Whisky polyphenols and their potential health effects

The call of the Honeyguide


Scapa, one of my current Scottish whiskies

Scottish malt whisky, unlike other beverages such as red wine, tea or coffee, has received little attention with regards to its phenolic plant phytochemicals.

In the production of malt whisky the pure distilled spirit is aged in oak barrels for a number of years. During this aging constituents that make up the wood gradually dissolve into the spirit determining its flavour, colour and taste (Tanaka 2010). The wood of American white oak used to make many of the barrels used to age whisky contains significant amounts of an oak wood polyphenols called ellagitannins. The processing stages of making barrel for whisky production, including seasoning and toasting, results in various chemical changes in the ellagitannins of the wood resulting in the phenolic compounds in the whisky being rather different than the original oak wood polyphenols (Cadahia 2001). The original tannins decompose during toasting or…

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