Virginia Tech studies the aging characteristics of American whiskey

· December 18, 2018

American whiskey is an amazingly fast growing sector of the alcoholic beverage market. In 2017 alone, U.S. sales increased by $252 million to reach a total of $3.4 billion, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

Now, two Virginia Tech researchers — Assistant Professor Jacob Lahne and research associate Katherine Phetxumphou of the Department of Food Science and Technology — are working on the first-ever formal sensory study on the aging characteristics of American whiskeys in hopes of informing whiskey recipe development and aiding distillers in fine-tuning their aging processes. The pair are using the department’s Sensory Evaluation Lab to conduct a two-part study on how humans perceive the changes in smell and taste that occur throughout the aging process of different American whiskeys.

Whiskey is made by distilling fermented grain mash and then, in the case of many American varieties, left to mature in oak barrels. The flavor of a whiskey is the result of a multitude of processing and ingredient combinations, but many argue the aging process is what gives a whiskey its most notable features. In the absence of outside data, distillers must rely only on internal testing — their own expert noses and palates — to determine how a batch is coming along, and they have limited understanding of how it will be received by consumers.

Read more about the research here.

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