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Flavor Bites: Cinnamyl Alcohol

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Cinnamyl alcohol (FEMA# 2294, CAS# 104-54-1) has the interesting, and extremely useful, property of adding depth of taste to flavors without imposing a highly specific profile. That is not to say that cinnamyl alcohol is bland or uninteresting. The character of this chemical is actually quite complex, most obviously balsamic with distinct honey notes, but it also has a number of intriguing floral hints, especially of hyacinth. Care should be taken with the storage of cinnamyl alcohol because poorly stored samples can, in addition to the balsamic notes, have an unhelpful faint tinge of cinnamon character, caused by a slight degree of oxidation of cinnamyl alcohol to cinnamaldehyde.

The basically balsamic profile fits elegantly into many brown flavor categories but it also performs well in quite a wide range of fruit flavors. Guava is the most obvious fit but it also works in many other categories that are very far removed from the compatible profile of guava.

The dose rates given throughout this article are the levels suggested for use in flavors that are intended to be dosed at 0.05% in a ready-to-drink beverage.

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Brown Flavors

Honey: Cinnamyl alcohol smells quite distinctly honey-like and it performs a lead role in all types of honey flavors at around 2,000 ppm. Higher levels, up to 5,000 ppm are also effective in very heavy styles of honey, such as clover.

Cinnamon: Similarly high levels, in the region of 2,000 ppm, are also useful in cinnamon flavors, adding welcome complexity and softening the harsh effect of cinnamaldehyde.

Cocoa and Chocolate: The effect of cinnamyl alcohol in cocoa and chocolate flavors is also quite dominant, adding depth and authenticity at levels of addition around 1,000 ppm.

Vanilla: The ideal level of use in vanilla flavors depends very much on the style that is required. Strongly balsamic flavors, especially the style popular in dairy products in Europe, can benefit from 1,000 ppm. More vanilla bean extract-oriented profiles are better served by much lower levels, around 50 ppm.

Coffee: In a similar way, the best level of addition to coffee flavors can vary with the target profile, but generally levels of addition in the region of 500 ppm can help the taste profile and soften burnt notes.

Cola: As cola flavors mature, and cinnamaldehyde fades, the significance of cinnamyl alcohol in the flavor profile becomes slowly more evident and moderate levels, around 300 ppm, can be very helpful in smoothing out the taste

Licorice: Licorice flavors are often in dire need of added complexity and cinnamyl alcohol is very useful in this respect at quite modest levels of addition, around 100 ppm.

Oak: Oak flavors are interesting examples of flavors with multiple functions, particularly when they are added to wine. They not only add oak notes to wine but they also soften the harsh notes of young wine to give an impression of age. This ingredient is very useful at levels around 100 ppm.

Tropical Fruit Flavors

Guava: High levels work best in guava flavors and 2,000 ppm is a good place to start. This ingredients works especially well in this flavor category when it is used in combination with high levels of methyl cinnamate and ethyl cinnamate.

Passion Fruit: Passion fruit flavors can easily become over-bright and cinnamyl alcohol has a pleasant softening effect at around 200 ppm, adding authenticity and depth of taste.

Mango: In contrast, the effect of this ingredient in mango flavors can be quite subtle, working well at as little as 30 ppm. Even at this low level, it still adds a significant level of authenticity.

Berry Fruit Flavors

Cherry: In the berry fruit category, cherry flavors are far and away the most obvious candidate. Cinnamyl alcohol works very well in simplistic flavors dominated by benzaldehyde, helping to soften the harsh topnote. It also works well in realistic flavors, with 600 ppm as the best starting level to try in both flavor categories.

Strawberry: This flavor category is an almost equally sympathetic home for this raw material as cherry flavors. There is a clear similarity to guava flavors because the combination with methyl cinnamate and ethyl cinnamate is especially attractive. The best initial level is 400 ppm.

Blueberry: Blueberry flavors can vary considerably, but cinnamyl alcohol can be very useful to add weight and depth of taste to flavor styles that are strongly floral and dependent on linalool. 400 ppm is a good starting point.

Blackcurrant: 400 ppm of this ingredient can be similarly helpful in blackcurrant flavors, offsetting the dominant sulfur notes and adding depth of taste combined with authenticity.

Raspberry: Much lower levels, nearer 100 ppm, are more effective in raspberry flavors, providing a subtle but very welcome taste and realism benefits.

Blackberry: The same 100 ppm level of addition of cinnamyl alcohol also works very well in blackberry flavors, proving equally effective in high and low musk note types.

Other Fruit Flavors

Apple: It is quite possible to use high levels of cinnamyl alcohol, in the region of 1,000 ppm, in apple flavor, giving depth of taste without adding any obvious cinnamon character. This is a particularly effective technique for cooked apple flavors. For fresh apple flavors a much lower level, around 50 ppm, is also effective in a different way, adding subtle authenticity.

Pear: 50 ppm of this ingredient is also similarly useful in pear flavors, with the same option of adding higher levels to get an enhanced taste effect. Higher levels can, however, detract a little from the impression of freshness.

Grape: Cinnamyl alcohol is useful in Muscat and other non-Concord style grape flavors at around 100 ppm, but it really comes into its own in Concord grape flavors. A good starting point in this style of grape flavors is 400 ppm.

Apricot: This ingredient is a little more effective in apricot flavors than in peach flavors and, in consequence, the ideal level of use is a little higher, in the region of 200 ppm.

Peach: The effect of cinnamyl alcohol in peach flavors is similar to that in apricot flavors, adding sweetness and depth, but the best level of addition is around 100 ppm.

Grapefruit: The idea of adding cinnamyl alcohol to citrus flavors may seem a little eccentric but this should not deter an adventurous flavorist. It does have an interesting effect. This applies to all citrus flavors but it is particularly true of grapefruit flavors. The best level of addition to try out is 50 ppm.

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