ace distiller in a land where that is illegal!!
        Message 3 of 6 , Jan 30, 2006
          What sort of 'ore' would he be?? Gold ore?

          I can just see Harry cringing with the publicity for being an ace
          distiller in a land where that is illegal!!

          Cheers,
          Lindsay.


          --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "Robert N" <dinks_c@y...> wrote:
          >
          > Harry yet again, I am in ore of your knowledge on this subject, not to
          > mention the time it takes to research and read through the tomes of
          > knowledge to find such gems. Then the time it takes to write
          constructive
          > answers to us that have less time to spend at such a worthy hobby.
          >
          >
          >
          > Wondering how the authorities would take it if you were nominated for an
          > Australia Day Award (seriously) for your effort.
          >
          >
          >
          > Yours in Spirit
          >
          >
          >
          > Robert N
          >
          > _____
          >
          >
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
        • Harry
          ... .......Too right mate! The bloody wollopers would have a field day! ... Slainte! regards Harry
          Message 4 of 6 , Jan 30, 2006
            --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "Lindsay Williams"
            <lindsay.nz@g...> wrote:
            >
            > What sort of 'ore' would he be?? Gold ore?

            ........Hopefully not a worn out old 'ore. :-~

            >
            > I can just see Harry cringing with the publicity for being an ace
            > distiller in a land where that is illegal!!



            .......Too right mate! The bloody wollopers would have a field day!
            <BFG>


            >
            > Cheers,
            > Lindsay.



            Slainte!
            regards Harry
          • Andrew Bugal
            C mon Lindsay, The authorities here are too busy with speed cameras on safe roads. Anything that requires effort for little return is not their interest.
            Message 5 of 6 , Jan 30, 2006
              C'mon Lindsay,

              The authorities here are too busy with speed cameras on safe roads. Anything that requires effort for little return is not their interest. Besides mate, you know we started off as crims - Lillee and his superb bowling against the Kiwis demonstrated that. It's part of the national heritage. Besides, we are only distilling perfume essences aren't we? I am surpised Harry didn't get a gong on Australia day. Shows free enterprise and individualism - great Aussie traits (with a healthy disregard for authority and the ridiculous prices charged for bottled, under-proof spirits today).

              Keeo on 'stilling. Life is too short for cheap booze and slow women.

              Regards,

              bwyze

              Lindsay Williams <lindsay.nz@...> wrote:
              What sort of 'ore' would he be?? Gold ore?

              I can just see Harry cringing with the publicity for being an ace
              distiller in a land where that is illegal!!

              Cheers,
              Lindsay.


              --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "Robert N" wrote:
              >
              > Harry yet again, I am in ore of your knowledge on this subject, not to
              > mention the time it takes to research and read through the tomes of
              > knowledge to find such gems. Then the time it takes to write
              constructive
              > answers to us that have less time to spend at such a worthy hobby.
              >
              >
              >
              > Wondering how the authorities would take it if you were nominated for an
              > Australia Day Award (seriously) for your effort.
              >
              >
              >
              > Yours in Spirit
              >
              >
              >
              > Robert N
              >
              > _____
              >
              >
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              >






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              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Harry
              ... not to ... constructive ... for an ... Thank you for the recognition, Rob. However I don t write these Info Articles. It s just stuff in my research
              Message 6 of 6 , Jan 30, 2006
                --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "Robert N" <dinks_c@y...> wrote:
                >
                > Harry yet again, I am in ore of your knowledge on this subject,
                not to
                > mention the time it takes to research and read through the tomes of
                > knowledge to find such gems. Then the time it takes to write
                constructive
                > answers to us that have less time to spend at such a worthy hobby.
                >
                >
                >
                > Wondering how the authorities would take it if you were nominated
                for an
                > Australia Day Award (seriously) for your effort.
                >
                >
                >
                > Yours in Spirit
                >
                >
                >
                > Robert N



                Thank you for the recognition, Rob. However I don't write these
                Info Articles. It's just stuff in my research collection that I've
                picked up along the way. The Authors are at the top of the
                articles. I collect this stuff for posterity, and pass it on to
                distillers, because the internet is a fickle place. Many sites are
                here today, gone tomorrow, along with all that wonderful information.
                re the award nom...(blush) Please don't. I'm too old to be trying
                to make booze outta canned fruit & old socks in some nasty little
                cellblock. :-) (appreciate the thought, but)

                Slainte!
                regards Harry
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