Part art, part science: the mystery of flavour chemistry.
Obsession is in the Wolf’s nature. Obsession with doing things the right way. Obsession with pushing boundaries. With harnessing both distiller’s art and exacting science to perfect what goes into every glass.
When it comes to flavour, this is where the obsession really comes to the fore. It took 192 unique distillations to decide on the final recipe for LoneWolf. That was the result of hours of tasting and a serious amount of analysis in our onsite lab. We’ve given you plenty of insights into how the distillery and our distillers impact on our flavour. It’s about time we introduced you to the other vital part of this process.
Dzeti and Dulcie, members of our in-house research science team and all-round analysis wizards.
One of the things we can test for in the lab is flavour compounds by gas chromatography. The GC identifies the various volatile flavour compounds in a liquid, and also how abundant they are in the sample. Here’s what our flavour profile looks like from that analysis:
The y-axis measures flavour compound abundance, the x-axis shows the spread of flavour compounds. We’re looking for pronounced spikes, spread over a long and balanced flavour profile.
What you can see from the chart above is the resinous juniper and bright citrus flavour compounds that we’re looking for up-front are shining through – alpha-Pinene, d-Limonene, and gamma-Terpinene especially. When we break it down, the intended flavour profile of LoneWolf Gin can be broken down into over 50 identifiable compounds, mostly monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes.
Source: Good Scents Company flavour compound database: www.thegoodscentscompany.com
The list of possible sources of each flavour compound in LoneWolf Gin goes some way to explaining where the art comes into distilling. There are few flavour compounds that are uniquely provided by one botanical. In our list, only beta.-Cadinene stands alone in that respect. Distilling gin is really no different to cooking a good meal. Want to add some spice notes? Will that be peppercorns, coriander, chilli, cardamom, ginger? Citrus notes? Sicilian lemon, Mexican pink grapefruit, Kaffir lime leaves, Thai lemongrass? You get the gist.
The two LoneWolf Gin botanicals conspicuous by their absence from the possible sources list are almond and orris root. What does that mean? Both are renowned for other properties, that are not measured by a gas chromatograph.
The flavour compounds (much like the proteins that cause allergy) in almonds are far too heavy to carry over in the vapour in a distillation. What it does bring to the party, along with using grain to distil from, is a silky mouthfeel. This helps to coat the flavour receptors in the mouth, helping you to detect and savour those flavours more effectively. Orris root on its own has a parma violet-like flavour from the likes of irilone and irisolone compounds, but neither of these flavour compounds have been detected in our analysis. Traditional distilling wisdom says that orris root helps bind the other flavours together as a fixative. There is little scientific evidence to support this, but from a sensorial perspective we just know that LoneWolf Gin with orris root tastes better than LoneWolf Gin without orris root. Most things can be explained by science, but sometimes the answer lies in the mysterious. And we quite like that.
What this part art, part science approach to flavour chemistry has resulted in is that resinous – citrus – spicy – earthy – floral – back to resinous flavour profile that we set out to achieve. It also gives us that flavour cloud when you pour in tonic water. What the distillers call a louche (loo-sh). The majority of the flavour compounds in LoneWolf Gin are alkylbenzyl compounds, insoluble in water but soluble in ethanol. When anything is added that dilutes the ethanol, like tonic or ice, those compounds drop out of solution and form a cloud. That flavour cloud is why we will never filter LoneWolf Gin. Vanity should never win over flavour. Ever.
Where the flavour compound profiling of our gin comes in particularly useful is in quality control. Things like checking that each batch is within specification. Trialling new ingredients suppliers. And also investigating what could cause any variation after bottling: how gin is packaged and transported, and even how it is stored in the home.
More about that coming soon...