View Full Version : Unusual aroma... of Diesel!

Chevette Girl
05-07-2010, 12:25 AM
I did start out doing a search for "diesel" and it pointed me to a number of interesting sites such as this one http://www.aromadictionary.com/winemakinglist.pdf for describing wines' taste/aroma...

Does anyone know what can cause a wine to smell like diesel? It's a legitimate question here, the second one I had this happen to was a gallon of lime melomel. The one that bothers me most is the 3 gallons of red currant wine because usually that one works out beautifully for me...

Looking back on my logs, I know I have a couple of bad habits: I forget to aerate in primary fermentation, and I tend to rack and forget so sometimes stuff ends up sitting on small amounts of lees.

I suspect the aeration thing is a reason why a friend of mine complains that the "alcohol" taste is front and centre in a lot of my wines, but I'm not sure about the diesel aroma, because the lees thing is common to a lot more than just these two batches and most things turn out fine.

With the diesel-flavoured wine, I think it's just the scent, and it will dissipate eventually, I left a half-bottle of the red currant with a reuseable cork and although a little oxidized it did taste better.

Lime wine had a few mistakes to begin with, low SG of 1.060 and incomplete fermentation, don't remember which yeast I used but it would have been either Lalvin 1118 or 1116, racked off the mesh bag 10 days later, then when racked a year after pitching the comment was "tastes like lime mead" and the SG was steady at 1.010. Then the year after that I bottled it ("tastes like old tyres but tastes refreshing") so it developed the taste sometime in the middle there and I think it was pretty clear but degassing or something which is why I left it another year. Pretty sure the airlock was fine the whole time. Had two corks pop in the basement (fermented lime eats the finish on steel shelving, did you know?) so the rest of the bottles are standing up in the hopes that the corks will dry a bit and let any excessive gases escape and haven't done anything interesting in two years, I keep an eye on them, should open another bottle soon and see if it's any better. Should have sulphited it with that much residual sugar but I was dumb and figured it would be OK as it'd been stable for a year. And when I open one it will be over the sink wearing goggles!

Oddly enough I started the red currant (sorry, wine, not mead, sugar's cheaper) the same week, Lalvin K1V1116 yeast, SG=1.102, racked off the fruit 14 days later, SG of 1.040 and I had an extra 3/4 gal, which I put in a plastic 1 gal jug and squeezed it to minimize headspace. It fermented out nicely and was bottled 10 months after pitching wiht SG=0.992, the remaining 3 gallons were still bubbling at that time (comment "Tastes great!"). Eventually I got sick of waiting for it and hit it with campden tablets because it was starting to taste a little woody, let it sit a couple more months, ultimately bottled almost 2 years after pitching with a SG of 1.005 and right then it had started to go dieselly. It's diminished a bit in the year since it's been bottled (I hate to dump three gallons down the drain) but I think the only way it's drinkable so far is to aerate the hell out of it, been thinking of cutting it with soda water to see if it helps but I keep forgeting to buy some. Also left a couple bottles standing upright in the hopes that the smell would escape. It's fine for cooking with, the smell goes away leaving a nice taste, it's just really unpleasant to drink something stinky...

Anyone else ever mess up in a simiar fashion? The only thing I see in common was that they were in secondary fermentation for a very long time. These are two of the four or five batches I've screwed up in over eighty batches since I started (only one has gone down the drain), so wines and meads seem reasonably tolerant of my inherent laziness... although now that I know more of the science behind why you want to do stuff I'll be paying a little more attention to things like which yeast I use and aeration and stuff. One week with you Gotmead folks and I'm already planning improvements!

05-07-2010, 02:50 AM
I'm not sure what causes the "petrol" aroma, but I've found it in commercial wines on several occasions. We were tasting with my parents in Livermore a few months ago and one wine came out: gasoline! My parents thought I was joking, but no it really smelled like fuel. Tasted fine though, I drank it. ;)

Medsen Fey
05-07-2010, 10:52 AM
In some wines, like Rieslings, the petrol character is typical of the variety and expected to be there. It comes from 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene (TDN) which develops during aging from precursors in the grapes. A thorough discussion can be found on Tom Cannavan's wine-pages. (http://www.wine-pages.com/guests/tom/riesling-petrol-2.htm)

In the winery acidification increases TDN levels, but it also encourages the conversion of bound terpenes to free. TDN increases with ageing on yeast lees (which is why it is found in Champagnes) and warm storage conditions increase TDN levels.
So warm storage conditions and sitting on lees can promote the development of TDN from precursors. I don't know if those precursors would be in limes or currants, though I know citrus batches can contain a lot of phenolic elements. An article entitled Identification and Aroma Impact of Norisoprenoids in Orange Juice (http://www.campbell.edu/faculty/bryan/CHEM441/JournalArticles/SPME-OJ2.pdf) suggests that citrus fruits do contain many compounds closely related to TDN.

I've experience petrol/diesel character from Montrachet yeast, especially if the ferment is a little warm. I notice in some of the Redstone meads. I'm not sure what compound causes it. I've not noticed it with K1V or EC-1118.

Here at the Fusel Shack, with some of my high temperature ferments I have noticed some petrol character that I attribute to the Fusel alcohol production. These odors seem most prominent from the completion of fermentation through the first few months and then gradually fade out, so that fact that you are noticing this 2 years later suggests this isn't your problem.

I'd try decanting the wine/mead before serving to see it that helps eliminate or reduce it.


Chevette Girl
05-07-2010, 11:19 AM
I'm glad I'm not the only one who's done this!

Thanks so much for the info, as all my ferments are done in my kitchen and I don't have AC, anything started in the summer (and these two were, although they're not the only ones, I do a batch of red currant most years around the same time) may well be subject to higher temperatures.

That it does seem to fade slightly over time does jive with the Riesling article. Maybe if I'd racked the batch back and forth a couple of times it might have dissipated, maybe I'll try decanting some tonight... maybe also freezing a sample... I've got lots!

I'm trying to get everything moved to my basement where the temp is more stable but I'm still waiting on my condo corp to approve installation of a laundry tub down there, as the nearest faucet from there is two flights of stairs away. And I did initially suspect the citrus, because the smell was similar to something I've smelled from citrus before. Just doublechecked, no lemon for acidity in the red currant so I guess red currants must have said precursors. So far I've never had this happen in the bottle, and two batches out of eighty-some, I may never understand the exact mechanism by which this chemical is produced in my kitchen, but meh, weirder things have happened under more exacting circumstances says the lab rat in me.

Also glad it's not hazardous, my brother-in-law blames his wicked hangover on downing most of a bottle of this stuff... completely ignoring the three previous bottles of other things he killed off that night!!

Chevette Girl
05-17-2010, 11:59 PM
So, for anyone else out there who has made a wine that tastes like diesel... I think I can render mine drinkable within a couple of days. Per bottle.

A while ago I bought one of those hand-operated vacuum contraptions with the special rubber "corks" and you suck all the air out of your half-bottle of wine so it doesn't oxidize.

I removed a glass-worth of wine from the bottle and shook the hell out of it, pumped the air out, let some back in, shook it, pumped the air out. Repeat ad nauseum. Really. About ten times at a sitting X about five sessions over three days.

It seems that I've managed to suck most of the diesel smell out of the wine without offering too much of it up for oxidation. What I'm drawing out now doesn't smell like diesel anymore and I'm going to give the wine a taste tomorrow night probably.

05-18-2010, 05:39 AM
I wish I knew what caused it, my last batch was terrible.

Chevette Girl
09-10-2010, 11:01 PM
So I got my hands on 4 kilograms of "expired' concorde grapes and I picked them over, washed them and froze the good stuff... three packages were fine, but one package (which didn't fit into the freezer bag I'd used for the previous three) had started to ferment, and I am NOT using those in wine. Guess what they smell like?? Diesel! I may turn them into jelly instead, and if it doesn't cook out, at least I only wasted sugar, pectin and time instead of spoiling a whole batch of wine.

Chevette Girl
10-01-2011, 01:17 AM
I need to go check my logs a little closer but I'm wondering now... I've just found a third batch gone dieselly, it's a blueberry second run mel that had pooped out with a SG around 1.030 (don't remember why and logbook's downstairs again) and I'd sulphited it because it started developing a flakiness I may have noticed on the lime mead at one point... I'm pretty sure I'd also sulphited the red currant, but not the lime. No sorbate on any of these 3 batches.

It's not as bad as the lime or the red currant and I'm sure it didn't smell like that when I last racked it, I just racked it onto potassium sorbate because I was going to bottle it and then the smell... should have checked the SG while I was at it but I forgot... but after all the agitation of being racked, the smell would sort of escape if I shook it around and let it air out, so I'm going to see if I can use my vacuum pump to suck the stink out of it... Wondering if I should add another campden tablet or not, I have no way to test for SO2.

Any thoughts on whether a campden tab with no sorbate to back it up could make something like this happen?

Chevette Girl
01-18-2012, 01:55 AM
The third dieselly batch (blueberry second run mel) is still dieselly, fainter than the red currant batch but it's still there. I fed it another campden tablet the other day and I'm going to try some nuked bread yeast to see if that pulls some of the odour out, although I can't help but think the best treatment would be to pour the whole gallon out into a primary bucket and shake the ever-livin' crap out of it for a few days. Maybe I'll try that if there's no change after the nuked bread yeast...

01-18-2012, 06:05 AM
Maybe you should invest in one of those paint shakers. The kind that shacks a one gallon paint can.

Chevette Girl
01-18-2012, 03:53 PM
That sounds like it would be extremely messy... :)

I did, however, figure out how to get my little vacuvin pump to suck the air out of it after I shook the bejeebus out of it by putting a holed stopper in and putting the vacuvin cork over the hole. It's not a great seal but it mostly does the job...

01-24-2012, 11:35 PM
I've had similar problems with a Morat. I will need to find a "stupid-proof" morat recipe before I attempt it again.

Chevette Girl
01-25-2012, 02:02 AM
I've never tried morat... but agitation and light vacuum seems to be slowly pulling the diesel scent out of the blueberry mel. And I don't think adding boiled yeasties hurt either...

Chevette Girl
01-27-2012, 03:01 AM
...apparently it REALLY didn't hurt, in fact it's started up the fermentation again :) So I guess this one will finally finish, despite being sulphited twice. Aeration, agitation and well-nuked bread yeast, go figure.

I'm now wondering if renewing fermentation might not be a good way to bubble out the diesel stink? I may try it if I ever notice another batch that's done this in the carboy.

02-06-2012, 01:51 PM
I don't have a solution. I'm more curious that the scent is like diesel. I drive a diesel truck and I can't imagine my drink smelling like the bottle of fuel I drained from the filter canister. :o

I'm wondering if there is a contaminant introduced, unbeknownst to you, that is common to your prep/santize/racking procedure? (Then the contaminant sits in the mead and multiplies with time & age) So I'll ask this:

What kind of water are you using in the fermentation? What are your sanitizing procedures? Do you use bottles/equipment that is still wet from sink water? What sanitizer? Do you use any towels or dish rags? What kind of detergent or dryer sheets do you use? Basically is there a common mechanical process between all those batches that introduces a contaminant?

It might be something small that might seem inconsequential but after time it is magnifying. I would say, try to break down every detail to extreme and see if you can find something that might be the culprit.

Hope you find it. :)

Chevette Girl
02-13-2012, 06:38 PM
I always use the same tap water and my sanitation procedures are pretty solid, if it touches the mead, the last thing it touches before it goes in is metabisuplhite sanitizer. I have used pretty much the same processes and procedures for sanitizing since day 1, and this is 3 batches of 140... I think the first one I noticed was before bottling, the second one happened in the bottles because it was fine before I bottled it, and the most recent one happened during bulk aging. The last one even had the fruit bag in common with a batch that didn't do this... Two were with honey, one was with sugar... Two of them were started on the same day but that's where the similarity ended, I don't think I even used the same kind of yeast on them...

02-13-2012, 07:33 PM
Do you have an oil tank for your furnace?

Chevette Girl
02-13-2012, 08:36 PM
Nope, electric heating... and the Chevette's gasoline. No, there's no diesel fuel contamination or anything. Just some weird-ass odour...

Ooga Booga
03-29-2016, 03:15 PM
I had a similar experience when I tried to make some blueberry wine with D254. I used store bought frozen fruit and ran it dry at a reasonable fermentation temp. It had a ferocious diesel smell. Never figured out what did it. Always wondered if there was some funky pesticide or something that did it. Had to dump it in the end. It was so bad that my bucket still reeks of petroleum after several months and washings. New car wash bucket....