Award: Grant for Analyzing distillation with fast Fourier molecular rotation spectroscopy (FFMRS)

By Ian Glomski on January 29 2019

American Distilling Institute Distilling Research Grant Funded


“A Novel Real Time Quantitative Analytical Spectroscopy Technique for Analyzing All the Congeners Emerging from a Distillation Process” by Robin Felder, PhD in collaboration with Vitae Spirits Distillery, Ragged Branch Distillery, Silverback Distillery, and the University of Virginia Chemistry Department


Robin Felder, Ph.D. founder and proprietor of Monte Piccolo Farm and Distillery and collaborators will receive a $6,400 grant on their proposal to analyze samples of distilled spirits using Fast Fourier Molecular Rotation Spectroscopy (FFMRS), a new method of chemical analysis that is less expensive and labor intensive than Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry (GCMS). The new technology uses microwaves to accurately and quickly determine chemical structures. Dr. Felder said, “It is relatively little known since it takes time for novel instrumentation to penetrate existing markets. Our preliminary work in my distillery has demonstrated unequivocally that it brings hard data to the art of distilling.”


Normally, what makes it into beverage alcohol versus what is disposed of (the “cut”) is made at sensory discretion of the distiller. The cut can vary greatly based on the olfactory acuity of the distiller and the content of the fermentation from batch to batch. Distillers would appreciate an objective measure of their distilling skills, or to improve their distilling skills such as when and how much offensive compounds like acetaldehyde, methanol, butanol are emerging from their process and when and how much pleasant compounds are emerging. We have been researching methods to measure molecules in the distillation vapor before and immediately after it emerges from the still. Traditional analytical methods are either not sufficiently definitive (gas chromatography), too expensive and laborious (mass spectrometry), or haven’t been invented yet. When FFMRS is adapted to distillation craft distillers will have a relatively inexpensive new tool to aid in quality control and development of new products.