Monday, May 4, 2015

Sinful Maybe, But Not How You Think

Sinfully Thinn is a new line of whiskey products from a micro-distillery in Ohio, near Lake Erie northeast of Cleveland. The sin? That there is nothing thin about it.

Don't you expect that a product called Sinfully Thinn Light Whiskey will be lower in calories than regular whiskey? Comb through the web site. They make no such claim. They can't. Ethanol is ethanol. It's all the same. There is no reduced calorie version.

It works like this. All of the calories in whiskey come from ethanol. They say their 1.5 ounce serving contains 100 calories. A 1.5 ounce serving of whiskey at 40% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) is 0.6 ounces of ethanol, which contains about 119 calories at the standard for ethanol of 7 calories per gram. They say 100. Have they reduced the calorie count by 16 percent? I doubt it. If they had, they would say so. They're just calculating it a little bit differently. There is no official standard for stating calories on beverage alcohol products, so there is no telling how that number was reached.

And don't forget, they don't claim to be reducing calories. It's all in the implication of the name.

What they do make a big deal about is their vacuum distillation process. In beverage production, vacuum distillation is most commonly used to make gin and other infusions. MGP of Indiana uses vacuum distillation to make Seagram's Gin. Vacuum distillation has no effect on calorie count.

Finally we come to this, the words 'light whiskey.' 'Light' means lower in calories, doesn't it? Not in the case of light whiskey. According to the Federal Government's Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, light whiskey is a high proof distillate from grain, distilled between 80% and 95% ABV, that has been aged in used or uncharred barrels. Made similar to Scottish grain whiskey, it was supposed to help American distillers compete better with scotch. It didn't. It failed miserably.

'Light,' as used, means lighter in flavor, not calories. Light whiskey became legal in 1968 and had pretty much bombed out by the early 1970s, right about the time Miller Brewing decided that 'light' (or in their case 'lite') would henceforth mean, not lighter in flavor, but lighter in calories, and that's how people think about it today.

So is Sinfully Thinn Light Whiskey a lower calorie whiskey? No, it's not. It contains the same number of calories as other whiskeys of the same proof.

But what about light beers? They claim to have fewer carbs and fewer calories, how do they do it? By containing less ethanol. Some of the lowest are 2% ABV or less.

There are three expressions of Sinfully Thinn Light Whiskey, one unflavored and two flavored, blueberry and cinnamon. The flavored versions contain fewer calories than the unflavored one because they contain less ethanol. Light whiskey must be bottled at at least 40% ABV, but flavored light whiskey may be bottled at 35% ABV. (That's about 104 calories per 1.5 ounce serving at 7 calories per gram.)

The maker of Sinfully Thinn is Seven Brothers Distilling Company in Painesville, Ohio.


Anonymous said...

who (or what) is the expected market for this junk? ladies on diets? nope, won't work. even on a diet ladies-who-like-bourbon aren't going to be fooled.
men on diets? hahaha. no.
this idea is almost as bad as caffeinated craft beer (i think it was called "moonshot"). when was the last time you saw somebody drinking a moonshot? never.

Erik Fish said...

If they do their marketing right, I suspect the stuff, like other products with suggestive names, may find its niche with those who like what the label appears to promise but ultimately don't care enough about the gritty details. Given what's populating the spirits aisles these days, I don't think there's anything you can't sell if you get the angle right.

Erik Fish said...

In checking out the website for Seven Brothers linked by Chuck, it's interesting that there appears to be no mention of the Thinn; they started a completely separate website for that.
I'd like to sample their Ohio Wheat whiskey, apparently their only traditional whiskey offering under their label, also made using their "low temperature vacuum distillation". It would be interesting to compare that to a number of wheat whiskies I have currently open, which have become somewhat of a regional thing here with micro-distillers in the Pacific NW.

Anonymous said...

Actually it's a pretty decent marketing plan. No worse than one of the big four losing barrels then finding them, then it becoming magically delicious. Same crap, different story.

Caffeine in alcohol is illegal. That's why you don't see people Drinking it.

Paul Adams said...

Low-temperature distillation usually means a thinn mouthfeel/body so perhaps that's the gimmick they're referring to.

Chuck Cowdery said...

It seems like a very appropriate technology for making light whiskey, but they should be careful about claiming it gives their vodka flavor, which TTB says it is not supposed to have regardless of the distillation proof.

Erik Fish said...

"Caffeine in alcohol is illegal. That's why you don't see people Drinking it."

Stated like that, that's not correct. Moonshot got in trouble with the FDA because the product contained caffeine as a food additive. But there are a lot of perfectly legal and quite popular micro-brewed coffee beers with a caffeine load. I currently have a pretty tasty Espresso Stout in the fridge.

Anonymous said...

64 calories per oz of vodka at 80 proof. How did you come up with 119 for 1.5 oz of thin whiskey at 80 proof? 7 calories per is not accurate. How is vodka any difference with the calories vs. Whiskey at the same proof? The marketing is solid. What you say will have zero effect on the brand

Chuck Cowdery said...

We're using the same numbers, and probably getting them from the same source, just expressing them differently. One ounce of 80 proof vodka or whiskey is about 100 calories.

Chuck Cowdery said...

The chart is a little self-contradictory, since it says 7 calories per gram, but the formula it provides yields 64 calories for the same drink. I just used the 7 calories per gram standard and did my own calculations.

Unknown said...

The Miller Lite folks discovered that what packs calories into beer is the sugars that remain in the beer after fermenting. So they brewed the beer longer, and added a then newly discovered enzyme that converted those sugars to alcohol. The they drew off the extra alcohol to bring the beer down to 3.6 percent. The result was a REASONABLY good-tasting beer (hey, in the 70s it was all fizzy, watery lagers) with only 96 calories per can instead of the usual 140. The process was more expensive than simply adding water, but hey, Miller was going for a "quality low-cal beer."