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While the human genome can, in principle, express around 1,000 olfactory receptors, in fact, typically most humans have around 350 olfactory receptors expressed. Given that it is generally considered that humans can detect many thousands of aromas, it seems that there is not one receptor for each aroma. The current thinking is that an aroma molecule interacts with a number of receptors and that it is this unique pattern that defines specific aromas of pure flavor compounds. By way of example, if each aroma-active compound interacts with an average of three receptors, then there are around 20 million combinations, more than enough to explain all of the aroma nuances that humans can perceive. We know that individuals vary enormously in their flavor assessment abilities. This can be due to training history, over- or under-expression of specific receptors, and even nasal geometry. If we lack a specific aroma-detecting ability, this is known as an anosmia, and it is likely that we all have some anosmic tendencies. Training can help individuals understand the strengths and weaknesses of their sensory repertoire. While we will not discuss training further here, it cannot be overemphasized as to how important rigorous training is when striving for reliable sensory evaluation. Poor data will lead to potentially wrong/bad decisions. Any producer of foods and drinks relies on sensory assessment both during production and of final products, as it is not feasible to pass product or work-in-progress by reliance on analytical methodology alone, no matter how sophisticated. For the distiller, nosing or tasting raw materials, such as water, yeast, and grains

can help to head off at least some potentially compromising negative flavors, reducing the risk of substandard product quality. Here though we will consider three spirit assessment scenarios commonly faced by the distiller:

»»Appraisal of NGS »»Evaluation of white spirits »»Evaluation of brown spirits When used, NGS plays a huge part in both the production and the final quality of the target product. As such, it is essential that NGS is thoroughly assessed before being used. It is unadvisable to nose and certainly to taste NGS as is. At around 95-96% ABV, the experience is likely to be, at the least, unpleasant. In common with the appraisal of other spirit products, NGS should be diluted to a suitable strength. The rule-of-thumb is to dilute distilled spirits to around 20-23% ABV (although products such as Cognac are often appraised at around 34% ABV). For NGS, this is a dilution of around one volume of spirit to four volumes of taint-free water. The rationale here is that dilution reduces the burn of the spirit which can mask its other potentially vital attributes. This burn is perceived by trigeminal or pain receptors (the same system that detects spicy food and carbonation). Sample dilution also helps to disrupt the ethanol clusters that are present at higher ethanol concentrations, which in themselves can trap flavor compounds. There are various sensory schemes that can be applied to the

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Artisan Spirit: Fall 2017  
Artisan Spirit: Fall 2017  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.