sufficiently volatile. Thus for botanicals macerated without subsequent distillation (eg. in colored absinthe production) other approaches are required in addition to GCMS, such as UV-visible spectroscopy, which can detect extracted colors and tannins. Another approach that we are actively exploring is the development of near-infrared spectroscopic calibrations for key botanicals. The advantage here is minimal sample preparation and analysis time and has found utility in the quality control of other agricultural commodities. Once a reference material has been prepared it should be stored appropriately. Careful thought needs to be given to the storage volume of a sample, and it is strongly advisable to divide up material into several containers to minimize contamination and oxygen ingress by repeated opening and closing. For instance, for GCMS analysis, a small sample (100 – 1000 μl) in sealed vials restricts oxygen ingress and is highly compact. Brown-colored vials are useful for reducing light-induced degradation, although in some instances these vials are brown due to the use of iron(III) in the glass, which can be a strong oxidizing agent that has the potential to degrade the oil content. For samples required for sensory analysis, larger volumes are generally required, although 5 – 10 ml of oils1 should be sufficient, in the context that gin and absinthe contain around 100 mg and 1.5 g/l oils. For intact solids, a sample of 100 g should be sufficient for work-up to a final reference standard. Whilst it is challenging to prepare a flavor reference library, the benefits can be significant, contributing to the selection and use of botanicals for the production of premium quality distilled spirits. We are currently exploring how such a precompetitive library might be established for the benefit of distillers producing botanically-based distilled spirits.
Paul Hughes, Ph.D. is assistant professor of food science and technology at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR. For more information visit www. oregonstate.edu or call (541) 737-4595.
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1 A rough calculation based on typical recipes and the published oil contents of the common botanicals.
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