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posted on 22.02.2018 by Chloé Roullier-Gall, Julie Signoret, Daniel Hemmler, Michael A. Witting, Basem Kanawati, Bernhard Schäfer, Régis D. Gougeon, Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin

Whisky can be described as a complex matrix integrating the chemical history from the fermented cereals, the wooden barrels, the specific distillery processes, aging, and environmental factors. In this study, using Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR-MS) and liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), we analyzed 150 whisky samples from 49 different distilleries, 7 countries, and ranging from 1 day new make spirit to 43 years of maturation with different types of barrel. Chemometrics revealed the unexpected impact of the wood history on the distillate's composition during barrel aging, regardless of the whisky origin. Flavonols, oligolignols, and fatty acids are examples of important chemical signatures for Bourbon casks, whereas a high number of polyphenol glycosides, including for instance quercetin-glucuronide or myricetin-glucoside as potential candidates, and carbohydrates would discriminate Sherry casks. However, the comparison of barrel aged rums and whiskies revealed specific signatures, highlighting the importance of the initial composition of the distillate and the distillery processes.