Green bell peppers in my whiskey?

A fresh green bell pepper photographed with a grey backdrop.
You may not associate green bell peppers with whiskey, but they carry a chemical compound you might find in your dram. Photo by Çağlar Oskay / Unsplash

Hopefully this blog is getting you into the idea of how deep the distilled spirits rabbit hole goes, and how excited we are to deep dive it with you. Here, we talk about flavor science, supply chain equity, manufacturing techniques, and so much more, all through the lens of some really good whiskey, rum, and liqueur.

I don't think you'll find a more wide-ranging or detail-oriented distilled spirits marketing blog anywhere (if you do, sign me up!).

Today's blast is decidedly wonky—you're gonna need to do some organic chemistry vocab. Say it with me now:


Got that?

This tongue-twister (also called "IBMP") is what gives green bell pepper its characteristic smell.

Why do we care? Well, we were tasting through some bourbon samples last week and "green pepper" was a tasting note that came up. So, I went down that rabbit hole.

Here's what I found:

  • IBMP is a pyrazine, a group of chemicals that make peas, asparagus, and green bell peppers smell like, well…peas, asparagus, and green bell peppers.
  • A ladybug (under duress) also smells like this when it uses these same compounds as a defense mechanism.
  • Pyrazines are also formed in small quantities in grapes and grains as they grow.
  • You don't need a lot. Fenaroli's Handbook of Flavor Ingredients, the go-to encyclopedia for flavor compounds, lists detection thresholds for IBMP as low as 2 parts-per-trillion

(Remember how a teaspoon in a swimming pool was one part in a billion? 2 parts in a trillion is a teaspoon in a thousand swimming pools.)

So, next time you stop and think "what the heck? who put a bell pepper in my bourbon?", rest assured that (1) you're not crazy, (2) that's what a distressed ladybug smells like, and (3) how crazy weird is it that that same chemical makes it through fermentation and distillation to show up in a pour of whiskey?