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Chelsea Ickes

Chelsea received her B.S. in Chemistry from Juniata College in 2012. During her time as an undergraduate, Chelsea discovered her passion for flavor chemistry while working as an intern at McCormick and Co. the summer of her junior year. As a result, she decided to pursue flavor chemistry for her career. Chelsea is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Food Science with a concentration in flavor chemistry under the supervision of Dr. Keith Cadwallader at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research topic is “Understanding the complex aroma chemistry of premium aged rums.” Research Outline: Understanding the complex aroma chemistry of premium aged rums University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign For over 350 years, rum has been produced by the fermentation of sugar cane juice, syrup or molasses, followed by distillation and then aging in oak barrels. Rum is a highly varied product because it has a somewhat simple standard of identity, with the only requirement being that it must be produced from sugar cane or its byproducts.  The general lack of regulation allows for a breadth of product variety that is not typical of other spirit classes. Even though variability among rums is high, rum as a distilled spirits class is readily distinguishable from other traditionally aged spirits such as Bourbon, rye, Scotch, and Tequila. Limited literature exists on rum flavor, with previous studies only evaluating one or two rum samples and only a few of those studies made use of gas chromatography-olfactometry (GC-O) to identify the odor-active components. Our research aims is to better understand the complex flavor chemistry of rum, including its aroma composition through the analysis of nine rums; two mixing and seven premium. A combination of sensory and analytical techniques were utilized to better understand the complexity of rum flavor.  Development of a rum lexicon and subsequent use in a descriptive analysis panel have lead to the identification of key attributes that describe overall rum flavor. On the analytical side, gas chromatography-olfactometry and aroma extract dilution analysis 51 odor-active compounds were identified. Nine odorants were detected in all rums, including acetal, ethyl butyrate, 2-/3-methyl-1-butanol, 2-phenethyl alcohol, cis-whiskey lactone, ethyl vanillin, vanillin, syringaldehyde and an unknown compound with a rosy note (RI-2951). Nevertheless, all of the aroma compounds identified are present in all nine rums, with the exception of the white rum and ethyl vanillin. Highly accurate quantitation of 34 of the identified compounds has been achieved by stable isotope dilution analysis combined with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Chemometrics was implemented to correlate the quantitative data with the sensory profiles generated for each rum though descriptive analysis. This approach provides insights into how changes in the chemical composition of rum flavors directly influences sensory perception of rum flavor.  This talk will primarily focus on the analytical analysis characterization of rum flavor.