Experiments were conducted to identify a compound responsible for a spicy, woody, incense-like odor note in oak-aged spirits. The target compound was extracted from oak wood and various oak-aged spirits and analyzed by multidimensional (heart-cut) gas chromatography–mass spectrometry–olfactometry (MD–GC–MS–O), and was unambiguously identified as the sesquiterpene ketone, 5-isopropenyl-3,8-dimethyl-3,4,5,6,7,8-hexadydro-1(2H)-azulenone (rotundone). Quantitation of the trace-level target compound was done by stable isotope dilution analysis (SIDA) in a variety of oak-aged spirits, including bourbon, rye, Tennessee whiskey, scotch, rum, and tequila. The content of rotundone was found to increase as a function of years of barrel aging for 4-, 8-, and 12-year-old bourbons obtained from the same manufacturer, thus confirming its origin to be from oak. In addition, odor-activity values (OAVs) were compared for selected potent odorants, including rotundone, in the same 4-, 8-, and 12-year-old bourbons, which indicated the relative importance of rotundone in the overall flavor of oak-aged spirits.
- stable isotope dilution
- gas chromatography–olfactometry