The role of oak wood in the mint and floral notes of whisky: identification of common terpenoids by aromatic fractionation


  • Magali Picard Demptos Research Center at Centre d’Etude Structurale et d’Analyse des Molécules Organiques (CESAMO)
  • Clara Oulieu Demptos Research Center at Centre d’Etude Structurale et d’Analyse des Molécules Organiques (CESAMO)
  • Marie-Françoise Nonier Demptos Research Center at Centre d’Etude Structurale et d’Analyse des Molécules Organiques (CESAMO)
  • Nathalie Vivas Demptos Research Center at Centre d’Etude Structurale et d’Analyse des Molécules Organiques (CESAMO)
  • Nicolas Vivas Demptos Research Center at Centre d’Etude Structurale et d’Analyse des Molécules Organiques (CESAMO)



whisky maturation, oak wood, floral aromas, mint aromas, terpenoids


Understanding the development of the whisky aroma during maturation in oak casks provides a rational basis for improvements in product quality. While oak wood is an important contributor to the spicy, toasted, and smoky aromatic notes, limited studies have focused on its role in floral and mint notes of matured whiskies.  However, achieving consistent flavour profiles remains difficult since the odorant molecules are mostly present in low concentration. A semi-preparative ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) method was applied to whisky and oak wood extracts and used to isolate fractions characterised by floral and mint aromas. To investigate the contribution of terpenoids in these floral and fresh fragrances, a similar analytical process was applied on solutions of targeted reference compounds. This approach, coupled to gas-chromatography/mass-spectrometry analyses, indicated the presence of terpenoids in the fractions of interest as well as selective separation according to chemical structure (i.e., monoterpenes, monoterpenols, ketone monoterpenes, and C13-norisoprenoids). This approach resulted in the detection of respectively, ten and seven new terpenoids in whisky and oak wood. To the best of our knowledge, piperitone, mint lactones, and β-damascone are reported for the first time in whisky and oak wood. Even though raw material, fermentation and distillation processes largely contribute to the presence of terpenoids in new make spirit, this study provides evidence that oak wood enhances floral and mint notes in whisky through chemical and sensory interactions taking place during maturation.


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Author Biographies

Magali Picard, Demptos Research Center at Centre d’Etude Structurale et d’Analyse des Molécules Organiques (CESAMO)

University of Bordeaux

Clara Oulieu, Demptos Research Center at Centre d’Etude Structurale et d’Analyse des Molécules Organiques (CESAMO)

University of Bordeaux

Marie-Françoise Nonier, Demptos Research Center at Centre d’Etude Structurale et d’Analyse des Molécules Organiques (CESAMO)

University of Bordeaux

Nathalie Vivas, Demptos Research Center at Centre d’Etude Structurale et d’Analyse des Molécules Organiques (CESAMO)

University of Bordeaux

Nicolas Vivas , Demptos Research Center at Centre d’Etude Structurale et d’Analyse des Molécules Organiques (CESAMO)

University of Bordeaux


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01-03-2023 — Updated on 01-03-2023

How to Cite

Picard, M., Oulieu, C., Nonier, M.-F., Vivas, N., & Vivas , N. (2023). The role of oak wood in the mint and floral notes of whisky: identification of common terpenoids by aromatic fractionation. Journal of the Institute of Brewing, 129(1), 62–79.