Research at Abertay University could open a new market for Scotch Whisky by investigating how alternative yeasts can enhance fruity flavours in Scotland’s national drink.
Abertay is currently recruiting for a PhD research studentship that aims to increase the understanding of naturally produced flavours in whisky.
The industry is currently governed by strict guidelines stating what can and can’t be sold as whisky, and this includes any artificial tampering with taste.
Currently, just one yeast – Saccharomyces cerevisiae – is the chief strain used in the production of all whisky, however Prof Graeme Walker of Abertay’s Division of Food and Drink in Dundee said his project would study around 20 of the other 1,500 yeast species available.
“The yeast is responsible for making the alcohol - and hundreds of other flavour compounds - and this creates the complex flavour and aroma of whisky and other fermented beverages.
“One idea is to look at yeast used in other beverages like the wine industry.
“Some of these are very interesting in bringing out fruity notes, produced by compounds known as esters.
“Whether it’s peach, apricot, banana, or whatever you like, there is almost one fruit for each type of ester and these are all chemical compounds that the yeast produces.
“Perhaps some of these may have interesting applications for bringing out these flavoured notes in other beverages, including spirits like whisky.”
The Abertay project is being carried out in collaboration with the Scotch Whisky Research Institute.
Until now research has focused on distilling yeast mainly for efficiency in producing ethanol, paying little attention to flavour possibilities.
Prof Walker said the studentship project may also examine how yeast co-cultures can be used, with a different yeast strain being added halfway through a fermentation process.
Funding for the research comes from the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre’s Collaborative Training Partnership and the project is due to commence in October.
A mini distillation apparatus will be used in Abertay’s labs to create small quantities of spirits for sensory analysis.
The deadline for applications for the studentship is May 19.
For more information visit https://www.hirewire.co.uk/HE/1061263/MS_JobDetails.aspx?JobID=76715