2012 Volume 76 Issue 1 Pages 148-152
Ethyl carbamate concentrations in oak barrel-aged ume (Prunus mume) liqueurs were measured, and possible explanations for elevated levels were examined. The average concentration was 0.30 mg/L, significantly higher than in ume liqueurs not aged in oak (0.08 mg/L). Oak powder extracts were prepared from both untoasted and toasted oak powder by extraction with aqueous ethanol, and these were used to make ume liqueurs. Relative to a no-oak control, the ethyl carbamate concentrations were 3.8 and 11 times higher in the ume liqueur made with the untoasted and toasted oak powder extracts respectively. The extracts were loaded onto a C18 column, washed with water, and eluted with methanol. The 13C-NMR spectra for the main constituents of the methanol elution fractions were consistent with those for lignin or fragments thereof. The methanol fractions were added to ume liqueur which was stored for 3 months. Relative to a control, the ethyl carbamate concentrations in the 3-month old liqueurs were found to be 1.2 and 4.6 higher for the untoasted oak-powder and the toasted oak-powder respectively. Ethyl carbamate was formed when lignin was added to a 40% aqueous ethanol solution that contained potassium cyanide. These observations suggest that lignin or fragments thereof promote the formation of ethyl carbamate.
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