Capn Jimbo's Rum Project Forum Forum Index Capn Jimbo's Rum Project Forum
Rum Appreciation by and for the Compleat Idiot
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Flavorings: Artificial vs "Natural"

Post new topic   Reply to topic    Capn Jimbo's Rum Project Forum Forum Index -> From Cane to Glass
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot

Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3499
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 5:41 am    Post subject: Flavorings: Artificial vs "Natural" Reply with quote

I've got a bridge to sell ya...

OK, just one more time on this. The well-lobbied federal regs on these terms are much bandied about, not least by the motherflippin marketing departments of most distillers.

"Costly and authentic "natural" flavors!" they shout out. Bullshit. Let's crush this myth right now. "Artificial" flavorings are just what you think - made from synthetic and very rough approximations of real and real natural flavors. Compare a "strawberry" candy drop to uh, a real strawberry.

Night and day.

But how about a "natural flavored" candy drop? Oh, my! We immediately think that somehow the manufacturer crushed up a bunch of ripe strawberries and then added the nectar to their crap drops.


Here's what really happens. In the same laboratory that creates alien artificial flavors, the "flavorists" (honest, that's what they're called) try to identify the chemical component of a real strawberry - the one or two that delivers the actual, real flavor of a fresh strawberry. But guess what?

They can't. Not even close. Check this out...

Washington Post: "Some 37 different chemical compounds have been identified in the flavor of mangoes, and more than 800 in the flavor and aroma of coffee. To imitate the effects of the natural flavors on the palate, a flavorist must blend a dozen or more chemicals, no single one of which hits the flavor nail directly on the head."

Truth is that actual flavors of actual fruits and spices is delivered by the entirety of the fruit/spice - composed of likely tens if not hundreds of chemical components. Not just one or two. Guess what they do then?

Yup, they extract one or even a few unrelated "natural" components, may then fuck it up with bunch of other artificial or synthentic chemicals to arrive at - drum roll - a label that includes "natural flavoring" to deceive you. What horseshit.

The difference between "artificial" and "natural" is minimal and almost meaningless. It leads to the complete and utter deception of the poor consumer who thinks that "natural flavoring" truly and accurately represents the real McCoy.

Remember that!

Go to Save Caribbean Rum Petition!

Last edited by Capn Jimbo on Fri May 10, 2013 6:49 am; edited 3 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot

Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3499
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2011 5:51 am    Post subject: Phoney is as phoney does... Reply with quote

Are all flavored rums phoney then?

No. The Lash, Foursquare by Richard Seale, Old Monk and Pango seem to be authentic exceptions.

Keep in mind too that spirits like good gin extract real natural flavors of real botanicals and spices by placing them in the path of the distillation vapors before condensation. The best that can be done is to use real botanicals, fruits and spices, macerate and/or crush them and expose them to the spirit either during or after the distillation. A very, very expensive and delicate process.

It's far, far cheaper to just dump in a can of artificial or "natural" flavor chemicals and be done with it.


Thought: things are really flipped up when we have to refer to "real natural" from legal "natural". Makes you feel downright nuts. Naturally...


Go to Save Caribbean Rum Petition!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website

Joined: 10 Jun 2012
Posts: 4
Location: Southern California

PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:45 am    Post subject: Artificial flavor construction Reply with quote

I used to work in an entomology lab at UC Riverside. My guiding professor (Jocelyn Millar) is a brilliant and dedicated chemical ecologist. His main job is extracting and identifying active chemical components of insect pheromones for the purpose of reconstructing useful airborne insect baits/attractants.

One of the most useful lessons I learned is that this ends up being a short list of about 1-4 compounds out of potentially hundreds that are often synergistic. Furthermore these chemicals are often impossible to construct artificially such that an alternative chemical structure that is an approximation of the real thing ends up being the only viable choice.

The point?? Your strawberry example is dead-on! The fake substance pales in comparison to the real thing.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot

Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3499
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:24 am    Post subject: It's all natural! Really? Reply with quote

Rare exceptions don't disprove the "rule"...

Here are some interesting points and misconceptions worth review. But first, reread the OP which set forth that there is really very little difference between "natural" and "artificial" flavors - and that neither can really stand up to the real deal - real spices and flavoring using fresh ingredients straight from mother nature.

This was based on the fact that most of nature's flavors are very complex and are composed of tens, if not hundreds of components. Real spices and flavors are relatively expensive in all regards, so "flavorists" work hard to try to replace these hundreds of components with either "natural" or "artificial" chemicals that they mix together in a witches' brew they hope comes close to the real deal.

Like everything else just follow the money. The goal is to be able to do away with the expensive, harder to manage real thing and replace it with nice, cheap, easy to use and consistent chemicals. To a large degree they have been successful. These third rate imitations - whether "natural" or "artificial" - have become so pervasive for so long that many people don't remember the real thing, or come to prefer what has become "good old artificial strawberry... yum!".

Which leads us to these incorrect notions...

"That the most germane example is vanillin which is easily synthesized and undetectable as to its source."

This notion proposes that vanillan (not real vanilla) as more representative of the concern, and as proposed evidence that artificial flavors can be just as good.

Remember that most real fruits and their fresh picked, ripe off the vine flavor when analyzed contain "tens if not hundreds" of components which really can't be replaced or duplicated effectively by a flavorist in the laboratory. It can't be done. Strawberry is an example, as is raspberry, or grape or coffee.

Vanillan is not a fair example and why? Real vanilla, like strawberry has well over a hundred components (171), but lucky for the flavorists is one of those relatively unique exceptions where it has been estimated that just one of those components - the vanillan alone - is estimated to be 90-95% of the show. Synthesizing this one component - easily done - is successful and is within the greedy grasp of the flavorist to achieve. But sadly vanillan is the exception to the rule, and does not represent the corpus of real flavors and aromas. And real vanilla is INCREDIBLY expensive, not to mention the demand is ten times the supply. We HAVE to use vanillan.

About the "undetectable" part. Close - half a star here - but vanillan vs vanilla has been well tested by such cooking establishments as Cooking Illustrated among others. The consensus of the studies: unlike the many others flavor comparisons they have done, vanillan vs vanilla scored very closely. Still, the test panels could detect and preferred "vanillan" especially in cookies and baking, but "vanilla" in say custards or ice cream. Which raises another point made in the intro.

Vanillan - the copied component - has become so overwhelmingly ubiquitous that like Diageo, it absolutely dominates everything you like. It is so common that when we refer to very common things we call them them "vanilla". We have come to actually prefer the imitation, which are usually made so powerful (most contain more vanillan than the vanillan component of the real thing) that we now expect and need a vanillan jolt. We no longer remember, note or appreciate the subtle complexity of the real thing.

One commentator/tester said it best "...people just preferred the strong, one-note flavors of vanillin. It wasn't that the nuance of real vanilla was lost in the cookies, it was that the nuance was lost on the tasters." Capish?

Vanillan represents a unique exception to most flavors which lack a 95% component to duplicate.

"The FDA makes a clear distinction between naturally derived flavorings and artificial versions. When combined as separate ingredients, the statement "natural and artificial flavorings" is required. There should be no confusion".

The regulations re flavors - 21CFR101.22 - is linked for one reason. Go there decide for yourself how clear and unconfusing this 3,100 word polysectional document is. And like the rum regulations, it is really quite dense and intentionally devious.

Let me cut to the chase and pull out the key paragraph defining "Natural flavor":

(3) The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in §§ 182.10, 182.20, 182.40, and 182.50 and part 184 of this chapter, and the substances listed in § 172.510 of this chapter.

Even that one paragraph - and the key one - is hard to understand and dense. But if you disagree, and really think it's clear, answer this simple question...

Does a "Raspberry" (product) with "natural flavor" contain either real raspberries or any component of real raspberries?

C'mon now, you read that paragraph, does it? Now we all know that "artificial flavoring" doesn't but we all believe that "natural flavoring" must contain at least one natural component from the expected flavor, right? Aren't we all reassured when we see something like "100% natural flavoring" or to a lesser degree, "natural and artificial flavorings"? Aren't we? After all "natural flavorings" are surely superior to the purely "artificial", ugh, "imitation flavors", right? Right?


What if I told you that a raspberry product featuring "100% natural flavors" might not have a single real raspberry, nor even a single extracted component of real raspberry in it? What if I told you that the word "natural flavor" on the label might not have a single real raspberry, nor even a single extracted component of real raspberry in it? What if I told you that the word "natural" on the label might actually referred to beaver butt? Yes, good old "natural" beaver butt. I'm not kidding. Beaver butt in the form of that good old natural flavoring ingredient, castoreum - from the article...

Source: "Who figured out a beaver’s behind tastes like raspberry"?

"...castoreum is a natural flavor behind some of the products we consume. I use the word “behind” literally, since castoreum is the product of a beaver’s anal glands. Castoreum is totally unique, chemically speaking, to the beaver – not to be confused with that stinky defensive spray that comes from a skunk’s anal glands, or reason dogs walk in circles sniffing each other’s rear ends. Same place, different thing."

A picture is worth 1000 words here:


Yup, some nice yummy raspberry flavor enhancing beaver anal glands, shown dried and ready for shipment and bulk sales (really). If you have ever eaten any "Raspberry" candy that includes the words "naturally flavor", you probably were sucking on "natural" and real beaver rectum. Beaver anal glands are one of the few delicacies that will pull even Wolfie's snout away from his own butt. Can't wait to spread some on my rye toast!

The point: what you don't get from the deviously lobbied regs is that the "natural" part doesn't have to be from the named flavor. Raspberry extract, beaver butt - there's little difference in the eyes or the nose of the FDA, it's all "legal".

Flat Ass Bottom Line...

Back to the OP...

1. The difference between "natural" and "artificial" is for all practical purposes meaningless. "Natural" doesn't mean what you think beaver fans.

2. For the same reason that vanillan is close to real vanilla is exactly why it is not a good example of the fact that flavoring - natural or artificial - generally falls well short of the real McCoy.

3. Please! And if nothing else - I beg you - I beseech you - I order you to please, por favor don't, don't, don't ever again think it's possible to truly understand or accurately cite the regulations. Almost all of them have been heavily lobbied to death to (a) sound good but (b) leave the gate to the beaver pond wide open.

4. Follow the money.

5. Follow the money

6. Follow the...

Addendum for beaver lovers and the anal retentive. From the regs:

(i) If the food is one that is commonly expected to contain a characterizing food ingredient, e.g., strawberries in “strawberry shortcake”, and the food contains natural flavor derived from such ingredient and an amount of characterizing ingredient insufficient to independently characterize the food, or the food contains no such ingredient, the name of the characterizing flavor may be immediately preceded by the word “natural” and shall be immediately followed by the word “flavored” in letters not less than one-half the height of the letters in the name of the characterizing flavor, e.g., “natural strawberry flavored shortcake,” or “strawberry flavored shortcake”.


Go to Save Caribbean Rum Petition!

Last edited by Capn Jimbo on Tue May 14, 2013 5:55 pm; edited 15 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Minor God

Joined: 04 Mar 2013
Posts: 796
Location: Swansea

PostPosted: Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like I've said before we need a list of rum that has no additives so that we can make an informed decision.
Life is under no obligation to give us what we expect!

My Link to Save Caribbean Rum Petition
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot

Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3499
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2013 6:23 am    Post subject: Who's the artificial ass here? It's not the beaver, lol... Reply with quote

More mythbusting...

"The industry is only promoting what the ignorant public demands"

It's our job to educate the public. No one will disagree that the regulations are incredibly obtuse, designed by and for the industry lobbyists to be purposefully vague and and full of loopholes, not to mention poor enforcement and the Department's acceptance - often without testing - of the manufacturer's claims insofar as the COLA.

The manufacturers will go to any length to replace expensive real components with cheap "natural" and "artificial" components, and to mislead consumers. Just one brief example:

Boone's Farm "Strawberry Hill" front label naturally (couldn't resist) shows gorgeous pictures of dew dropped plump red strawberries, and the phase "A refreshing taste of lush ripe strawberries". Any real strawberries? No. Any "natural strawberry flavor"? Nope. What it does have is simply the phrase "with natural flavor", which means - yup - no strawberries, but maybe beaver anus.

How about Bacardi's "Dragonberry" also labeled "Strawberry Rum" accompanied by enticing pics but also "with natural flavors"? Think there's any real strawberry in there? Nope. How about castoreum? You'll never know because the use castoreum, if used, appears with the label "natural flavors".

Or how about a nice "Raspberry Refresher" whose label shows gorgeous plump red ripe raspberries and the phrase "Made with 100% Raspberry Juice"? Wow! Have we finally hit the mother lode? Not especially, 'cause on the back you'll find it only"contains 5% real juice and other natural flavors". Well slap my tail!

Unless you want to call yourself ignorant, I think the manufacturers and distillers and especially their marketing departments bear the beaver's share of the blame for deception. Calling the public ignorant is gilding the lily.

"Sure artificial flavors can be inferior, but sometimes it doesnt' matter, and the reverse can be true"

The very few exceptions - especially vanilla/vanillan but also cinnamon/cassis have been pointed out. But one or even a few exceptions are not the rule, which remains: most real flavors and aromas have been found to be composed of literally hundreds of interactive natural components which flavorists cannot reliably duplicate in the laboratory with their cheap and concocted "artificial" and "natural flavor” inventions.

The most common exception is vanillan. Even though real vanilla has about 400 components, just one component - vanillan – expresses most (but not all) of the sensations we associate with real vanilla. This is highly unusual and thus irrelevant. The chefs at Cook's Illustrated (cited above, among others) conducted studies and found that almost all most other "artificial" and/or "natural" flavors do NOT stand up to the real thing, and can be easily distinguished by their testers.

And regarding rum, vanillan/vanilla are perhaps one of the greatest abuses of unlabeled additives in the wacky world of cheap rum, used for the specific objective of making a cheap young column rum taste older, smoother, tastier and aged. Real rums take expensive years to the vanillans of real age. The bullshit rums? Why, they just toss a measuring cup s full of vanillan (or real vanilla extract in the case of RM) into the barrel for unlabeled flavoring and voila! Increased sales and higher prices.

"If a product is labeled "natural raspberry flavor", it contain flavor from real raspberries, and only from them."

Now surely that sounds terrific, yes? Of course, but only until you realize how even this category is abused by asking yourself these questions...

1. How much or what part of a real raspberry is required to gain this coveted and misleading label? Answer: not very much.

2. For a product to be able to affix the label of “natural raspberry flavor”, how much of this fantastic flavoring needs to be used in the product? Answer: very little, perhaps even a drop, and last…

3. How many products are list solely “natural raspberry/fruit flavor”? Answer: relatively few. Most are accompanied by “with other natural flavors” or even “artificial flavor”.

The truth: it’s really like the teaspoon of 23 year old rum in Zacapa 23 used to justify the extremely misleading label of “23 anos”.

As for “natural raspberry flavor” don’t be shocked if there’s but a single real raspberry in the barrel. In the real world when a label like “natural raspberry flavor” appears on the label it is most commonly followed by “with other natural flavors” which simply means that the flavor is “enhanced” or provided in combination with beaver butt and any number of other weird components that contain not a whit of real raspberry or any components of real raspberry.

The Real World - a trip to the store...

Sticking with the berry and butt example - in rough order from the most commonplace, the products may be labeled as containing:

1. “Artificial flavor” – ubiquitous. No beaver butt, just artificial compounds.

2. “Natural and artificial flavor” – ubiquitous. Artificial compounds and probable beaver butt.

3. “Natural flavor” – common. Probable beaver butt.

4. “Natural raspberry flavor with other natural flavors” – available. A little bit of real berry and yup, probable beaver butt.

5. “Natural raspberry flavor” – rare. Can be only a single component of a berry, but not the from the whole real berry.

6. “Contains real raspberries” – available but expensive. This could be one or many berries, but the fewer the better, but not for you. The one and only real deal insofar as real “raspberry”, but still can be abused.

Consider a raspberry drink labeled boldly with “Made with 100% real raspberry juice” along with pictures of dew dripping from big and luscious, plump raspberries on the front label, but on the back admitting "contains 5% juice and other natural flavors”. Wanna guess what makes up the other 95%?

In other words, most everything you are likely to encounter are witches’ concoctions using components that never came near a real raspberry or contain but a wisp, the berry in the barrel.

A few worthy cites re Castoreum, labeled "natural flavor"

The Wiki:
“In the United States, castoreum is considered to be a GRAS food additive by the Food and Drug Administration.[9] It is often referenced simply as a "natural flavoring" in products' lists of ingredients… used in both foods and beverages as part of an artificial vanilla flavor (and) as a part of a raspberry or strawberry flavoring.[11]”

CRC Handbook of Food Additives:
States that castoreum adds “unusual notes to raspberry and strawberry.”, and

“A raspberry WONF (a natural flavor with other characterizing natural flavors) could contain some strawberry juice, tincture of orris root, or absolute jasmine. ... coffee, cocoa, aloe, gentian, guassia, castoreum, civet, licorice, vanilla, fenugreek, horehound, arnica, and Saint John's Bread, and these certainly do not complete the list.”

T.J. Dawe, food writer re Castoreum:
“So which food products is it used in, specifically? No manufacturer will say, for obvious reasons. Don't we have a legal right to know? Most certainly. But castoreum has been safely included, by the US Food and Drug Administration, in the umbrella category "Natural Flavor." No need to list any ingredients more specific than that.”

Basta for now...

Go to Save Caribbean Rum Petition!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Blade Rummer

Joined: 03 Nov 2014
Posts: 77
Location: Montreal

PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting read! I would just like to know who first looked at a beaver's anal gland and thought to himself :"I bet that tastes like raspberries!"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 27 Feb 2016
Posts: 13
Location: Destin

PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:50 am    Post subject: Dont forget flavorings from used barrels Reply with quote

One if the items that tickles me as a new the amount of flavor folks add, but dont have to report just by "finishing" a rum in a used barrel that comes with flavor from its previous liquids. Most common are used bourbon, rye, port, and sherry barrels.

The government has such strict rules about flavorings add after distillation, but it completely ignores flavors added by barreling in these used barrels. By now, many of you have probably heard about a whiskey from Beam called The Devils Cut. Supposedly, they soak a used barrel in hot water to make an oaky tea, then cook that down and add it as a flavoring to their bourbon. I dont know the exact process....but basically they are extracting some additional oakiness and pumping it back into their bourbon for a different flavor profile.

This is essentially what rums do that are aged in used barrels or finished in used barrels. I am not disputing the fact that aging rum in charred oak barrels adds wonderful flavor and complexity to rum just as it does to other barrel aged only beef is that by aging rum in used barrels makes it taste less like rum and more like other stuff.

There are always ways to skin this a new distiller, I dont have any used barrels to put my rum in, so I have put it into brand new bourbon barrels. It quickly pulls flavors from the charred oak. Now, if I blend in some bourbon, sherry, port, or rye....will it taste the same as if I aged it in an old port, sherry, rye, or bourbon barrel.....I can tell you that I have done it and it tastes the same. Now, to be sure, if i blend sherry into my rum, the TTB would require me to label it as such.

Bottom line barrels have more oak flavorings to add to the rum than used barrels. Used barrels will age slower because some of the flavors have already been extracted by its previous liquid. Used barrels will add flavorings from whatever it held prior....thats just life.....

I am curious how you guys view Rum finished in used barrels that change the flavor profile of products? Personally, I love the flavors that you get....but I also love that it doesnt taste so much like Rum when you get those other flavors. For example, if you taste a Papas Pillar Bourbon barrel aged rum vs. a new barrel aged rum....they taste nothing alike. Both are good....but I tend to like the Bourbon barrel aged rums better because I am a whiskey drinker.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Capn Jimbo's Rum Project Forum Forum Index -> From Cane to Glass All times are GMT - 9 Hours
Page 1 of 1

Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group