Effect of the alcohol content on sensory perception of the fruit spirits


  • Arman ŠEKERIĆ University of Sarajevo, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Sarajevo
  • Milenko BLESIĆ University of Sarajevo, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Sarajevo
  • Pakeza DRKENDA University of Sarajevo, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Sarajevo
  • Nermina SPAHO University of Sarajevo, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Sarajevo




fruit spirits, alcohol content, aroma, sensory perception


Fruit spirits must have an aroma of the raw material, which is balanced by ethanol.  Since many aroma compounds are more soluble in ethanol than in water, ethanol is the most important carrier of aroma compounds. The alcohol concentration seems to be crucial for the sensory profile of spirits. Alcohol content of 40% vol is the standard alcoholic strength of fruit spirits. Regulations specify a minimum alcohol content of 37.5% vol. However, ethanol reduction can result in change in sensory profile of spirits. The aim of this research is to determine whether lowering the alcohol content of spirits may make them less acceptable to customers. On this occasion, 5 pairs of fruit spirits were sensory tested: pear, plum, apple, raspberry, and grape spirits, each with a commercial and reduced alcohol concentration to 37.5% vol. The results showed that customers can recognize the difference in alcohol content of fruit spirits and dilution to lower alcohol content led to decreasing aroma for all tastes fruit spirits.  However, typicality and intensity of fruit odour and the overall note of the spirits, were very similar perceived for Williams, plum and grape spirits whereas apple and raspberry spirits showed better characteristic at higher alcohol content.


Belcerek, M., Pielech-Przybylska, K., Patelski, P., Dziekońska-Kubczak, U., Strąk, E. (2017). The effect of distillation conditions and alcohol content in ‘heart’ fractions on the concentration of aroma volatiles and undesirable compounds in plum brandies. Journal of the Instotute of Brewing, 123, 452–463. https://doi.org/10.1002/jib.441

Bohn, J., Roj, S., Hoppert, L., Heller, D., Einfalt, D. (2021). Absorbance spectroscopy of heads, hearts and tails fractions in fruit spirits. Beverages, 7(2), 21. https://doi.org/10.3390/beverages7020021

Butron, D., Valcárcel-Muñoz, M.J., García-Moreno, M.V., Rodríguez-Dodero, M. C., Guillén-Sánchez D.A. (2023). Effect of the alcoholic strength of unaged wine distillates on the final composition of Brandy de Jerez aged in Sherry Casks®, OENO One, 57. https://doi.org/10.20870/oeno-one.2023.57.3.7371

Demiglio, P., &Pickering G.J. (2008). The influence of ethanol and pH on the taste and mouthfeel sensations elicited by red wine. Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment, 6(3&4), 143- 150.

Durr, P. (2010). Lagern und Fertigstellen. In P., Durr, W.Albrecht, M. Gossinger, K., Hagmann, D., Pulver, G. Scholten (Eds.), Technologie der Obstbrennerei. Eugen Ulmer, (pp. 241-255). Stuttgart, Germany.

Esteban-Decloux, M., Dechatre, J.C., Legendre, P., Guichard H. (2021). Double batch cider distillation: influence of the recycling of the separated fractions. LWT - Food Science and Technology, 111420. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lwt.2021.111420

European Parliament and Council of 17 April 2019 (2019). Regulation (EU) 2019/787. European Parliament and Council of 17 April 2019, L130/1.

Heller, D. & Einfalt, D. (2022). Reproducibility of fruit spirit distillation processes. Beverages, 8(20). https://doi.org/10.3390/ beverages8020020

Hodel, J., O’Donovan, T., Hill, A.E. (2021). Influence of still design and modelling of the behaviour of volatile terpenes in an artificial model gin. Food and Bioproducts Processing, 129, 46-64. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbp.2021.07.002; https://data.europa.eu/eli/reg/2019/787/oj

Ickes, C.M., & Cadwallader, K.R. (2017). Effects of ethanol on flavor perception in alcoholic beverages. Chemosensory Perception, 10, 119–134. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12078-017-9238-2

Ickes, C.M., & Cadwallader, K.R. (2018). Effect of ethanol on flavor perception of rum. Food Science andNutrition, 6(4), 912-924. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.629

Januszek, M., Satora, P., Tarko, T. (2020). Oenological characteristics of fermented apple musts and volatile profile of brandies obtained from different apple cultivars. Biomolecules, 10, 853. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom10060853

Jones, P. R. , Gawel, R. , Francis, I. L. , & Waters, E. J. (2008). The influence of interactions between major white wine components on the aroma, flavour and texture of model white wine. Food Quality and Preference, 19, 596–607.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2008.03.005

King, E.S., Dunn, R.L., Heymann, H. (2013). The influence of alcohol on the sensory perception of red wines. Food Quality and Preference, 28(1), 235-243. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2012.08.013.

Le Berre, E. , Atanasova, B. , Langlois, D. , Etiévant, P. , Thomas‐Danguin, T. (2007). Impact of ethanol on the perception of wine odorant mixtures. Food Quality and Preference, 18, 901–908. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2007.02.004

Lončarić, A., Patljak, M., Blažević, A., Jozinović, A., Babić, J., Šubarić, D., ...Miličević, B. (2022). Changes in volatile compounds during grape brandy production from ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ and ‘Syrah’ grape varieties. Processes, 10(5), 988. https://doi.org/10.3390/pr10050988

Longo, R., Blackman, J. W., Torley, P. J., Rogiers, S. Y., Schmidtke, L. M. (2017). Changes in volatile composition and sensory attributes of wines during alcohol content reduction. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 97(1), 8-16. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.7757

Lukić, I., Tomas, S., Miličević, B., Radeka, S., Peršurić, Đ. (2011). Behaviour of volatile compounds during traditional alembic distillation of fermeted Muscat Blanc and Muškat Ruža Porečki grape marcs. Journal Institute of Brewing, 117, 440–450. ttps://doi.org/10.1002/j.2050-0416.2011.tb00491.x

Lyu, J., Chen, S., Nie, Y., Xu, Y., Tang, K. (2021). Aroma release during wine consumption: Factors and analytical approaches, Food Chemistry, 346, 128957. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.128957

Meyners, M. (2007) Easy and powerful analysis of replicated paired preference tests using the χ2 test. Food Quality and Preference, 18938-948. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2007.03.002

Mrvčić, J., Trontel, A., Hanousek Čiča, K., Vahčić, N., Nikićević, N., Spaho, N., ... Stanzer, D. (2021). Chemical and sensorial characteristics of traditional fruit spirits from Southeast Europe. Glasnik Zaštite Bilja, 44(6.), 80-89. https://doi.org/10.31727/gzb.44.6.9

Nikićević, N. (2005). Effects of some production factors on chemical composition and sensory qualities of Williams pear brandy. Journal of Agricultural Sciences (Belgrade), 50(2), 193-206. https://doi.org/10.2298/JAS0502193N

Nolden, A. A. , & Hayes, J. E. (2015). Perceptual qualities of ethanol depend on concentration, and variation in these percepts associates with drinking frequency. Chemosensory Perception, 8, 149–157. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12078-015-9196-5

O‘Mahony, M. (1986). Sensory Evaluation of Food: Statistical Methods and Procedures (1st ed.). Marcel Dekker, INC. New York.

Rodríguez-Solana, R., Galego, L.R., Pérez-Santín, E., Romano, A. (2018). Production method and varietal source influence the volatile profiles of spirits prepared from fig fruits (Ficus carica L.) European Food Research and Technology, 244, 2213–2229. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00217-018-3131-3

Różański, M., Pielech-Przybylska, K., Balcerek, M. (2020). Influence of alcohol content and storage conditions on the physicochemical stability of spirit drinks. Foods, 9(9), 1264. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9091264

Scholten, G. (1999). Fertigstellen der Destillate. In P., Durr, L., Gartner, G., Scholten, H., Vallander (Eds.), So producire Ich die besten Destillate. Osterreichischer Agrarverlag, (pp.154-204). Wien: Messe Wien.

Spaho, N., Dürr, P., Grba, S., Velagić‐Habul, E ., Blesić M. (2013). Effects of distillation cut on the distribution of higher alcohols and esters in brandy produced from three plum varieties. Journal of the Institute of Brewing, 119(1-2), 48-56 https://doi.org/10.1002/jib.62

Spaho, N., Gaši, F., Leitner, E., Akagić, A., Blesić M. (2023). Improving the flavor profile of apple spirits using traditional cultivars. ACS Food Science & Technology, 3(3), 414-427. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsfoodscitech.2c00320

Spaho, N., Gaši, F., Leitner, E., Blesić, M., Akagić, A., Žuljević, S.O... Meland, M. (2021). Characterization of volatile compounds and flavor in spirits of old apple and pear cultivars from the Balkan region. Food, 10, 1258. https://doi.org/10.3390/ foods10061258

Stanzer, D., Hanousek Čiča, K., Blesić, M., Smajić Murtić, M., Mrvčić, J., Spaho, N. (2023). Alcoholic fermentation as a source of congeners in fruit spirits. Foods, 12(10), 1951. https://doi.org/10.3390/ foods12101951

Stone, H., & Sidel, J.L. (2004). Sensory Evaluation Practices, (3rd ed.), Elsevier Academic Press, San Diego.

Tian, T.T., Ruan, S.L., Zhao, Y.P., Li, J.M., Yang, C., Cao, H. (2022). Multi-objective evaluation of freshly distilled brandy: Characterisation and distribution patterns of key odour-active compounds. Food Chemistry: X(14), 100276. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fochx.2022.100276

Valcarcel-Munoz, M.J., Butron-Benítez, D., Guerrero-Chanivet, M., Valme García-Moreno, M., Rodríguez-Dodero, M.C., Guillen-Sanchez, D.A. (2022). Influence of alcoholic strength on the characteristics of Brandy de Jerez aged in sherry casks®. Journal of food composition and analysis, 111, 104618. doi: 10.1016/j.jfca.2022.104618

Wang, X., Guo, W., Sun, B., Li, H., Zheng, F., Li, J., Meng, N. (2022). Characterization of key aroma-active compounds in two types of peach spirits produced by distillation and pervaporation by means of the sensomics approach. Foods, 11(17), 2598. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11172598

Wei, X.F., Ma, X.L., Cao, J.H., Sun, X.Y., Fang, Y.L. (2018): Aroma characteristics and volatile compounds of distilled Crystal grape spirits of different alcohol concentrations: wine sprits in the Shangri-La region of China. Food Science and Technology, 38 (Suppl. 1), 50-58. https://doi.org/10.1590/fst.12117

Xiang, X.F., Lan, Y.B., Gao, X.T., Xie, H., An, Z.Y., Lv, Z.H. … Wu, G.F. (2020). Characterization of odor-active compounds in the head, heart, and tail fractions of freshly distilled spirit from spine grape (Vitis davidii Foex) wine by gas chromatography-olfactometry and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Food Research International, 137, 109388. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2020.109388



13. 12. 2023



Original Scientific Article

How to Cite

ŠEKERIĆ , A., BLESIĆ, M., DRKENDA, P., & SPAHO, N. (2023). Effect of the alcohol content on sensory perception of the fruit spirits. Acta Agriculturae Slovenica, 119(4), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.14720/aas.2023.119.4.15939

Similar Articles

1-10 of 394

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.

Most read articles by the same author(s)