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  1. #1
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    213

    Saz 18 and VWFRR

    I know these two Ryes have been discussed to death on this forum. I also know that they are well regarded by most members. But I found out something new about them today that I don't think has been discussed before.

    Ontario, where I live, had been a bourbon wasteland up until very recently. Just in the past 2 or 3 years we're starting to see more selection and a few one-off/rare releases. One area where we are still lagging behind is in Rye. The only Straight Rye I've ever seen for sale here has been Rittenhouse (one allotment last year) and Baby Saz (a few dozen cases once or twice per year). None of that aged rye (the Medley and/or Cream of Kentucky Rye stocks), that's been adored and depleted in the past few years, ever made it north of the border.

    Saz 18 and VWFRR are still being released anually, so I thought I would try turning up the heat on our LCBO (provincial liquor control board) and the distributor who handles Sazerac here in Canada, to see if we could get a small allotment. What harm could come of trying, right? After a few phone calls and emails, and a bit of run around from the bureaucracy, I was finally able to talk to the distributor. What he told me was interesting. They did try to bring some here, but hit a roadblock.

    The LCBO prides itself on its quality assurance standards. Every alcoholic beverage sold in Ontario is tested to check for a number of chemicals (sulphur, lead, pesticides, synthetic dyes, etc...). I don't know how many products pass or fail. But apparently, Saz 18, VWFRR (and Pappy 23) were all refused by the LCBO because their levels of ethyl carbamate were too high.

    Ethyl carbamate (I've come to learn) is a suspected carcinogen, but is naturally present in virtually all distilled products (more so in some than others). Health regulators have set acceptable limits for various products (in the case of the LCBO, the limit is 150 parts per billion for spirits - much less for wine and beer). According to Wikipedia (I know ...) American beverage manufacturers in the 1980s agreed to limit the levels to less than 125 ppb in spirits. But the three mentioned must have had levels above 150 ppb to be refused entry here.

    I'm not trying to stir anything up, or start a health scare - far from it. I smoked for almost half of my 44 years, so I have at least a limited tolerance for suspected carcinogens. I know very little about the various chemical compounds that might or might not be present in my booze. All I know is what I like. I've been lucky enough to sample VWFRR on a few occasions (but, sadly, never the Saz 18) and have one lonely bottle in the bunker for a special occasion. A few extra parts per billion will not deter me from enjoying every drop in that bottle, or from seeking out more if I can find any.

    But what of this? Has anyone here done any research in this area? Do other states do this kind of testing? And what has been the result? By most American standards, Ontario would be seen as a nanny state, but it looks as if our tolerance is actually quite high in this case.
    trying to walk a straight line,
    on sour mash and cheap wine

  2. #2
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    579

    Re: Saz 18 and VWFRR

    Interesting.....

    Id be curious to see what others have to say

  3. #3
    Virtuoso
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Twin Cities, MN
    Posts
    1,294

    Re: Saz 18 and VWFRR

    Quote Originally Posted by Smithford View Post

    The LCBO prides itself on its quality assurance standards. Every alcoholic beverage sold in Ontario is tested to check for a number of chemicals (sulphur, lead, pesticides, synthetic dyes, etc...). I don't know how many products pass or fail. But apparently, Saz 18, VWFRR (and Pappy 23) were all refused by the LCBO because their levels of ethyl carbamate were too high.

    Ethyl carbamate (I've come to learn) is a suspected carcinogen, but is naturally present in virtually all distilled products (more so in some than others). Health regulators have set acceptable limits for various products (in the case of the LCBO, the limit is 150 parts per billion for spirits - much less for wine and beer). According to Wikipedia (I know ...) American beverage manufacturers in the 1980s agreed to limit the levels to less than 125 ppb in spirits. But the three mentioned must have had levels above 150 ppb to be refused entry here.
    According to the Wiki article the producers agreed to limit ethyl carbamate in 1988. All three of those products were distilled prior to that as far as I know, so it shouldn't be surprising that they are over the limit. I'd be curious if any other regulators are actually testing beverage alcohol of this compound or if the distillers are just self regulating.

    Maybe that's why the dusties taste better
    Life's too short, and there's too much good whiskey within reach.

  4. #4
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Toronto
    Posts
    213

    Re: Saz 18 and VWFRR

    Stuff that's "bad for you" always tastes better.
    trying to walk a straight line,
    on sour mash and cheap wine

  5. #5
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Denver, CO
    Posts
    175

    Re: Saz 18 and VWFRR

    Very good detective work, Smithford! Thanks for the information.

    Ethyl carbamate is a by-product of fermentation. From a quick—and I do mean quick—scan of the literature, it would appear that spirits can contain relatively high quantities of it, with fruit-based spirits (especially stone fruits) containing especially high levels. Moreover, many spirits contain precursors (such as cyanate and cyanide) that also influence the formation of ethyl carbamate. There are numerous methods of reducing its presence, but as you point out, the regulations are younger than some of the spirits we tend to desire.

    I haven't spotted a paper indicating the actuarial risk of ethyl carbamate to human mortality—the studies have not been generally conducted on humans, but there is convincing evidence that it is carcinogenic to other animals. Of course, the effect is unlikely to be large—nothing like smoking, for instance—and we already know that alcohol itself is a carcinogen. So, to put a twist on our local turn of phrase, caveat emptor: your mileage may vary.
    "Good" may be subjective, but that doesn't mean it's arbitrary.

 

 

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