Oak wood contains aroma-active compounds that contribute significantly to the chemical structure, olfactory and gustatory qualities of alcoholic beverages and vinegars as by-products that have been either fermented and/or aged in oak barrels. The chemical composition of cooperage oak is highly variable, depending on the degree of toasting and natural seasoning. However, it is unclear whether the odor of oak varies according to different geographical regions and pedoclimatic conditions. Especially in view of the actual challenges in forestry in relation to climate change, the present study aimed at elucidating the odorous constituents of nine natural oak samples from Germany, Austria and Hungary with respect to these influencing parameters. The odor profiles of the oaks were compared, the potent odorants were determined, and selected odorants were quantified using stable isotope dilution assays (SIDA). The majority of the identified odorants in all samples were fatty acid degradation products, followed by a series of odorants with terpenoic structure and others resulting from the degradation of lignin. Several different odorants including 2-propenoic acid and cinnamaldehyde are reported here for the first time in oaks from different growth regions. Odor activity values (OAVs), calculated based on odor thresholds (OTs) in water, revealed hexanal, (E)-2-nonenal, (Z)-3-hexenal, eugenol, vanillin, and whiskey lactone as potent odorants for the oak odor. Principal component analysis of the data obtained from sensory evaluation, comparative aroma extract dilution analysis (cAEDA) and their corresponding quantified odorants showed that the highest separation rate was obtained for Hungarian oak, whereas Austrian and Bavarian oak samples were more similar. Recombination experiments by mixing the dominant odorants in their naturally occurring concentrations revealed a good agreement of the smell properties of the model mixture with the smell of the respective original sample. These findings aim at evaluating and establishing a better understanding of the distinctive smell of oak wood and demonstrated the prospects of new oak sources.
- Comparative aroma extract dilution analysis (cAEDA)
- Gas chromatography olfactometry (GC-O)
- Oak wood
- Odor recombination
- Pedoclimatic conditions
- Stable isotope dilution assays (SIDA)