App note AS-303: Analytical Workflows for Distilled Spirits Analysis


12th June 2023

Having recently attended the Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference in Edinburgh, I was reminded of the complexity of the processes involved. Whether it be the choice of raw material (Sugar cane, Agave, or Barley, for example, the fermentation process, or the choice of Barrel for aging (In Scotch Whisky of course the choice is limited to Oak, but not so for others). The Chemistry and Flavour of spirits is a fascinating topic sand one in which I am still learning so much about. In order to understand any process or product fully, reliable, and robust analytical methods are required that provide as much information about a sample as possible. The use of appropriate sample preparation, instrumentation and also data processing protocols are key to obtaining the required information and enabling key decisions to be made. The link to sensory is also key as the consumer is the final judge of any product.

Measurement of the volatile profiles of alcoholic beverages are important both for understanding the impact of processes on flavour characteristics and investigating counterfeit products. Compounds responsible may be present at extremely low levels, resulting in the need for sensitive and robust methods.

There are a number of techniques that can be employed for the analysis of flavours from liquid samples, many of which can be fully automated. For some spirits a simple ‘dilute and shoot’ approach may be possible, but in order to detect compounds present at low levels, some level of enrichment is often required.

Automated liquid- liquid extraction, including dispersive liquid liquid micro extraction (DiLLME) or techniques based on headspace extraction such as solid phase microextraction (SPME) and dynamic headspace (DHS) are designed to provide a high level of enrichment and to extract the maximum range of compounds.

The use of comprehensive 2- dimensional GC (GCxGC) and fast scanning TOF MS instrumentation can also enhance the number of compounds detected and simplify data processing. The use of untargeted data analysis and statistical data processing can provide an efficient way to compare samples and identify the compounds responsible for the differences.

The work set out in this application note discusses the choice of sample preparation technique and gives examples of sample analysis of distilled spirits. Data analysis strategies are also discussed.

If you would like to know more, please see link to the application note or contact us directly.

Kathy Ridgway | Senior Applications Chemist

I gained my first degree from the University of Surrey and during more than ten years working for Unilever Research, I completed my PhD at the University of Loughborough entitled “Determination of trace contaminants in food”. My work focused upon alternative extraction techniques, in particular stir bar sorptive extraction to examine taints and off-flavours in foods.

Before joining Anatune, I worked as a technical specialist for RSSL in Reading.

I have published papers, contributed chapters to several books and written a review on the topic of off-flavours and taints in food. I have also been a long-term customer of Anatune and have used GERSTEL instrumentation extensively.

I am a Chartered Chemist, an active member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, in particular as a member of the food group committee.  I am also a season ticket holder and enthusiastic supporter of Everton FC.

I joined Anatune as a GC-MS applications chemist in June 2014.  I love the variety of applications that we see in the lab and working with our customers to provide an automated solution that works for them is very satisfying. I am really excited about continuing my career as part of Element.