Craft Spirits July 2021

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point being similar to that of ethanol means a careful heads-to-hearts rectification cut. Unfortunately, many craft spirits can carry this component as a signature fault. Higher alcohols: the fusel alcohols (oils) can also be offensive if they are at too high of a concentration (especially the odor and taste of isoamyl and active amyl alcohols considered unpleasant). They’re produced under poor fermentation conditions and present from an inefficient distillation separation—in the tails fraction of the distillate, along with the cheesy and rancid fatty acids. In some spirits this complex mix of compounds can have some desirable notes and qualities though.


From raw materials and water, through all processes, including milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation— plus packaging—care must be taken to end up with the right flavor profile and avoid the sensory or even bad (toxic) off notes. Ketones: the key here being diacetyl (2,3 butanedione). Odor/flavor active in the low parts per billion concentration, this is the oilyslick compound (tactile sensation) described as buttery, butterscotch or movie popcorn.

It’s more prevalent than desired, and many distillers refuse to admit that is in their spirits. Notable more so in white spirits—vodka and gins—as a defect but may be somewhat desirable if at suitable levels in buttery rums

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