Going for Gold – What gives whisky that irresistable colour?
Some say Scotch whisky is dark because it’s peated!
Some say it is because the casks have been charred before the clear distilled spirit is filled into them!
Well the answer is much simpler.
The whisky takes its colour from the oak cask it matures in, more so from the type of alcoholic liquid which was previously maturing in the oak cask than the wood itself.
If Bourbon (American whiskey made from minimum 51% corm) had matured in the cask before we filled it with Scotch whisky (93% of the cask we use in Scotland today) the colour of the Scotch whisky will likely be from light gold to dark gold. (no reddishness)
If Sherry (Spanish fortified wine : such as Oloroso, Amoroso, Amontillado, Fino, or Pedro Ximenez ) had matured in the cask before we filled it with Scotch whisky (less than 10% of the cask we use today in Scotland) the colour of the Scotch whisky will likely be darker, amber, treacle, and in some instance pale with some reddishness to it.
It is also true that a liquid caramel (E150a, food colouring, not a sweetener) can be used to adjust the colour of Scotch whisky. More common for blended whiskies which tend to be younger in age, and in some cases a little can be found in single malt in order for the continuity in colour from one bottling to another. (Mit Karamell, Mit Farbstoff, can sometimes be found on the back label of single malt bottling which has had E150a added to adjust colouring.
Next time I will touch on the peated factor!