MISTAKE NUMBER THREE
Focusing too closely on colour
What does a colour tell you about how a whisky will taste? Absolutely nothing. Are whiskies that are pitch-black in colour the richest, most sherried, most intensely flavoured drams? Nope. Do whisky drinkers still get fooled by colour in the glass over and over again? Yes!
Let’s rewind a moment. Every Society cask is bottled as natural colour, meaning no E150 (caramel spirit colouring) is added to the end product. Some big (and some small) distilleries and blenders add this for one reason: consistency.
It makes the spirit look uniform across batches, but also often makes it look darker, bolder, richer, sweeter. I’m not here to begrudge them for doing so. Consistency of output for a big whisky brand is absolutely paramount to their success globally.
Insist on natural colour, but don’t be conned by the thinking that darker automatically equals better
Wine marketing has successfully pulled off selling colour as a strength, just as whisky does. But let’s get back to whisky without E150 for a moment: even then, it’s easy to obsess over colour. I’ve had some whiskies that were positively pitch black with a hint of ruby red in the glass, only to be severely disappointed with the hot mess they were.
I’ve had other whiskies that were almost vodka-coloured that tasted superb. Insist on natural colour, but don’t be conned by the thinking that darker automatically equals better. We recently featured a cask from distillery 46 at a Society event that had spent 24 years in a first fill Oloroso butt, yet it wasn’t even a shade darker than a refill bourbon barrel. It tasted rich, sherried and delicious, but it didn’t have that dark burnished red hue so many crave.