Whisky Researchers Make Yeast Discovery

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Yeast trials: Victoria Muir-Taylor leads the team exploring different strains’ impact on whisky flavour

SCIENTISTS EXPLORING yeast’s ability to generate flavour have uncovered strains commonly used for producing beer that ‘possess promising characteristics’ for whisky distilling.

Researchers are exploring how different yeast strains ‘contribute to the complexity of flavours found in Whisky’.

Now halfway through a two-year study, a team has already identified brewing strains of yeast that have an ability to ‘maintain the balance between alcohol yields and flavour’.

The team will publicly share its findings with the whole industry upon completion in September 2020.

‘A huge amount of attention has been given to the type of cask used for maturation, but we want to focus on the early phases of the production process.

‘We want to see what new characteristics we can bring out in a whisky from changing the yeast alone. We believe this is a key area for innovation.’

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The majority of whisky distillers have used the same strains of distillers yeast in their fermentations for decades.

These strains typically produce a large amount of alcohol required for distillation.

However some distilleries are now exploring other yeast strains, including those used to produce beer and wine, which create a variety of different flavours.

In January one distillery released a single malt whisky produced using a strain of yeast found growing on ears of barley close to the distillery.

The research project is currently experimenting with a number of yeasts and fermentation times and temperatures, ‘drawing ideas from different sectors of the drinks industry’.

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Scientific approach: Researchers analyse small batches of new make spirit produced using different yeast strains

‘There are hundreds of commercially available yeasts and, while not all are suitable for whisky distillation, many can create unique and distinctive flavours in the new make spirit.

‘Until recently, efficiency has tended to dominate the conversation about yeast. However, we’ve already seen a few companies conducting experiments with some wonderful results reaching the market.

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‘We want to find new flavours and styles that we can draw through to our distillate. There are a huge number of variables to consider such as how long you ferment for and at what temperature, but we firmly believe that this research will be beneficial for the industry as a whole.’

Currently the team is conducting trials using small-scale fermentations using commercially available yeast strains.

The resulting wash is then distilled using two small, two-litre copper pot stills before being analysed.

‘We will be sharing the results of this project with the industry at large to benefit innovation and the continued growth and development of the Whisky industry.

Until next time… Happy Distilling!


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