I added flavoring and glycerin to a test batch of cordial for the first time ever this week. I had split a batch of peach cordial made with lovely orchard peaches gathered last summer, soaked in white brandy. It had a wonderful nose but very, shall we say, delicate flavor. It happens with real fruit – the flavor doesn’t hit you over the head. In the abstract, this is fine, but the modern drinker expects a whole lot more flavor pop – we’re used to enhanced everything.
Since it was a largish batch, I split it in two parts. One part I put aside to preserve the lovely aroma. The other seemed thin and had very little flavor. I was happy with the sweetness. I don’t sweeten my cordials as acutely as some, but I thought the sweetness/alcohol balance was good. I browsed brewing catalogues online and on paper to see what kinds of additives were commonly available – what might other people be using routinely to fix problems like this?
First stop: glycerine. Just a drop or two, mixed in thoroughly (actually I put the lid on the mason jar and shook it vigorously) gave it a lot more body. I’d call that a cautious success. It would be easy to overdo it.
Second stop: commercial peach flavoring. I bought a 4 oz bottle of Brewers Best peach flavoring and put a bit on my tongue. Definitely an artificial flavor. I added a little to my mason jar. Then I added a little more. The store recommends 4 or 5 oz. per 5 gallons of beer, and it’s clearly labelled “artificial flavors”. Now it has a nose like very overripe, starting-to-mold peaches, with that underlying mustiness that wasn’t there before. You can taste peach all right, but it isn’t light and refreshing. Either I added a bit too much, or this is what fruit flavoring tastes like. (I’m glad I split my batch and have some of the original set aside.) The only thing I can think to do to fix it is to dilute it with more brandy and see what that does to the flavor and aroma, then see about tweaking resulting sweetness and body. If the issue is too much of the artificial flavoring, that should solve it; if this is just the way flavoring tastes when combined, it won’t. Next time I think I’ll buckle down and just add another round of peaches, or even two, even if it means using frozen off-season grocery store slices.
I haven’t tried brewing with this fruit flavoring – being a totally different chemistry, I’m not at all sure how the flavors would translate. I want to get a better sense of them “in the raw” first, I think. I mostly brew all-grain beers and braggots, and am just plain dubious about adding an obviously artificial substance to my beer if I can help it. Beet or corn sugar for priming and DAP for yeast nutrient is about as far as I’ve gone from a clearly recognizable food source going into my brew. I know about mead additives and have written about them on this blog – but I use very few of them, forcing myself to manage the process pretty carefully instead.
I really notice how resistant I am about these products. I prefer to keep things simple where I can – BIG fan of the KISS rule – for example, I love high-tech whiz-bang toys (I work for one of the Big Boys of Tech companies), but I only buy the ones that actually make my daily life simpler. Sometimes this means I catch on to very cool new developments quite late, so I try to avoid the troglodyte phenomenon by keeping up to date with what’s available. (These days there are so many new tools and toys coming out that there’s a lot less onus on not knowing about the latest new gadget or phenomenon.) I never want obstinately avoid new tools just because they’re new. I don’t care if that’s the human default, it makes you an old curmudgeon and I never want to become one. I may not young any more, but I’m not done learning yet.
However…I’m still not convinced about adding fruit flavoring to my home brews.