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Jun 08, 2022 View:

Apple Brandy and sugar prior to fermentation

Is it permitted to add sugar to apple brandy prior to fermentation to increase the yield? Will it degrade the quality of the final product, or is it s "cheating"? I have received confilicting answers to this question from the TTB and from other distillers.

Tom


Reply:

It's generally understood that the flavor character in a spirit comes from the non-alcohol portion of the wash. The higher the yield in your wash, the lower the proportion of inherent flavor of the wash that carries over. Beyond that, the higher the yield, the higher the chance of off flavors and fusels due to stressing the yeast. It's one of the reasons why the wash for Scotch is typically between 5 and 7%

If you follow other threads, you'll find that there's a whole spectrum of opinions to what "cheating" is or isn't. Bottom line is twofold: One is TTB compliance. The second is your own personal integrity. If you're confident you're making the highest quality product you possibly can, then go with it.

I've often said "just because you can, doesn't mean you should." However, there's a wide, fuzzy, gray area between "can" and "should." It's just another judgment call we all have to make on a daily basis.

That said, if it were me, I don't know at this time whether I would or would not add sugar if I were doing apple brandy. Barring TTB restrictions, I'd probably be inclined to run a few small batches each way and see what yields a product I most enjoy.


Reply:

From the wine regs:

§24.216 Distilling material.

Wine may be produced on bonded wine premises from grapes and other fruit, natural

fruit products, or fruit residues, for use as distilling material, using any quantity of water

desired to facilitate fermentation or distillation. No sugar may be added in the production

of distilling material. Distillates containing aldehydes may be used in the fermentation of

wine to be used as distilling material. Lees, filter wash, and other wine residues may also

be accumulated on bonded wine premises for use as distilling material. (Sec. 201, Pub.

L. 85-859, 72 Stat. 1380, as amended, 1381, as amended, 1382, as amended (26

U.S.C. 5361, 5373))

You can water down distilling material (like in using water to rinse lees from the bottom of the tank - but you aren't supposed to add sugar.

Side question. Apple wine may have sugar added. Wine can be transferred to the DM account and removed to a DSP. But does it have to follow the rule as if originally intended for distlling material? or would you call it 'apple wine brandy'.

<private shudder>


Reply:From the wine regs:

§24.216 Distilling material.

Wine may be produced on bonded wine premises from grapes and other fruit, natural

fruit products, or fruit residues, for use as distilling material, using any quantity of water

desired to facilitate fermentation or distillation. No sugar may be added in the production

of distilling material. Distillates containing aldehydes may be used in the fermentation of

wine to be used as distilling material. Lees, filter wash, and other wine residues may also

be accumulated on bonded wine premises for use as distilling material. (Sec. 201, Pub.

L. 85-859, 72 Stat. 1380, as amended, 1381, as amended, 1382, as amended (26

U.S.C. 5361, 5373))

You can water down distilling material (like in using water to rinse lees from the bottom of the tank - but you aren't supposed to add sugar.

Side question. Apple wine may have sugar added. Wine can be transferred to the DM account and removed to a DSP. But does it have to follow the rule as if originally intended for distlling material? or would you call it 'apple wine brandy'.

<private shudder>


Reply:

I think of it like this: water and alcohol are flavorless. The larger the percentage of your wash that's taken up with them, the less room there is for flavor. You have to ask yourself what you're throwing away in order to achieve a few percent of ABV.


Reply:

Thank you for the responses. With regard to the "can vs. should," I am still not clear about the regulations here. The TTB formula division told me that, yes, I can add sugar, but I am not confident that the question was really researched or answered correctly.

With regard to the "should," you have made some good points about quality (dilution) and tradition (calvados). It is my preference to make the product without sugar but I do want to get the question about the regulations clarified so that I know what the options are.

As pointed-out, some of the regulations for grape-brandy and wine do not apply to fruit brandy, and that seems to be making the question regarding sugar more difficult to answer. Tom


Reply:

Somehow I wouldn't be surprised if a practice like chaptalizing mash turned out to be legal for a DSP operating under 27 CFR 19 and prohibited to a BW running under 27 CFR 24 and transferring distilling material to a DSP.

Nor would I be surprised if the answer you got depended on factors like, which division/agent/time of day/phase of the dog, etc.

Consistency doesn't seem to be one of their strong suits.

(For folks unfamiliar with 'phase of the dog' - it means making a decision by looking out the window and seeing what position your dog, napping under a tree in the backyard, is sprawled in. Even more variable than 'phase of the moon')


Reply:(For folks unfamiliar with 'phase of the dog' - it means making a decision by looking out the window and seeing what position your dog, napping under a tree in the backyard, is sprawled in. Even more variable than 'phase of the moon')
Reply:

More information follows:

(1) ‘‘Fruit brandy’’ is brandy distilled

solely from the fermented juice or

mash of whole, sound, ripe fruit, or

from standard grape, citrus, or other

fruit wine, with or without the addition

of not more than 20 percent by

weight of the pomace of such juice or

wine, or 30 percent by volume of the

lees of such wine, or both (calculated

prior to the addition of water to facilitate

fermentation or distillation).

Fruit brandy shall include mixtures of

such brandy with not more than 30 percent

(calculated on a proof gallon

basis) of lees brandy. Fruit brandy, derived

from grapes, shall be designated

as ‘‘grape brandy’’ or ‘‘brandy’’, except

that in the case of brandy (other than

neutral brandy, pomace brandy, marc

brandy or grappa brandy) distilled from

the fermented juice, mash, or wine of

grapes, or the residue thereof, which

has been stored in oak containers for

less than 2 years, the statement of

class and type shall be immediately

preceded, in the same size and kind of

type, by the word ‘‘immature’’. Fruit

brandy, other than grape brandy, derived

from one variety of fruit, shall be

designated by the word ‘‘brandy’’ qualified

by the name of such fruit (for example,

‘‘peach brandy’’), except that

‘‘apple brandy’’ may be designated

‘‘applejack’’. Fruit brandy derived from

more than one variety of fruit shall be

designated as ‘‘fruit brandy’’ qualified

by a truthful and adequate statement

of composition.

(e) Class 5; fruit wine. (1)(i) Fruit wine is wine (other than grape wine or citrus wine) produced by the normal alcoholic fermentation of the juice of sound, ripe fruit (including restored or unrestored pure condensed fruit must), with or without the addition, after fermentation, of pure condensed fruit must, and with or without added fruit brandy or alcohol, but without other addition or abstraction except as may occur in cellar treatment: Provided, That a domestic product may be ameliorated or sweetened in accordance with the provisions of 26 U.S.C. 5384 and any product other than domestic may be ameliorated before, during, or after fermentation by adding, separately or in combination, dry sugar, or such an amount of dry sugar and water solution as will increase the volume of the resulting product, in the case of wines produced from any fruit or berry other than grapes, having a normal acidity of 20 parts or more per thousand, not more than 60 percent, and in the case of other fruit wines, not more than 35%, but in no event shall any product so ameliorated have an alcoholic content, derived by fermentation, of more than 14 percent by volume, or a natural acid content, if water has been added, of less than 5 parts per thousand, or a total solids content of more than 22 grams per 100 cubic centimeters.

(5) Fruit wine derived wholly (except for sugar, water, or added alcohol) from one kind of fruit shall be designated by the word “wine” qualified by the name of such fruit, e.g., “peach wine,” “blackberry wine.” Fruit wine not derived wholly from one kind of fruit shall be designated as “fruit wine” or “berry wine,” as the case may be, qualified by a truthful and adequate statement of composition appearing in direct conjunction therewith. Fruit wines which are derived wholly (except for sugar, water, or added alcohol) from apples or pears may be designated “cider” and “perry,” respectively, and shall be so designated if lacking in vinous taste, aroma, and characteristics. Fruit wine rendered effervescent by carbon dioxide resulting solely from the secondary fermentation of the wine within a closed container, tank, or bottle shall be further designated as “sparkling”; and fruit wine rendered effervescent by carbon dioxide otherwise derived shall be further designated as “carbonated.”

Fruit brandy may be distilled from fruit wine. Fruit wine may be, and almost always is, made with added sugar.

Cheers,

Keith


Reply:

I've chased this to ground with the TTB. It took a while, since it seems that a recent retirement left them with a gap in their knowledge base.

Anyway, Keith's assesement is essentially correct. As long as the fruit wine is made within the limits for a 'natural' or 'standard' wine, the distillate is okay for use as brandy or 'wine spirits' for fortification. Other than standard, or formula wines would seem to be out. (The exception would be a 'special natural wine', i.e. vermouth - if the spirit made is going back to make more of the same SNW.)

The 27 CFR 24.216 that I quoted above is interpreted to apply to 'distilling material' _other_ than wine. Lees, marc, etc. You aren't supposed to goose grappa by adding sugar to the marc.

The one caveat is that if there is residual sugar in the wine (say, it was added before bottling - and then the bottles dumped) then the TTB doesn't want that sugar fermented by either the Bonded Winery, or the DSP. If you just leave it as is, it's okay.

My contact at TTB was Marge Ruth - who was very helpful, even if this isn't quite her specialty.


Reply:

Charles-

The answer I got from my formula officer at the TTB is consistent with what you have found. Basically, we follow the rules for making fruit wine, which may be chaptalized. While I do not have the codes handy, I believe we are not permitted to increase the brix beyond 24 through the addition of sugar (which seems like a reasonable level to me).

Tom

www.tomsfoolery.com


Reply:

25 brix - 27 CFR 24.177

The volume of sugar counts as ameliorant in grape wines, but not in fruit wines. The water in invert syrup _does_ count as ameliorant for both grapes and other fruit.

If (5 < Starting acidity < 20) g/L then ameliorant can be 35% of the total volume. If Starting acidity > 20g/L, then amelioration can go to 60% of the total.

Given that invert syrup is supposed to be 60 Brix minimum, then I don't know what you'd be trying to ferment to hit some of those limits. Rhubarb? :-)


Reply:

So you can chaptalize to 25 brix (whether this a good idea or not would be another very interesting thread ... or conversation at the ADI conference).

Thank you for pointing me to 27 CFR 24.178 - Amelioration. That would be some pretty tart cider with total acidity >20g/l. Can't imagine wanting to ameliorate to 60%. But then again unless you are making your cider out of unripened crab apples (or rhubarb?) you probably won't have that problem.


Reply:

As to whether a distiller "should" chaptalize, I have not formed my opinion on this yet. The variables I am considering are 1) the regulations, 2) the taste of the product, 3) tradition, 4) marketing, and 5) economics (in that order).

Regarding "taste", I am not confident that I know whether a distillate produced from 7% abv hard-cider or 12% apple-wine tastes better. I could argue the theory of which "should" taste taste better for either the 7% abv or 12% abv (I think that there a lot of high-quality brandies made from wine with 12% abv).

With regard to a comment I have heard that chaptalization with sugar somehow causes a product to be part rum, I am not certain this is true (by regulations or chemically). We know it is not considered rum in the regs. Chemically, I have heard (I am not chemist) that the sugar is immediately and entirely converted to fructose after it is added to cider, and that it becomes indistinguishable form the natural sugars in the cider. Again, this is what I have heard from winemakers (where chaptalizaion is common and expected), and I am not certain if it is correct.

If one wants more flavor in the product, the distiller certainly many options, some of which will have as great an impact as initial abv of the cider/wine, such as distilling proof (Liard's distills to 160, while the maximum permitted for calvados is 144; armangac is distilled to just 120, and pisco is distilled "to proof" meaning they never add water after distillation). And then there is cooperage ...


Reply:As to whether a distiller "should" chaptalize, I have not formed my opinion on this yet. The variables I am considering are 1) the regulations, 2) the taste of the product, 3) tradition, 4) marketing, and 5) economics (in that order).

Regarding "taste", I am not confident that I know whether a distillate produced from 7% abv hard-cider or 12% apple-wine tastes better. I could argue the theory of which "should" taste taste better for either the 7% abv or 12% abv (I think that there a lot of high-quality brandies made from wine with 12% abv).

With regard to a comment I have heard that chaptalization with sugar somehow causes a product to be part rum, I am not certain this is true (by regulations or chemically). We know it is not considered rum in the regs. Chemically, I have heard (I am not chemist) that the sugar is immediately and entirely converted to fructose after it is added to cider, and that it becomes indistinguishable form the natural sugars in the cider. Again, this is what I have heard from winemakers (where chaptalizaion is common and expected), and I am not certain if it is correct.

If one wants more flavor in the product, the distiller certainly many options, some of which will have as great an impact as initial abv of the cider/wine, such as distilling proof (Liard's distills to 160, while the maximum permitted for calvados is 144; armangac is distilled to just 120, and pisco is distilled "to proof" meaning they never add water after distillation). And then there is cooperage ...


Reply:

I've seen the comments along the lines of 'if sugar is added, then it must be related to rum somehow', too. I don't agree.

I think you can roll #3 together. Would you use tradition for any reason _other_ than marketing?

In wine making, white sugar is considered to be flavor neutral. I wouldn't say conversion to fructose and glucose is complete, nor instantaneous - but yeast seem to be able to handle sucrose comfortably, and not leave any residual solids from it.

At the judge training for the Great lakes International Cider Comp, last December, we included a sample of a 'glucose wine' to highlight the influence of chaptalization. That group distinguishes 'apple wine' from 'cider', and you can recognize the contribution from the sugar, once you know what to look for.

But what it does to the final distillate is an interesting question. May be only one way to find out!

The cidermaker in me says that adding sugar is simply adding unflavored alcohol and diluting aromatics in proportion. It also extends the fermentation and possibly affects the rate, giving more opportunity for aroma stripping by the evolving CO2.

The winemaker in me knows that even simple sugar, fermented, isn't really total flavor neutral. Also, many flavor compounds are more soluble in ethanol than in water.

Fermentation rate is also a factor to consider. Cidermakers - especially for Normandy cidre - tend to think in terms of weeks to months to complete a cider fermentation, while most distillers think in days. Also, nutrition management in cidre tends to accumulate acetaldehyde, and to end as a stuck fermentation on purpose. I suspect the practices carry through to calvados - some of the commercial examples we've use in judge training are very heavy in acetaldehye, ethyl acetate and diacetyl. It's very noticable when you've just done a flight of deliberately dosed samples.

I'd be interested in what you know about calvados cooperage, Tom.


Reply:

This is a great discussion. I see scientists, regulatory wonks, organic chemists, and artists all at work here and all with a conscience.


Reply:But what it does to the final distillate is an interesting question. May be only one way to find out!

I'd be interested in what you know about calvados cooperage, Tom.


Reply:

My _opinion_ on barrel aging prior to distillation is that you'll take an oxidation and spoilage hit. But that might make it more calvaldos-like. County cider is essentially partly spoiled by the terms of modern 'scientific' winemaking. That's what makes it 'country' :-)

The reason I asked about cooperage, it that I once saw a reference to calvados being aged in 'black' oak - and I couldn't figure out if they meant charred.


Reply:

Black Oak grows in both Eastern and Western North America. I'm pretty sure they don't mean charred.

My _opinion_ on barrel aging prior to distillation is that you'll take an oxidation and spoilage hit. But that might make it more calvaldos-like. County cider is essentially partly spoiled by the terms of modern 'scientific' winemaking. That's what makes it 'country' :-)

The reason I asked about cooperage, it that I once saw a reference to calvados being aged in 'black' oak - and I couldn't figure out if they meant charred.


Reply:

I have not seen the reference to black oak. I have seen, as I am sure you have seen, references to limousin oak.

Are you aware if the oak is neutral (used), toasted, or charred? I know that it varies by cellar, but I am wondering if there is a standard (such as never using new charred oak).


Reply:As to whether a distiller "should" chaptalize, I have not formed my opinion on this yet. The variables I am considering are 1) the regulations, 2) the taste of the product, 3) tradition, 4) marketing, and 5) economics (in that order).