Analysis Request – Spirits
Spirits, or distilled products, rely on evaporation and condensation to produce a harder alcohol from a lower alcohol base by separating the alcohol from water. Alcohol, however, never evaporates alone. Esters, fusel alcohols, methanol and tannins often evaporate with it. Careful control of both timing and temperature can prevent this, with the basic cycle of distilling divided into fractions. The distillers work is therefore one of extreme precision.
The most important chemical parameter in all distilled products is the alcohol content, referring to the amount of ethyl alcohol as opposed to higher or fusel alcohols. Obscuration is also an important quality indicator, in addition to methanol, acetaldehyde and volatile constituents.
Distilled products should be unadulterated, safe and consistent. Strict alcohol regulations are in place, and knowing the alcohol percentage of your distilled product is essential for labelling purposes. Generally the alcohol content of a distilled product should be at least 43%. Methanol on the other hand, is regulated due to its toxicity to humans. It is oxidized to formic acid and formic aldehyde in the body. Apart from the health implications, methanol, acetaldehyde and volatile constituents present in higher levels may lead to the production of undesirable compounds. This will impact both the aroma and taste of your finished product.
The frequency of testing your distilled product is directly dependent on the starting product used. However, the quality control checks of alcohol content and obscuration can take place throughout the distillation process. Generally, only finished products are tested for methanol, acetaldehyde and volatile constituents.
Various chemical parameters can be tested throughout the distillation process, depending on the starting material used. However, no matter what the starting material, it is essential to test the alcohol content before bottling and labelling your product. If the spirit is intended for export purposes, make sure your distilled product meets all necessary requirements of the destination country.
To ensure a product meets all necessary requirements and is fit for consumption, those involved in the fine art of distillation should always submit samples of the final product for testing.