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The Language and Principles of Flavor Creation

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor
Posted: May 12, 2009
Frank Fischetti

Frank Fischetti, veteran flavorist and consultant.

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Among the character impact materials cited by Fischetti were: 3-methoxy-2-isobutyl pyrazine for bell or pea, ethyl-2-methylbutyrate for apple, 4-methyl nonanoic acid and 4 methyl octanoic acid for lamb, 5-methyl thiophenecarboxaldehyde for almond and isoamyl acetate for banana.

Contributory Item

Contributory items, meanwhile, help create, enhance or potentiate flavors—though on their own they do not necessarily taste or smell like the named flavor target. While these materials may not embody the primary organoleptic character, they can bring the overall flavor closer to it. “A contributory item is necessary to produce a desired effect,” Fischetti explained, “but not essential for the flavor.” He continued, “They are not characteristic, but they are necessary, because it acts with the impact items to produce a definite character.”

Among the contributory items Fischetti cited were: ethyl butyrate and 2,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxy-3(2H)- furanone in grape, ethyl safronate for blueberry, acetophenone for black cherry, and furanthiol and γ-decalatone for chicken/chicken broth.

Differential Item

Finally, differentiating ingredients present the flavorist with the greatest opportunity for creativity. “This is the most imaginative part of the flavor,” Fischetti said. Differentiating materials are not characteristic, essential or necessary to achieve a named flavor. Adding these materials is not about building a better or more characteristic flavor, said Fischetti, but rather about creating a different flavor, building signature. It is the use of these materials, he said, that truly marks a flavor chemist.

Among the differential items he highlighted were: the Liederkranz cheeselike methylthio butyrate in strawberry for “seediness,” Exaltolide* for bringing muskiness to blackberry, and 2,4-octadienal and 4-phenyl-4-pentenal in walnut.

Character Impact Groups

“I think you should learn one flavor at a time rather than one chemical,” Fischetti said. “Why? Because you can extrapolate an apple flavor to a strawberry quite easily. If you’re familiar with the apple, you have a lot of components that could quite easily go into strawberry.” For this reason, he said, Fischetti prefers to present materials in character impact groups. “In every character impact group you have the start of any flavor. Ask any flavor chemist, ‘What’s the hardest thing to do?’ It’s hard to get started making the first compounds. This is a better way to do it than teaching one compound at a time.”