Geek Trivia

Juicy Fruit Gum Was Most Likely Originally Flavored With?

Anise Seeds
Refined Castor Oils
Pear Oil
Whiskey Byproduct
In The Early 20th Century City-Dwelling Mothers Would Put Their Babies In What Curious Contraption?

Answer: Whiskey Byproduct

Juicy Fruit gum was introduced in 1893 by the Wrigley Company and has, since the very beginning, had an iconic flavor—a kind of not-quite-banana mixed with a dash of sweet pear mixture.

While the Wrigley Company has never officially revealed what chemical compound is used to flavor the gum, there’s a very strong argument to be made that the original flavoring was a byproduct of whiskey distillation.

In whiskey distillation, a wide variety of compounds are created through the fermentation process. Among those compounds are esters (organic compounds created when at least one -OH (hydroxyl) group in an acid molecule is replaced by an -O-alkyl (alkoxy) group), which give the whiskey a distinct flavoring. While many esters are left in to flavor the whiskey, several types are partially or fully filtered out with other impurities to reduce cloudiness and improve taste. Among those esters filtered out are isoamyl acetate, an ester which accumulates as a waste byproduct of the distillation process. Isoamyl acetate is notable for having a very strong not-quite-banana with a hint-of-other-fruits smell and flavor.

That’s all well and good, but it’s hardly a solid argument that 19th century chewing gum was flavored with leftovers from a whiskey factory…until you factor in two additional details: isoamyl acetate wasn’t synthesized in a lab at the time that Juicy Fruit was created, so there was no way Juicy Fruit’s flavor came from bulk-produced artificial flavoring. More importantly, Illinois (where the Wrigley Company was originally based) was, at the time, the whiskey capital of the United States. In other words, there would have been vast quantities of isoamyl acetate to go around, it would have been cheap, and the Wrigley Company could have scooped up large volumes of it for next to nothing.