TESTING YOUR SPIRITS IN THE NEW AGE SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING BORROWED, AND SOMETHING NEW WRITTEN BY GARY SPEDDING, PH.D.
Following on from many questions we receive from craft distillers about testing of spirits and, after extensive discussions with several distilling scientists at the Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference held in Glasgow, Scotland, it became clear that, even at an international level, there is much to be discussed regarding the testing of distilled spirits.
KEY TERMS AND ABBREVIATIONS WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
nlike for brewers and winemakers, who are well represented by scientific organizations, newer distillers have a much harder time finding the details required for establishing a decent quality control testing program for their products. In contrast, the American Society of Brewing Chemists, in existence since 1935, provides members with access to a hearty tome called the Methods of Analysis Manual, collaborative methods testing, and a Journal publishing state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed brewing and beer research results. In Europe, there exist numerous organizations producing their own methods manuals and journals including the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD), which now crosses the boundary between brewing and distilling. Similarly, winemakers in the US are represented by the American Society of Enologists and Viticulturists (ASEV). Currently craft distillers are only represented to any degree by two recently established, small, but growing organizations — the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and the American Distilling Institute (ADI). Even with the ADI and the ACSA organizations there is a clear need for better resources for today’s distiller — at any level of operation — and most certainly for the science-support personnel working within the industry and guiding the
GC (Gas chromatography) HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography)
quality of final products. Some methods of immediate use for the distiller are to be found in the expensive volumes from the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists (AOAC) or via membership of this body which approves methods for testing of food and beverages. Moreover, the AOAC is recognized as the source of officially proven and accepted methods of analysis for many commodities including beer, wine, and spirits (see Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International – 20th Edition, 2016 — though an $800.00 purchase!). The US Tax and Trade Bureau provides some information on methods and instruments they accept for official testing/reporting purposes, but it seems that craft distillers are largely unaware of these resources. Of note though, for US distillers is that a list of beverage testing methods is provided on the TTB website: www.ttb.gov/ssd/ pdf/list_of_beverage_methods.pdf. Also, little known is the European Commission Regulation (EC) N0 2870/2000, (www. publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/ publication/b858d9a9-7fd3-4b3b-9cdf31f1e2e499f0), a Community reference guide to methods for the analysis of spirit drinks. These resources should be located and utilized by craft distillers. However, as a starting
Proof (US degrees Proof – 2 x’s the % alcohol by volume as expressed at 60°F)
Real extract (most simply expressed as degrees Plato or grams/100 grams - defined in the text)