EXPLOITING YEAST DIVERSITY IN WHISKY FERMENTATIONS FOR BIOCATALYSIS OF DESIRABLE FLAVOUR COMPOUNDS

Martina Daute Theme: Biocatalysis & Biotransformation Cohort Year: 2017 Academic Partner: Abertay University Industry Partner: The Scotch Whisky Research Institute

Supervisor: Prof. Graeme Walker

Profile:
Hi, my name is Martina Daute. I grew up in the north of Germany but have been living in Munich the last few years. After missing the wind and the sea I wanted to move back to the coast and now, I am living in Dundee and do my PhD at Abertay University in cooperation with the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. My interests are self-defence sports and caring for horses. I like to try new things and I am a cheerful person. My strengths are my extensive background in food – and biotechnology as well as my analytical approach to problems where I am able to assess and critically evaluate the task at hand.


Background:
My background is a mix of food technology and biotechnology. My Bachelor studies were in food technology and management at Bremerhaven. In my practical semester I was at Iglo Group/Frozen Fish International GmbH (in the UK this is known as BirdsEye) in product development. I gained experience in production and development of chicken nuggets and fish fingers (and I still love them). After my internship I wanted to focus more on the biotechnology than on the food production, so I decided to write my bachelor thesis at Wacker Chemie AG in the department of biosolutions. I analysed different bioactive compounds and their market opportunities. I finished the internship with practical experience in fermentation of cyclodextrin.
After my Bachelor studies, I decided to stay in Munich and to start a masters course in molecular Biotechnology. My main emphasis was in the area of cells and technology, so I learned a lot about starter cultures and bioinformatics. My Masters thesis aimed to develop a rapid-test for beer spoiling bacteria. During my studies I learned a lot about organising lab work, general protocols and molecular techniques. After my master thesis I decided to focus on starter cultures because it interests me most.


Topic:
“Exploiting yeast diversity in whisky fermentation for biocatalysis of desirable flavour compounds”
The topic of my PhD project is the use of unusual yeast for whisky fermentation and the subsequent analysis of the product. Mainly Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains are used for the production of Whisky, which are genetically similar. The Scotch Whisky Legislation prohibits the addition of any flavouring, so the process and the yeast used are important in creating the flavour of a Whisky. In addition to the fermentation, the shape of the still and the kind of maturation are significant for the quality and taste of Whisky.
Whisky producers are interested in creating a diversity of flavours and how they can create them. In the wine and beer industry a wide range of yeasts are used to create different flavours. In recent years, a new trend in the production of beer is the maturation in casks to enhance and improve flavours. The interest in new flavours increased in the spirit industry, too. New, improved or unusual yeasts can create these diversifying flavour compounds naturally.
This work will concentrate on the fermentation and the resultant flavour compounds of Whisky. In a first step we will analyse diverse yeast species with different metabolisms to create new flavours and aroma profiles before maturation. Afterwards, we intend to experiment with co-fermentations to improve the flavour further. The project will be monitored by the analysis of flavour-active volatile congeners, sugars, alcohol, gravity, yeast growth, viability and the sensory analysis.