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(Some drunk)   The science of Jack Daniels   ( divider line
    More: Interesting  
•       •       •

65 clicks; posted to Main » on 11 Nov 2002 at 4:23 PM (14 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2002-11-11 04:31:07 PM  
The goal is to really capture from a chemical standpoint what makes the flavor of Jack Daniel's happen," said Dr. Sophie Hummer

What an unfortunate name for a woman...Dr. HUMMER!?!? bwahahaha
2002-11-11 04:31:28 PM  

That's not a whisky. This is a whisky:

[image from too old to be available]

2002-11-11 04:32:32 PM  
FVCK Jack...drink Crown
2002-11-11 04:32:32 PM  
Mmmm... Black Label
2002-11-11 04:33:46 PM  
I lived for a time in Fayetteville, Tenn about 15 miles from Lynchburg. It's really nice to have friends that work there. Free booze is good.
2002-11-11 04:33:57 PM  
dr. hummer. tee-hee.
2002-11-11 04:34:08 PM  
I hate NY Times Registration, so here's the story to read before you comment on it (wha ? read the story ? never stopped me from posting...)

You can taste the vanillin in Jack Daniel's, but not the syringic acid.

Fermentation and distillation are chemical processes, so it is not surprising that early this year, the makers of Jack Daniel's, the venerable whiskey distilled in Lynchburg, Tenn., since 1866, started using modern chemical analytical tools to improve their understanding of the 60 percent of their product that is not alcohol.


Hundreds if not thousands of chemical compounds are involved; some add flavor and aroma to the whiskey and some have no effect at all. The company hopes to use the information from the studies to help guide it in buying ingredients.

"The goal is to really capture from a chemical standpoint what makes the flavor of Jack Daniel's happen," said Dr. Sophie Hummer, a sensory scientist with the Brown-Forman Corporation of Louisville, Ky., the parent company of Jack Daniel's. "We're not sure we have the chemicals that are most important."

Dr. Hummer presented the findings at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston this summer. At the same meeting, Dr. Peter H. Schieberle, a professor of food chemistry at the Technical University of Munich, presented similar research about the flavor chemistry of bourbon whiskey.

The interest is not just academic. The Jack Daniel's recipe remains the same, and the company has no intention of changing it. But the chemical knowledge will be used for quality control. Already, the company measures levels of certain known flavor compounds, and a panel of trained tasters check that the flavors and aromas remain consistent from batch to batch.

But if the tests or tasters find off-flavors, it is, in a sense, too late, at the end of the whiskey-making process, which lasts for years.

"This is going to be a big help," said Lincoln Henderson, Brown-Forman's master distiller. "That's the reason we're spending so much money and time figuring what we can do now to select the best oak for the best whiskey. We may even get to the point where we plant our own oak and make sure we have exactly the right species."

The oak for the aging barrels now comes not just from Tennessee, but also from Minnesota, Ohio and West Virginia.

In the Jack Daniel's experiments, the researchers distilled away all of the alcohol and other components that could evaporate away and separated the rest into two parts: one water soluble, the other not. They then spiked each into young, one-year-old Jack Daniel's and asked a panel of trained tasters their opinions of the taste.

The whiskey spiked with the water-soluble compounds like glucose and fructose sugars tasted smoother and sweeter. The whiskey spiked with the nonwater-soluble compounds - organic chemicals like vanillin and syringic acid - had more vanilla and flavors and was somewhat more face-puckering astringent, the tasters reported.

Next, the researchers tried to determine which chemicals had an effect on flavor. When they added a subset of the nonwater-soluble compounds - syringic acid, gallic acid and coniferaldehyde - to the whiskey, a second group of tasters, regular drinkers of Jack Daniel's, but not trained to pick out the nuances, tasted no difference.

But they tasted a difference when vanillin and a second compound, hydroxymethylfurfural, was added. "The aroma was more brown and more vanilla," Dr. Hummer said. (Vanillin, not surprisingly, is the same chemical found in vanilla beans.)

Similarly, when sugars from the water-soluble portion - glucose, fructose and arabinose - were added, people could taste the difference, but it was not necessarily sweeter. "We found a significant difference," Dr. Hummer said. But, "people were not able to describe the difference," she said. "We had comments that were inconsistent."

Jack Daniel's, as the people at Jack Daniel's repeatedly point out, is not a bourbon. It is a Tennessee whiskey. Like bourbon, which most often originates from neighboring Kentucky, Tennessee whiskey is fermented from a mash of mostly corn plus rye, malt and barley, distilled and aged in barrels for several years.

But Tennessee whiskey, in addition to being made in Tennessee, also, by law, adds a step, dripping the whiskey through 10 feet of maple sugar wood charcoal before putting it into the barrels for aging.

The charcoal, Mr. Henderson said, takes out the fruitiness by absorbing compounds known as esters that give flavors of apple, pear, peach and citrus fruits.

In the German bourbon research, Dr. Schieberle and his colleagues also distilled away the alcohol and volatile compounds and examined the leftover brown sludge, about 1 to 2 percent of the original bourbon. "It's a lot of unknown chemicals," Dr. Schieberle said.

Of the 400 to 500 or so compounds in the sludge, Dr. Schieberle identified 28 critical compounds that seemed to give the most flavor to the bourbon, including beta-damascenone, which give the taste of cooked apples; lactones, which provide coconut flavors and eugenol from the oak barrels, which give clovelike flavors.

When the 28 compounds were added to the alcohol and other compounds, the result was a pretty good bourbon.

"Many people couldn't tell the difference between the whiskey and the recombinant," Dr. Schieberle said.

2002-11-11 04:35:02 PM  
Mmmm, better living through chemistry...
2002-11-11 04:35:57 PM  
When the 28 compounds were added to the alcohol and other compounds, the result was a pretty good bourbon.

I wonder when we can expect to see "FrankenBourbon" on the shelves? I'm sure it would be a hellava lot cheaper than aging it for 15 years.

2002-11-11 04:36:19 PM  
Dr. Hummer. Paging Dr. Hummer
2002-11-11 04:36:45 PM  
Little known fact - 1/5 of every bottle's content is made from a devout Lynyrd Skynyrd's fan's urine.
2002-11-11 04:38:55 PM  
I've been feeling a little under the weather as of late. Think I'll make an appointment with Dr Hummer.
2002-11-11 04:39:48 PM  
... OK who murdered Santa Clause ... somebody told me he was dead ....

Oh and one last thing ... do some research ... OBAN is the only great whiskey ....
2002-11-11 04:40:25 PM  
Dr. Hummer presented the findings at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston this summer.

Hummer...nyuk, nyuk. Is that "BJ" Hummer? Imagine being the guy that had to introduce her to the audience... "We are pleased to have a Hummer today."
2002-11-11 04:40:50 PM  

I would like to see the job requirements for "taster"

Must be able to work with a hangover
2002-11-11 04:41:43 PM  
Ah yes, Jack is a good friend of mine!
2002-11-11 04:43:07 PM  
P-Nuts: Lagavulin 16 year old is much better. Once you try that you won't be able to go back to Macallan, at least not the 10 year.
2002-11-11 04:44:14 PM  
Any woman that has a doctorate in hummers has to be someone I want to meet.

As for the science, the rate of a person's comprehension is inversely proportional to the rate of intake of Jack Daniel's. At least that is the result of my lifelong study on the subject.
2002-11-11 04:44:38 PM  
[image from too old to be available]

"...And when they're not looking BAM the old fork in the eye!"
2002-11-11 04:46:40 PM  
Seriously though, JD is good to get drunk but talking about the taste? Anyone actually ENJOYING that gasoline taste?
2002-11-11 04:48:58 PM  
so this will get me drunker faster, or what? not like anyone outside tennessee(sp) drinks jd for the 'flavor' anyways
2002-11-11 04:50:05 PM  
Mmmmmm . . Jack Daniels, one of the few things in the world that makes me think that there just might be a god after all.
2002-11-11 04:50:57 PM  
I am very intrigued by the fact that Dr. Hummer is:

1. Female
2. A "sensory scientist"
2002-11-11 04:51:34 PM  
E = mc {hic}
2002-11-11 04:52:46 PM  
[image from too old to be available]
2002-11-11 05:00:47 PM  
I prefer jack daniels to bourbon, but I'll admit I'm not much of a liquor connous..connoss... um... enthusiast. But give me a break guys. It's booze. You knock it back in shots, or mix it with something palatable, and almost never drink it at anything but ice cold. We're not talking about wine here.
2002-11-11 05:05:36 PM  
Since when did NYTimes start allowing deeplinking? I see articles all the time on there that should be posted on Fark because they're intelligent, well written, and could serve as an example for correct spelling.
2002-11-11 05:05:53 PM  
How do you get the job as a WHISKEY TASTE TESTER? I gotta figure that the work shifts tend to be really short.

I have toured the Jack Daniels plant in Lynchburg. The joke is that they're in a dry county so you can't get a drink there. They will flap the cover on the charcoal vat so you can get the aroma.

Anyway, me and Steve Earle agree that Jack's neighbor, George Dickel is the Tennesse Whiskey of choice .

I order Maker's Mark if I can't get George Dickel, Jack Daniel's is the last resort.
2002-11-11 05:16:53 PM  
Scientific Fact: There's nothing more pathetic than a drunk guy in a wheel chair.
2002-11-11 05:27:56 PM  
I currently live 30 minutes from the distillery which is located in a dry county. No tastings for tour-goers.
2002-11-11 05:30:40 PM  
NukeEuropeNow Actually, drinking single-malt scotch is very much like drinking wine. Each bottle is different and their are many subtle flavors, especially when your taste-buds aren't numbed by ice. eg. Lagavulin is very peaty, while Balvinie is much sweeter.

Jack, on the other hand, is nasty and is best consumed when the flavor is covered-up by Coke or some other mixer.
2002-11-11 05:37:32 PM  
My life is now complete. I love Jack. I even cook with it. It gives great flavor to red meats. In fact, I've been to the distillery several times in my life. Ah, the old number 7. And to all of you that knock it, obviously you've never had one of my steaks. Famous in 7 counties.
2002-11-11 05:39:32 PM  
MMMMMMmmmmm JD and coke hits the spot.
AND I like the taste going down as compared to scotch
which is some really nasty shiat (and don't give me that
double malt bs because I used to own a bar and package
store and whenever I didn't want to drink I'd suck on
some scotch for a while and bingo, an hour later I'd still
have some of that nasty stuff in my glass)
2002-11-11 05:41:07 PM  
I'd agree with Aqueduct_Pocket but nonetheless can I suggest an end to the game of 'who can name the more pretentious whisky?' If this thread was about wine, you wouldn't all be going on about your favourite Shiraz. Its not like we're gonna agree...

Yes, we all know JD isn't very nice, and we can all name the seven peat marshes where ...... and when whisky is spelt 'whiskey' it means .......

Don't make me come down there.
2002-11-11 05:44:48 PM  
"But Ossifer, I'm a schient *hic* a scien *hic* a shient
*hic* a shcholar *hic* of whishkey"....
2002-11-11 06:01:29 PM  
here's the real deal:

[image from too old to be available]
2002-11-11 06:12:56 PM  
High-proof Wild Turkey, on the rocks. The perfect driving companion.
2002-11-11 06:14:16 PM  
Ugly: Maker's Mark is very good, but a little too dry. Knob Creek is perhaps the best.
2002-11-11 06:18:27 PM  
Scientific fact: Jack Daniels causes more fights than money.
2002-11-11 06:19:22 PM  
oh, hi teens!

[image from too old to be available]
2002-11-11 06:20:08 PM  
Uglycicles is right. Kentucky bourbon is better than any whiskey coming out of Tennessee. For those unenlightened, bourbon is a kind of whiskey. All bourbons are whiskeys but not all whiskeys are bourbons. By U.S. law, bourbon must be made from grain that is at least 51% corn and aged in charred wooden barrels that are used only once. You can make it anywhere, but Kentucky is the only state in the U.S. allowed to put its' name on the product. I think the fine bourbon distillers in Kentucky send their used barrels south to Mr. Daniels factory. Maker's Mark is an excellent brand but might be a little pricey for someone who wants to try it for comparison to JD. Try a bottle of Elijah Craig by Heaven Hill. It's in the same price range as JD black, and much smoother. Just splash some over ice and sip slowly. I even grow my own mint in my backyard for those summer time juleps.
2002-11-11 06:24:28 PM  
I'll second the vote for MM as best Tennessee sippin', government label whiskey.

Don't get me wrong, I love Scotch whisky.
But that's comparing apples and oranges.
2002-11-11 06:25:41 PM  
Oops, not Tenn, but Kentuk.
2002-11-11 06:29:03 PM  
wow...amazing... although they fail to mention that probably 99% of the 60% of JD that is not alcohol is water.
2002-11-11 06:29:19 PM  
MM is a kentucky bourbon, looking at the label right now
2002-11-11 06:40:38 PM  
For the price, you can't beat Tulamore Dew Irish!

If you're lookin to spend a little more, Makers Mark definitely kicks ass.
2002-11-11 06:46:40 PM  
Yeah, gotta throw in my 2 cents....

Maker's Mark is definitely my drink of choice at the moment, although every now and then I do get a craving for some of the old Macallan. And when I say old, I mean the good stuff, 50 Year.
2002-11-11 06:54:12 PM  
Yeah, I'm uncultured and classless. But JD and coke are a match made in heaven to the college students who don't drink bad beer, and have some change to spare. I could not imagine buying a bottle of Macallan more than twice my age at this point, even if I did have the money...
2002-11-11 06:57:51 PM  
I really enjoy a glass of jack after a hard day. It's also great to cook with, and it's good with cheese too!
2002-11-11 07:53:28 PM  
'Canadian Club' is a good, unpretentious whiskey.
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