Does Your Whiskey Have Food Coloring in It?

Does Your Whiskey Have Food Coloring in It?

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Among the most frequently, and controversially whisky debates is that of, dyed: Scotch. Turns out certain whiskies can be colored for there optical color.Among the most frequently, and controversially whisky debates is that of, dyed: Scotch. Turns out certain whiskies can be colored for there optical color.


Surprising to you, right? Considering the love and strictness that goes into Scotch production and it all might ends with a dash of food coloring? But it’s real. According to the Scotch Whisky Act of 2009, which basically determine and/or updates standards for Scotch composition, Scotch was and remains a spirit “to which no substance has been added except (i) water; (ii) simple caramel coloring; or water and simple caramel coloring.” Scots are considerable serious about their whisky regulations, and for now at least, it seem like caramel is fair game.

But as always in objective taste perception, opinions alternate. But what about American whiskies? Again, accordingly to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in the United States, certain whiskies can customize up to 2.5% caramel coloring in complete product (they even have an attractive, incredibly perplexing chart for referencing the process). The regulation gets somewhat more flustering, though, with coloring allowed as a factor of “established trade usage” (basically determining the rules based on how a spirit’s typically been processed?). Fortunately, the TTB themselves actively clarified things, so to speak, telling whiskey makers, “you may not increase caramel or caramel coloring or flavor to Bourbon.” That indicates any bourbon be it regular or “straight” (aged at least a minimum of two years) and gets its color from the barrel, nothing else.

This same regulation goes for rye, corn, and wheat whiskies, but only if they’re categorized as “straight whiskey.” Speaking of labels, in most countries (including the U.S.), Scotch whiskies don’t really have to state if they use caramel coloring (Germany demands it be on the label). Perhaps the most essential debate, though, is whether caramel coloring impacts taster. So while you may be capable to impart if your rye include caramel coloring inasmuch as it’s not labeled “straight rye,” your Scotch is anyone’s suspect.

A recent taste-experiment by 10 staffers at Master of Malt seems to allude to that it doesn’t. And they’re getting a bit hot, with some grievance from seriously tuned-in consumers to discontinue coloring and chill-filtration (that’s another story). But the occasional—or recently interested—Scotch drinker might have no idea his Single Malt is russet brown and not, say, light hay-colored.  Evidently we like to pay more for things with a nice dark brown caramel tan.

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