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Color matters?

Take part in our whisky polls and votes. You can also post your own polls in this forum.

Do you care how your whisky looks like?

Yes
11
28%
No
20
50%
sometimes
9
23%
 
Total votes : 40

Color matters?

Postby Tom » Fri Nov 26, 2004 7:12 pm

Im working on a huge work-in-progress about single malt whisky and this is just one of the things im curious about, how do "we" apreciate the looks of our drams.
Michael Jackson stated once that the eye wants a treat too, while Jim Murray is the complete opposite and states that color doesnt matter.
Personally i agree wholeheartedly with Jim Murray, even more i blame people that say they want a "nice dark" dram or they go like "oh my, look at that color!! Yummie!" it is because of those people we have this thing called Caramel. That and the illusion of consistency in whisky and more specific color of whisky. Lets face it, if you let nature do her thing, no whisky is consistent in either flavor and color! as this is a fact why cant we accept it?
anyway, i just need to know how the whisky drinking community feels about this.
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Postby mr_a_non » Fri Nov 26, 2004 7:57 pm

I understand the point: whisky is primarily there for taste and secondarily for smell. Clearly a large majority of the big producers think that colour matters, or they wouldn't add the caramel. So we can probably assume it matters for most brand-loyal blend drinkers.

As for more serious malt drinkers...given the choice between a nice looking whisky and a poor looking one (I'll get to that in a minute) I'd rather a good colour IF it didn't affect the taste. I grant that I would rather drink something very pale than something too sweet BUT if taste is equal, I would rather a nice colour.

Colour can even affect how one taste things. I was given a bottle of Cadenhead's 12 year old Highland Park, which, not to put too fine a point on it, looked like weak urine. I was wholly unimpressed with it, and can't help but think that the colour may have swayed my opinion before I tasted it.

If you think that I am talking rubbish, try an experiment. Next time a friend asks for red wine give them white with some blackcurrant cordial in it. Most will not notice.

Am I going to buy whisky by colour? No. Would I rather it was a deep sherried colour, rather than a very weak yellow? Yes (perhaps, just perhaps, because I tend to like more sherried and older whiskies).
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Postby hpulley » Fri Nov 26, 2004 7:59 pm

I'd like to say no but I know at least subconsciously, colour affects my opinion. I certainly note the colour and when it seems dark or light for the age and wood I make a note of it.

Harry
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Postby Admiral » Sat Nov 27, 2004 11:55 am

If you have some guarantee that caramel has not been added (i.e. the whisky was bottled by the SMWS or by some other independent bottler who makes a point of not colouring the whisky), then colour can sometimes be worth paying attention to.

In these cases, it can give you clues or hints as to whether it was matured in a bourbon or sherry cask, and sometimes give an indication as to how old the whisky might be.

I once had a 16yo Ardbeg from the SMWS that was the palest of pale white wines. Yes, it was paler than mr_a_non weak urine! :D And yet - on both the nose and the palate - it was one of the most spectacular Islay's I've ever tried.

However, I don't pay much attention to colour with the majority of OB's, and certainly not with blends, because I know caramel has had more of an influence than anything else.

A very cheap blend that seems to be popular here in Australia is "The Black Douglas". It retails for about $23, which is less than 10GBP, or roughly US$16. I understand it to be approximately 75/25 grain to malt ratio, and the whiskies are 3 to 5 years old. Yet it's darker than the nearly all of the aged single malts, including the 18yo Macallan!!

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Tom » Sat Nov 27, 2004 12:08 pm

ok maybe i need to steer this alitlle, it is mainly for color consistency they add caramel, and less to just make a nice & dark dram. so i guess the real quistion is is color consistency important? for once i think everyone should take the example of the US where nothing may enhance your bourbon. i never make notes of color of whisky for all the reasons admiral pointed out, MAYBE thanks to caramel we have consistency now, but also now the color doesnt tell you anything anymore. i do agree however with the fact that if whisky is uncolored, then u could gather information about it before drinking it, f.i. what type of cask used and the age. However i have never let the color change my opinion or way of tasting. at the contrary, if i see a pale yellow islay before me i know for sure its pure and i am almost certain it will blow my socks off.
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Postby lexkraai » Sat Nov 27, 2004 12:27 pm

However i have never let the color change my opinion or way of tasting. at the contrary, if i see a pale yellow islay before me i know for sure its pure and i am almost certain it will blow my socks off.


So what you're saying is that you DO let colour influence your expectation, only 'the other way around' (;o)!

I think it's very hard for the colour of a whisky not to have any effect on you whatsoever, no matter how hard you try. Only way to avoid that happening is to never look at the bottle, drink from a blue glass, etc.

Cheers, Lex
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sun Nov 28, 2004 11:57 am

Yes, I do care in a way how my whisky has to look like. A naturual color that's what expect from my whisky. I don't care if the color varies from pale white wine to very dark almost a deep brown color. As long as the flavors are OK.

Today a lot of Distillery Bottles are colored(excluding the exceptions from some distilleries), while de indepents rule in this matter when it comes to color. I won't say that all the Distillery Bottles are colored, that's why I said: excluding some exceptions in the industry. In most cases an origional bottle from a distillery, a special edition has a natural color.

It doesn't mean straight away that all the colored whisky is nothing worth. No, in the contrary there are still some good whisky's left who are maybe colred, but they are still good. And I think that still the most of us(including myself) who have some bottles of whisky on the shelf wich are colored, because there are still some brands you like who color their whisky, and what's wrong with that? Sometimes you simply can't avoid that.

I believe that the matter of coloring has been discussed here on this site before. It's all a matter of uniform code. I believe that the group of true coinnoisseurs are still the to small world wide for the producers to say: Allright we stop coloring right away


For what it's worth,

Erik
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Postby Uncle Scrooge » Tue Nov 30, 2004 5:35 pm

Somtimes it does.

Look at Loch Dhu and Jackson Row. And why not the Flirtation.
Here, the colors are the main marketing arguments.

Uncle Scrooge
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Postby Lawrence » Mon Jan 03, 2005 6:32 pm

Yes, color does matter, if it's been subjected to caramel then I want to know so I can add that info to the mix. However I wish they'd stop coloring with caramel. :evil:
Last edited by Lawrence on Tue Jan 04, 2005 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Jan 04, 2005 8:09 am

Do I care what my whisky looks like? Of course I do. It's a point of interest in and of itself. Like most folks here, I dislike the idea of caramel coloring, because it masks what my whisky really looks like. I don't value dark over pale, or vice versa, but I do care if the whisky is dark or pale. And I would like to know, if it's dark, if it's for real. If I know the whisky has been colored, I can't help but wonder what it really looks like. I suppose this is more important for single cask bottlings than the standard vatted OBs, but I'd rather see some variation and know that it's real than have it standardized with caramel. Leave the caramel to the blenders. Then again, I'd generally rather everything was single cask, anyway.

I had a bottle of Signatory Unchillfiltered Collection Caol Ila 1990, the color of pinot grigio. It was dreadful, the worst Caol Ila I've ever had by far, quite harsh. I surmise that it came from a well-used, tired cask; the color was a clue. But I could see possibly an equally pale whisky being very good, in which case the color would still be a point of interest. It's just another characteristic to think and talk about.
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Postby Klaus » Wed Jan 05, 2005 8:00 pm

mr_a_non wrote:As for more serious malt drinkers...given the choice between a nice looking whisky and a poor looking one (I'll get to that in a minute) I'd rather a good colour IF it didn't affect the taste. I grant that I would rather drink something very pale than something too sweet BUT if taste is equal, I would rather a nice colour.


If I had the choice between a nice looking bottle and an ugly bottle, I would choose the nice looking one. That does not mean that it matters how the bottle looks.
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no way!

Postby Eirik » Wed Jan 05, 2005 8:46 pm

to put it like this - when it has gone into my mouth, i can't see it, just taste it. so when it comes to whisky i prefer my tastebuds and not my eyes for enjoyment...if i want dark stuff i buy an american whisky... :wink:
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Postby mr_a_non » Wed Jan 05, 2005 10:52 pm

If I had the choice between a nice looking bottle and an ugly bottle, I would choose the nice looking one. That does not mean that it matters how the bottle looks.


Surely if the nicer bottle would draw you to buy that one, then it DOES matter how it looks.
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Postby Admiral » Wed Jan 05, 2005 11:15 pm

Eirik,

I like your comment that once the whisky is in your mouth you can't see it, only taste it. :)

However, sometimes you are tasting the colour, not the whisky itself. (i.e. caramel!)

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Eirik » Thu Jan 06, 2005 3:47 pm

Sorry, not being precise... 8)

That caramel thing is a shame. My point is that the colour is not importent for me when I choose whisky. The nose choose which one to drink. Not chill-filtered whiskies are often pale... And I'm a big fan of not chill-filtering :D
It's funny how some people get impressed and think the whisky is strong when it's dark... Well, let them live in their fantasies :wink:
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Postby Lawrence » Thu Jan 06, 2005 4:42 pm

I think it's more a point of education (as many things are) and evidently color is important otherwise we wouldn't be talking about it. Unadulterated whiskies, those without the addition of the wretched caramel, can by their color give clues to the origin of the cask. And quiet frankly I'm a bit of a butt head, I really like older sherried whiskies and I find the darker color pleasing. However I am not foolish enough to shop based on color and I realise that some of the time that older color can have had some 'help' in becoming so dark. :evil:

At the end of the day the factors of taste, mouthfeel, finish and overall balance are more important.
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Postby Tom » Thu Jan 06, 2005 5:22 pm

Glad to see some more people answered "no" to this.
Lawrence you are right but i dont completely agree with you. Color did give clues of the cask and age before they added caramel in it but nowadays color is completely irrelevant. just because they add caramel you cant trust your eyes anymore.
Also i doubt there would be so much of a discussion about color if there was no coloring at all. simply because it would be very very inconsistent.
IMHO thats the only future of single malt whisky. But thats for another thread.
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Postby Admiral » Fri Jan 07, 2005 12:12 am

I see the problem illustrated quite dramatically here in Oz. One of the more popular blends on the market is "Black Douglas". It's a very cheap blend, a few dollars less than JW Red, and it tastes horribly young and thin. I suspect the malt content is dreadfully low, and the grain is nothing special.

However, it's one of the darkest whiskies on the shelf! It's even darker than an 18yo Macallan! So sadly, a lot of innocently ignorant drinkers assume that whisky is supposed to be dark.

Lawrence - be careful what company you are in when you describe yourself as a butt head! :D

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Rudy » Sat Jan 08, 2005 3:45 pm

To me, colour does not really matter any longer, but is still part of the fun.

In the beginning when making notes, I made a note of colour as well. Now I do not even make notes of anything at all :oops: .

My prime interest lies in the taste and nose (in this order). Nosing and tasting a whisky (or as Philip Hills expresses so beautifully: appreciating whisky) is like a journey full of discoveries.
I quite like that journey. Part of the fun to assess colour and texture and guess what to expect and then to find out whether these expectations come out.

The larger part of my whiskies are in the mean time IB's with the pleasent habit not to colour or to chill filter, so I I can have more fun.

Rudy.
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Postby Tom » Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:09 pm

Thats an interesting point you got there Rudy. And one im starting to experience myself too. So far its mainly the IB's that hold true to their word if they state no coloring added.
At first i was very sceptic at the very concept of IB's because in my ignorance i thought they ruined it for the OB's. However it is only thanks to Independents we still get to taste some of the closed distillerys whiskys. And thanks to IB's like OMC and Blackadder Raw cask we got some whisky's that are not only as pure as you can get them but also extremely good.
I already join you on the behalf of Caol Ila, apart from the OB CS, i find all the IB's better then the 12 and 18.
This is very interesting and somewhat frightening development. Soon we'll have to turn to IB's if we want true for our money. While IB's are known for their diversity and willingness to break the distillerys traditions at the moment.
Last edited by Tom on Sat Jan 08, 2005 6:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Lawrence » Sat Jan 08, 2005 5:54 pm

I try and look at IB's as a compliment to the OB's, they're both part of the picture.
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Postby Ed » Tue Feb 15, 2005 4:14 pm

Hello All,
Isn't Bourbon pretty? Of course it is and it has come by its beauty naturally, it is entitled to it. I think that bourbon has set a standard in the popular imagination for what a whiskey should look like, even scotch whisky. And of course, scotch whisky is sometimes dark, too. So, if you want to sell whisky you add caramel, at least some of the time. And pack your bottles in fake satin lined boxes and all that. Still, there is a lot of good whiskey out there (some of it is bourbon!) and we can be thankful for that.

I would like to ask the group if anyone has tried adding caramel E150 (is that right?) to a sample that you know well and seeing if you could taste the difference? Be sure and use your cobalt glasses. Jim Murray claims to have done so and to have convinced some unnamed person in the industry that caramel does have a deleterious effect on his product.
Ed
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Postby JimHall » Sun Mar 06, 2005 1:29 pm

The colour may matter to novices but Take Ardbeg 10 .... it is very very pale but full of flavour. Why should colour matter .... i love new spirit which is clear.
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Postby Crispy Critter » Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:01 am

That was one thing that really surprised my about Ardbeg 10 - and, for that matter, a Signatory UCF bottling of Caol Ila that I had. In spite of their very pale color, they are quite flavorful!
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Mar 07, 2005 3:28 am

Hopefully, CC, you have learned not to be surprised. It's amazing how many people are taken aback by the color of Ardbeg, when actually it would be surprising if it were dark. Laphroaig is generally pretty light, too. (I've always been suspicious of Lagavulin's unnaturally orange tint.)

I will repeat what I've said before--I do care what my whisky looks like. I want it to look like it does naturally, right out of the cask. It's not the most important thing, but it is a point of interest. If I didn't care, then I wouldn't care what color they put in it. I want to see what it really looks like, undoctored. And that's why I voted yes in this poll.
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Postby Tom » Mon Mar 07, 2005 8:53 pm

Actually Laphroaig is pretty dark. I have tested this because i let my wife pour in my drams without me knowing what it is. And laphroaig is one of the darkest islays. If you know that most islays are bourbon that says alot.
also Lagavulin 16 is sherry wich is why it is so dark.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Mar 07, 2005 9:03 pm

Actually, it's been a while since I had a Laphroaig 10--maybe my memory is faulty. As for Lagavulin 16, I'm sure it's generally pretty dark naturally, but the orangey tint looks unnatural to me. And look at the 12--not all Lagavulin is dark. I don't know for sure, but I suspect fairly heavy color doctoring in the 16.
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Postby sirj » Tue Mar 08, 2005 9:53 am

We got our hands on some E150a (spirit caramel) and there has
been some experiment.

The caramel was droped into the chosen whisky, drop by drop.
The whisky nose did't change that much (hard to decect any changes at all) whith "nolmally" amount of colur. But with the
whisky "black" (Loch Dhu), the nose was suppresed and got an
odd touch.
The taste was more sensitive for the caramel, even with small
coulor change a different taste was detected and the finish become
more bitter.
With too much caramel the whisky was hard to drink.......

We have just started our experiment and will do some more
in the future, but one thing for sure:

CARAMEL INFLUENCE THE WHISKY and in my opinion the whisky
should taste only whisky, so no caramel in my whisky, please.
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Postby Jeroen Kloppenburg » Tue Mar 08, 2005 11:41 am

Crispy Critter wrote:That was one thing that really surprised my about Ardbeg 10 - and, for that matter, a Signatory UCF bottling of Caol Ila that I had. In spite of their very pale color, they are quite flavorful!


And is sold in a bottle you cant see the expressions' color in.

Like some already expressed before, I think it'll be really hard NOT to have let color have any effect on you.

And why shouldnt it be part of enjoying a whisky. Nothing wrong with looking at the color for several reasons, such as cask type, finish, etc. All asuming no E150 has been used (other then keeping color consistent, without altering the 'native' color of the beast?).

You just have to appreciate the value color has, and not interpreted it in the way you for example value the color of a red wine, where color is far more important then in a whisky.

Just my 0.02 cents.
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Postby Tom » Tue Mar 08, 2005 6:55 pm

Sirj,
Did you dilute it first with water? You are supposed to dilute it in water before you add it to the whisky.
On a side note, where did you get it? im asking around everywhere but that stuff is hard to come by. In two weeks ill be asking it directly to the belgian distiller. (who makes no secret of using caramel...) But in case i cant get it from him i really would like to know where to get it.
Thanks, Tom
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Postby sirj » Tue Mar 08, 2005 9:31 pm

Tom,
I got it from a whisky friend from the internet, he works in the
"suger industri" and has obviously some contacts.

On the bottle I have can I read as follows:

Plain/Spirit Caramel
E150a
D.D.Williamson
England

Regarding the "dilution". No, I did´t dilute it with water, maybe I
have to make more tests :roll:
But to reach a particular grade of colour, you have to use even
more caramel if it's diluted with water........
Maybe you have some more information on this matter ?

//Jörgen.
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Postby Tom » Wed Mar 09, 2005 6:09 pm

Thank you very much sirj,
I cant help you at this time, as i have no caramel myself. I heard you have to dilute it with water from a person that did various experiments himself. I will try to find out what i can from the belgian distillery in two weeks, they were comforteble in telling they use it in the start, so i hope they will still share some info about it. whatever i hear i will tell you.
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