There are many extraordinary chromatography based studies of spirits out there, but do they actually influence producers and stimulate new investment?
I have a feeling many could be designed for more impact and an economical way to do that would be to back up the work with birectifier based fractioning. The best modern spirits studies use gas chromatography olfactometry, but that last component is not that common and is quite pricey. From the large scale producers I’ve talked to, everyone wishes they had olfactometry, but it is always beyond their reach.
The birectifier may be a useful substitute and/or assistant to weave into chromatography based studies. Birectifier work is also far faster and more economical to duplicate. Few can interpret or be inspired by standard chromatography data, such as that presented below, even though it features our hero molecule, β-damascenone at the very top:
Such data likely falls on deaf ears as evidenced by a rum industry promotion of esters while β-damascenone is its top odorant. The study I’m referencing did feature GCO (gas chromatography olfactometry), but few people were likely in the room when it was conducted. The birectifier, as a common instrument, would allow the sample to be repeatably prepared economically and therefore experienced by other researchers or key decision makers interpreting the data. Exotic chromatography is identifying key compounds that drive spirits quality, likely paralleling what Arroyo referred to as “rum oil”, but these studies are failing to inspire investment and an ultimate connection to the marketing of fine spirits (rum oil now belongs to the marketing department).
The birectifier can also teach us a lot about interpreting the data and putting it to practice. Distillers distill, they do not absorb (basis of chromatography) so studying unique bands of volatility can teach us where the desired compounds are and how to manipulate them.
A unique situation for the most desired compounds is that they are slightly less volatile than fusel oil so they are inextricably bound to it. Capturing these extraordinary compounds may not be so much about creating them, but rather reducing the other ordinary compounds that block them. This is the big unglamorous Arroyo concept that is not so easily appreciated by the limitation of small studies. No modern studies explain this concept because they lack broad context.
If we want to reach investment decision makers and market moving influencers, we may need easily reproducible organoleptic backup for the quantified data and the birectifier can do it.
Lets consider one 750 ml bottle of 40% ABV spirit. Most chromatography protocols require 50 ml, or even better, 100 ml spirit sample who’s congeners get extracted with powerful organic solvents (often: hexane/dichloromethane) and eventually concentrated to 1 ml. With the birectifier we can arrive at the same conclusion while increasing context around it.
A new protocol would be to divide that bottle into three portions for the birectifier (each of 250 ml and thus 100 ml of absolute alcohol). Each 250 ml charge is essentially concentrated 10x as well as separated into 8 fractions by volatility (50 ml remaining as stillage). Two of the fractioned portions would be reserved for organoleptic analysis which can educate at least 10 tasting panelists.
The high value congener fraction (#5) of the third portion is already concentrated 10x and has a 2.5x better starting volume than most chromatography protocols (250 ml versus typical 50 or 100 ml). Other biasing/distracting congeners are also cut away which helps analysis. This is then concentrated to 1 ml using standard chromatography isolation methods.
We created archiveable tasting panel material for 10 people and a better than average chromatography sample with more context than usual about where the compounds are volatile. The birectifier samples could also easily be duplicated around the world by readers of the paper that aim to familiarize themselves with and eventually target key odorants like β-damascenone.
The pragmatism and economy of the birectifier marry well with elite GCMS explorations. The results become more actionable and better able to influence producers and investment.
Feel free to reach out privately if you have any questions.