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Lorenzo

How to determine if whiskey has color additives

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Hi Everyone,

Recently received samples of aged more than four years Bourbon, sample sent tested out to be 115 proof, color is rich, when comparing color to other whiskey's that have more age, we noticed the color is not only much darker, but after dumping the sampling beaker, i noticed a coating on the glass of the sample received, yet no residue from the other whiskeys after those samples were dumped.

I'm now suspect of the aged more that four sample, thinking maybe caramel color or ?  I do not have any elaborate testing equipment, I suppose I could send a sample off to a lab, anyone care to comment on what the the light colored residue might be , or suggest a lab that could break the composition down for me? 

One better according to the TTB wouldn't the distiller or broker be required to state if the color was altered by any percentage of caramel color etc?

 

Thanks , Lorenzo

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Any straight whiskey can not have caramel or other flavoring/coloring added. Currently, the TTB interprets for bourbon, straight or not, that caramel or other flavoring/coloring can not be added. But just because those are the rules, does not mean they are being followed.

On the other hand, I would not expect caramel coloring to be any more or less likely to cause what you describe than exposure to heavily toasted and charred oak. The difference COULD be if the other whiskies had been filtered more or even chill-filtered, but the whiskey with the residue was not.

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Could it also be possible that the darker one came in a barrel from a better rack house?  If one distillery has a rack house that is built into the side of a hill in the traditional manner were the barrels go through all of the environmental changes that cause the spirit more exposure to the char and the oak than a barrel that is stored inside a building where little or no environmental changes occur. I would think that you would get a much darker color in the spirit in the barrel that came out of the traditional rack house, where you are seeing temp swings of up to 100 degrees ferinhight, large changes in barometric pressure and humidity from season to season. 

A few years ago, I tried some Bourbon that had been aged in an indoor warehouse where it was environmentally controlled with no temp changes and low humidity.  It was light in color and character as far as the character that should come from a barrel.  Also he was really complaining about his barrels leaking, but when i pointed out that it was probably from low humidity and that all of the static in there was dangerous, he just ignored me.  My wife and I took a class at this guys distillery.  His Whiskey and Bourbon sucked, but his Gin and Vodka was really good, especially the Gin, but all that he went on about was how he was going to produce the worlds best Bourban.

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Suspect it's not so easy to detect via simple methodologies or observations.  Looks like at a minimum, you'd need to do some analytics.  Here is a more recent study looking at this, which looks specifically at the ratio of Furfural to 5-HMF to determine if caramel is added.  The big issue is that a big component of the color is 5-HMF, which comes from the charred barrel in the exact same way as from the charred sugar.

http://lib3.dss.go.th/fulltext/Journal/J.AOAC 1999-2003/J.AOAC1999/v82n4(jul-aug)/v82n4p997.pdf

Keep in mind this is from the TTB.

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The nosing and flavor of the sample are right up there with a bourbon that is at least four years old, it may have been blended with something older,, with a different barrel char as Blustar mentioned, or the aging protocol may have had an effect, I have asked the broker for an analysis sheet, to have as a base line I’m sending the sample off for a look at the Furfurl to 5-HMF as Silk had mentioned.

Thanks to everyone for the responses.  

Lor

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