Distilled Beverages (Spirits)

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Changed on: 19.01.2016

Spirits

Likörglas
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Likörglas

Spirits is the collective term for alcoholic drinks such as brandy, schnapps and liqueurs, but also gin, whisk(e)y or vodka. Thus, distilled beverages are all beverages intended for human consumption, the value-determining ingredient of which is distilled alcohol from fermented, sugary substances or from fermented substances transformed into sugar and the minimum alcohol content of which is 15 % abv, subject to different regulations. Colouring and aromas may be added to spirits, subject to different regulations. Distilled beverages are not preserved.

Likörglas
caption
Likörglas

Spirits is the collective term for alcoholic drinks such as brandy, schnapps and liqueurs, but also gin, whisk(e)y or vodka. Thus, distilled beverages are all beverages intended for human consumption, the value-determining ingredient of which is distilled alcohol from fermented, sugary substances or from fermented substances transformed into sugar and the minimum alcohol content of which is 15 % abv, subject to different regulations. Colouring and aromas may be added to spirits, subject to different regulations. Distilled beverages are not preserved.

Brandy

Brandy

Brandy (fruit or pome fruit brandy) are distillates of fermented fluids or the fermented mash of sugar-containing or sugared, starchy raw materials and the alcohol volume has been reduced by adding water, while retaining its aroma.

Rum

Rum

Rum is a characteristic distillate made from sugarcane, sugarcane molasses or other sugarcane by-products produced mainly in countries such as Barbados, Cuba, Guayana, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Mauritius and Madagascar.

Whisky

Whisky

Whisky (Whiskey) is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from grain and with specific origin and traditional manufacturing methods. Raw materials used are both malted and non-malted cereals. Whisk(e)y is differentiated mostly according to its origin in: Scotch, American and Canadian Whisk(e)y. It is also distilled in Austria in small quantities.

Grain Spirits

Grain Spirits

Grain spirit (e.g. Korn) is a spirit exclusively distilled from the fermented mash of whole cereal grains and that features the sensory properties of the raw materials involved.

Fruit Schnapps

Fruit Schnapps

Fruit schnapps is a spirit made of fruit brandy and rectified spirit (ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin). The percentage of the alcohol from the name-giving fruit in the total amount of alcohol in the drink has to be at least 33 %. Ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin may be added to the (low-sugar) fruits listed below and then be subject to a distillation process following an appropriate impact, as they only yield small amounts of alcohol when fermented or their aroma might change during the fermentation process.  

Aroma providing raw materials used include raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, red currants, rowanberries, cornelian cherries and elderberries, but also vegetables, nuts or other plant substances, such as herbs or rose petals. Parts and the fruit of plants such as melissa, celery, arolla pine and others are also used. Such products are placed on the market under the name of the relevant raw ingredient in conjunction with the syllable/word "Geist" (spirit). These products must have the characteristic odour and flavour of the raw ingredient to an appropriate degree.

Wacholder (Juniper)

Wacholder (Juniper)

Wacholder is a juniper-flavoured spirit made of ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin or grain brandy or distillate, adding juniper distillate, juniper distillate product, Wacholderlutter or juniper brandy. Additional terms might include Kranawitter or Borovicka.

Aquavit

Aquavit

Aquavit is made by distilling a base of cumin and adding various spices, such as fennel and aniseed or herbs, in ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin.

Gentian

Gentian

Gentian is a spirit made from Gentian distillate that is produced by fermenting gentian root with or without adding ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin. The image of blue gentian flowers is customary, although the plant is not used.

Kümmel

Kümmel

Kümmel is a spirit produced by flavouring ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with caraway seeds, cumin and fennel.

Anis

Anis

This aniseed-flavoured spirit is a product made by flavouring ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with the aromatic substances and/or extracts of star aniseed (Illicium verum), aniseed (Pimpinella anisum), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) or other plants with more or less the same aroma, which is then macerated and/or distilled.

Vodka

Vodka

Vodka is a spirit that is made of ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin that is rectified or filtered using activated carbon – followed by single distillation if necessary – or similar treatment, which selectively reduces the organoleptic properties of the raw ingredients used. Only aromatic substances present in the distillate of the fermented raw materials may be used as flavouring. Furthermore, sensory properties that differ from the predominant flavour of the product may be added to it.

Liqueurs

Liqueurs

Liqueurs are sweetened spirits that are produced using sugar, special types of sugar or honey. In addition, ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin, brandy, spirits, spirit extracts, alcohol extracts, distillates, wine, fruit wine, fresh fruit, pickled and dried fruit, fruit paste, fruit juices, herbs, eggs, cocoa, coffee, tea, milk, chocolate etc., flavourings, special additives such as edible acids or leaf gold are added. The minimum level of sugar, expressed as inverted or invert sugar, is 100 g/l. The amount of fruit juice in products labelled as "Fruit Juice Liqueur" or "Austrian Fruit Juice Liqueur" is at least 20 l fruit juice per 100 l of the finished product.

Advocaat is a spirit that may be flavoured with aromatic substances and/or extracts and that is made of ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin, a distillate and/or brandy containing high-quality egg yolk, protein and sugar or honey. Its minimum level of alcohol volume is 14 % abv.

"Bitter"

"Bitter"

"Bitter" is a collective term for spirits with a predominantly bitter taste, which are made by flavouring ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with aromatic substances and/or extracts.

The additional designation "Nußschnaps" or "Nussschnaps" is used for spirits that are made using various recipes and the typical flavour of which comes from using green nuts (walnuts). The image of green nuts on the label is customary.

Fermentation Products in Spirits

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Weinfässer
Weinfässer

The alcoholic fermentation of mash produces fermentation by-products, in addition to ethanol and carbon dioxide. These accompanying substances infiltrate the distillate during the distillation process. Typical fermentation by-products are methanol, ethyl acetate (typical “glue smell”), butanol, isoamylalcohol and hexanol.

The thorough separation of head and tail during distillation ensures that most of the fermentation by-products are eliminated. Incorrectly distilled or diluted spirits may contain fermentation by-products, such as methanol, and may cause very serious or even life threatening health problems when consumed excessively.

AGES examines hundreds of spirit samples – gin, fruit brandy, rum, tequila, vodka – for methanol from food and beverage retailers, as well as from smaller distilleries.

Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 specifies the maximum levels of methanol in distilled alcoholic beverages. The regulation prescribes a maximum level of 1,000 g methanol/hl for brandies made from apricots, cherries and pomaces, 1,200 g for brandies made from pears, apples, plums and raspberries and a maximum level of 1,350 g for brandies made from elderberries, currants and rowanberries, calculated based on pure alcohol.

Methanol is released from pectin during the fermentation of plant-based raw materials. The varying pectin levels in the raw ingredients are the reason why different maximum levels for methanol have been defined for fruit brandies. Methanol itself is only toxic to a slight degree, opposed to its degradation products: the enzyme alcohol dehydronenase (ADH) transforms methanol into formaldehyde and formic acid in the liver. Ingesting 0.1 g methanol per kg body weight is believed to have an adverse effect on human health.

Typical symptoms of methanol poisoning are nausea, vomiting, dizziness, abdominal cramps, headaches and disorientation. Later symptoms include damaged nerves and macular oedema that cause visual impairment (up to blindness in extreme cases), heavy breathing, loss of consciousness and, finally, respiratory paralysis.

Important: Should any of the symptoms mentioned above occur following the consumption of high-proof spirits, visit a doctor or a hospital immediately! The Ministry of Health recommends generally abstaining from the consumption of high-proof alcohol from unknown sources to avoid health-related problems.

Methanol poisoning is primarily treated by giving an ADH inhibitor and ethanol, in the form of 40 % abv schnapps, for example. Ethanol has a higher affinity to alcohol dehydrogenase than methanol, thus, slowing down the transformation process of methanol into formaldehyde and formic acid.

Highlighting ans Labelling

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A system to protect and differentiate special agricultural products and foods has been in place in the European Community since 1992. Certain foods can receive a protected status due to their geographical origin or traditional, special properties under EU law. An agricultural product or food that has a special quality, status or other property that derives from its geographical origin and that is produced and/or processed in this confined region can be protected. The prescribed labelling (designation or Community logo) helps consumers recognise that the product in question is special and recognised across the Community market.

A protected geographical indication (PGI) has been given to the following Austrian products with interregional significance:

  • Barack Palinka 
  • Inländerrum
  • Jägertee/Jagertee/Jagatee
  • Korn und Kornbrand
  • Steinfelder Magenbitter
  • Wachauer Weinbrand
  • Weinbrand Dürnstein
  • Pregler

The detailed terminology, designation, visual presentation and labelling of spirits are regulated in Regulation (EU) No. 110/2008 and in the Austrian Food Code – Code Chapter B23. The AGES Food Division in Vienna has focused on the examination of distilled alcoholic beverages since mid-2014. However, spirit samples can be taken to all AGES institutes for food safety.

The institute in Vienna analyses the following parameters, depending on the given spirit category:

  • Alcohol content
  • Sugar Content 
  • Fermentation by-products (e.g. methanol, ethyl acetate)
  • Ethyl carbamate

The examination of organoleptic properties and labels is carried out on a routine basis for all samples.

Our tip for Abfindungsbrenner (distilleries which are taxed according to the amount of raw materials used and not the amount of alcohol they produce and, thus, working with distilling equipment that is not sealed by the Customs Office), but also for companies on the issue of labelling – note labelling elements such as:

  • Correct designation/Name 
  • Alcohol content in volume percent (% abv)
  • Net weight
  • Batch (preceded by letter L) 
  • Name and full address of the food Company 
  • Note about the production in an Abfindungsbrennerei

Note that the designation, alcohol content and net weight must be inside the same visual field (usually the same label). The Institute for Food Safety Vienna will gladly carry out analyses and labelling examinations on request and provide more detailed information on distilled alcoholic beverages.


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