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Anyone with experience of acrolein taint?


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Hey all,

This is my first post and am hoping someone might be able to help. We recently tried distilling some perry, and it went horribly wrong. The distillate was truly terrible, and even a few drops tasted from the fingertip was enough to burn the back of the nose area and throat, and to be near the distillate flow from the parrot was enough to make the eyes water.

Two questions for you knowledgeable bunch:

1) From what I can gather from the literature this could be acrolein taint. Does anyone have experience of acrolein taint, and if so do the symptoms sound similar to what I described above? If not, any ideas what else could have caused the problem?

2) Is there any way to remove the taint from the distillate?

Cheers for any help any of you can give.

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Yes, we do contract distilling for wineries/cideries and periodically we will experience something like what you are describing which we ascribe to acrolein. Letting the spirits air out for a few days can help significantly. What I've read suggests that barrel aging will help mitigate some of the piercing character, but I can't say for certain as all of the distillate goes back to the winery/cidery and I can't evaluate how it's changed.

Running batches on a pilot/lab still is an excellent idea before purchasing cider, to verify there is no acrolein. Their maybe a lab test that does it, but it's obvious from the small sample whether it will be acceptable or not as brandy.

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From a UBC Document...

Glycerol may be broken down by bacteria in several different ways, producing acetoin derivatives of lactic and acetic acid, or acrolein (Figure 4).
The latter condenses with phenols and gives a characteristic bitter taste. This defect is detectable at concentrations as low as
10 mg/L. Acrolein passes into the distillates of wines with this problem, giving a pungent smell that may spoil the brandy.
My suspicion is that acrolein will either evaporate with time, or become gradually oxidized to acrylic acid, then react with alcohols to ethyl/amyl/methyl esters over time. Doing a bit of quick searching shows that the former is a happy outcome since the esters apparently produce unpleasant aromas.
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