In the Revised Scottish Whisky Flavour Wheel the congener of “banana” is mentioned twice. Ones in the “Grassy, Fresh” section and ones in the “Fruity, Tropical” section. I decided to combine the two congeners into two blog entries with the same texts. (for now)
The Congener of Banana not as simple as you may expect. Banana’s come in unripe, ripe, overripe, rotten and cooked / baked varieties. All smell and taste different. Some species of banana are “the supermarket kind”, others are only used for cooking / baking / frying. This makes a banana congener one particularly hard one to pin down.
To start this blog off I need to make some assumptions.
- I am assuming that the kind people that drew up the Revised Scottish Whisky Flavour Wheel used the word “Green Banana” for the “unripe” banana that just happens to look all green too.
- I am assuming that there are no such thing as “Indigenous Scottish Banana’s”. This means all the banana’s the people that drew up the Flavour Wheel Knew are the ones that happen to be imported at their local greengrocer or supermarket. Imported from where? Does that make a difference?
- The above is true for you as a reader too. The type and species of banana sold to you might be a different kind than the one being sold to me.
So, in short, my banana is not necessarily your banana! And Yes I am still talking banana’s!
Some basic banana know-how can be found on WikiPedia.
The Chemicals that Could be a “banana” congener
The chemicals that could be responsible for a banana congener and that actually are in whisky are:
- (3Z)-Hexenol, which is commonly called leaf alcohol, and has a “unripe banana” smell. This is the same chemical which is mentioned in the “wet cut grass” section of the Revised Scottish Whisky Flavour Wheel.
- (3Z)-, and (3E)-hexenals, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cis-3-Hexenal
- butanol, banana, fusel taste, dry, burning taste. This chemical is also mentioned in the Octomore 8 Masterclass_700_R2017_Brochure.
- Iso-amyl acetate, this chemical is also in banana’s but also in many other fruits. See the pubchem link for more about this. The Aroxa company sells flavour standards and Iso-amyl acetate is listed under “banana“.
- Butyl Acetate, which has a pleasant banana like odor and taste.
- Isobutyl acetate, which has a banana taste but does not smell like banana. This smells fruity, floral but also can smell like nail polish remover. Interesting.
See these blogposts for more banana congener stuff that I already wrote down.
Why the difference in congeners?
The chemical compounds that are in a banana change when the “banana fruit” ripeness from “Green Banana” to “Yellow Banana”.
The starch which is in the banana when it is green is transformed into simple sugars by the same enzyme which is responsible for the production of simple sugars during the malting of barley. This enzyme is amylase. You can read all about that in this Article by Isaac Olusanjo Adewale et al, 2013.
Does that mean we can use banana’s for making whisky? Nah! But banana beer! Oh Yeah!
What does YouTube say?
Just some of the video’s I found on YouTube about banana’s. There are plenty more but these helped me out.
There is more to a banana than I knew! Excellent stuff!! I am sure I will add loads more stuff about banana’s later, but for now I am pleased to know my banana is not your banana and that when I read a banana congener in tasting notes I may need to think about that fact.
“Changes in Amylase Activity, Soluble Sugars and Proteins of Unripe Banana and Plantain during Ripening”, Isaac Olusanjo Adewale, Adenike Adefila and Tosin Babatunde Adewale, 2013