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Flavor Bites: Anisyl Alcohol

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Anisyl alcohol, i.e. 4-Methoxy benzyl alcohol (FEMA#2099, CAS# 105-13-5), is a very interesting floral note. The dominant floral character is clearly the familiar hawthorn note from hedgerows, but the profile is soft, deep and not at all aggressive. This lack of obvious odor impact results in the bulk of this chemical being used in flavors rather than fragrances. Also, the main fragrance use of anisyl alcohol is in vanilla fragrances rather than floral compositions.

Anisyl alcohol is found quite widely in nature but by far the most important natural occurrence is in Tahiti vanilla beans. The sublime partnership with vanillin in Tahiti vanilla beans sets the scene for a smorgasbord of additional uses of anisyl alcohol, often in flavors with some level of vanilla notes.

Note that the dose rates given throughout this article are the levels suggested for use in flavors intended to be dosed at 0.05% in ready-to-drink beverages or in a simple bouillon.

Brown Flavors

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Caramel: Caramel and toffee flavors are an excellent example of the perfect partnership with vanillin. Levels of addition vary, depending on the note required, but I personally prefer a relatively high level, around 4,000 ppm.

Chocolate: Chocolate and cocoa flavors represent a much more subtle use of anisyl alcohol. Cocoa and dark chocolate flavors are best served by a low level. A good place to start is 20 ppm. Milk chocolate flavors benefit from a higher level, nearer 100 ppm, possibly more depending on the level of vanillin.

Coffee: Anisyl alcohol helps to fill out coffee flavors and counterbalances the dominant sulfur and pyrazine top notes. An ideal level of addition is 100 ppm but higher levels can be used in softer profiles.

Honey: Honey flavors run the gamut from sweet and heavy to light and floral. This ingredient is very much at home in the heavy honey profiles and can be used at a moderately high level, around 300 ppm. Fortunately, it also works well in the lighter and more floral profiles but possibly at a slightly lower level.

Molasses and Brown Sugar: Realistic molasses and brown sugar flavors should not be overly dependant on vanilla notes, but a little is always helpful. Anisyl alcohol at 200 ppm adds a nice finishing touch to molasses flavors. This can be shaded down a little, to around 100 ppm, in typical brown sugar flavors.

Vanilla Bean: Bourbon vanilla bean flavors are improved by the addition of anisyl alcohol, but the addition should be very cautious to avoid tipping the profile towards Tahiti. A reasonable starting leveling is 100 ppm. French-style and Tahiti vanilla bean flavors are a very different matter, the addition should be anything other than cautious. It is very effective at 10,000 ppm but even higher levels can be used successfully.

Fruit Flavors

Apricot: Much more modest levels of anisyl alcohol give the best effects in most fruit flavors. Apricot and peach flavors are both given added depth by the addition of as little as 50 ppm.

Blackcurrant: Even lower levels are optimum in authentic tasting blackcurrant flavors, starting at 20 ppm.

Blueberry: Blueberry flavors can often be too light and fragrant, lacking depth and berry character. Anisyl alcohol adds a little depth and complexity to the floral character and also deepens the berry note.

Cherry: Cherry flavors vary tremendously, and the tutti-frutti/benzaldehyde staples would not benefit from this ingredient. Realistic black cherry flavors are a different matter and 50 ppm can add significant authenticity.

Cranberry: Cranberry flavors can also be helped by modest amounts of anisyl alcohol. A good place to start is 80 ppm.

Grape, Concord: Most Concord grape flavors are so dominated by methyl anthranilate that trace additions of other ingredients might seem pointless. Nevertheless, a tiny splash of five ppm of anisyl alcohol can add a touch of realism.

Plum: There is no question that plum flavors are the odd one out in this fruit category. No need to be overcautious, levels from 400 ppm and up can be very helpful in this difficult flavor category.

Raspberry: Many good raspberry flavors will have a hint of vanillin as part of the background taste effect. At 50 ppm of anisyl alcohol, it enhances this effect and lifts the profile.

Strawberry: The same comments are equally true for strawberry flavors and even the freshest profile will contain a hint of vanillin. The ideal level of anisyl alcohol for strawberry flavors, in my opinion, is lower than for raspberry flavors, around 10 ppm.

Dairy Flavors

Cream, Sour: The combination of vanillin surfaces can be used in a number of dairy flavors. Anisyl alcohol is very helpful in all cream flavors but especially in sour cream profiles. A good starting point is 150 ppm.

Milk: Fresh milk flavors are quite subtle and can be challenging to reproduce. A much lower level, nearer 20 ppm, of this ingredient is more appropriate.

Milk, Condensed: Condensed milk and dulce de leche flavors behave more like sour cream flavors in respect to this ingredient. A good initial level to try is 100 ppm.

Other Flavors

Coconut: Anisyl alcohol is an ideal ingredient for all coconut flavors. It adds depth and rounds out the rather simplistic lactone notes. It is equally effective with or without added vanillin. Levels of use can vary widely but 100 ppm is a reasonable starting point.

Hazelnut: This chemical is very useful in all nut flavors, but the best impact is in hazelnut flavors. The slight floral note and underlying depth is best achieved by the addition of around 100 ppm.

Rice, Cooked: Cooked rice flavors can be quite challenging. Thiazoles and unsaturated aldehydes and ketone go a long way towards recreating the character but, left alone, they are far too thin and insubstantial. The addition of 100 ppm of anisyl alcohol can be one of the steps towards achieving a more balanced profile.

Tomato: With tomato flavors, we are back to similar considerations as fruit flavors – not surprising as tomatoes should really sit within the fruit category. A good level of addition is 10 ppm.

Walnut: I think that walnut flavors probably benefit from the addition of anisyl alcohol almost as much as hazelnut flavors. The best level is a little lower, around 50 ppm.

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