Whiskey Differences: Sync into your glass

Glass of whisky on bar counter in barIf you make the same thing the same way every time, you would expect to get the same results. But anyone working in a quality control lab knows just how much variability there can be on the same line, especially when working with organic materials such as those used to make whiskey. Small changes in temperature or atmospheric humidity, or the quality of the initial mash or final barrels can change the aroma profiles of the final products, and the aroma profiles themselves can be the first indicator of a problem on the production line if they can be analyzed and characterized with enough speed and confidence.

ChromaTOF® Sync is a new statistical analysis tool from LECO that probes the rich GC-MS data that comes from a Pegasus® BT to uncover similarities, differences, and trends between the samples. It performs sample set peak finding and deconvolution to align analytes throughout a sample set, making statistically significant information visually apparent through a variety of charts, tables, and graphs. For example, take a look at this overlaid Total Ion Chromatogram (TIC) of six different whiskey samples.

Six Whiskey Samples are Compared; Line graphic depicting similarities

At a glance, these whiskeys all seem to have very similar chromatograms, but once the data is overlaid, differences really start to stand out. In all whiskey varieties, a number of esters are always present, but subtle variations in their concentrations are important indicators for process and quality control. For example, the ethyl ester of octanoic acid, which elutes at around 911.5 seconds, is one analyte that is present in all of the samples. With aroma notes of fruity, wine, waxy, sweet, apricot, banana, brandy, and pear, it makes sense that it would be present in whiskey. ChromaTOF Sync allows for an easy closer look at this peak, highlighting variations in concentration of this ethyl ester across multiple samples. 

Six Whiskey Samples compared; Multiple charts demonstrating findings.

This insight alone provides a starting point for potential investigations. If all of these samples were coming off the same line, the high variability could indicate a production problem. In this analysis, however, these samples were all different whiskeys. In this case, the varying levels could indicate production differences and key insights into competitors’ methods when it comes to making their own flavors of whiskeys.

*Please note that all samples are referred to as “whiskey” and “whiskeys,” throughout this blog post for simplicity and consistency because the samples were sourced from three geographic origins: US, Scotland, and Ireland. It is important to acknowledge that in Scotland (and Canada), the product “Scotch,” is referred to as “whisky” or “whiskies,” whereas in the US and Ireland the products are referred to as “whiskey” and “whiskeys”.


To learn more how ChromaTOF Sync can help your laboratory take comparison analysis to the next level, fill out the form below to access the full application note.

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