Caramel E150

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Caramel E150

Postby DavidH » Fri Mar 11, 2011 12:51 pm

Admin Note : Split from another topic as it possibly deserves it's own thread



John wrote:On the other issue. Given that other distilleries insist that they do not use caramel - is there perhaps a different colouring agent that could be used? If so, the defence that they don't use caramel in the maturation process would be legitimate. Just a thought.

It's in the EU definition of whiskey - only caramel may be added for the purpose of colouring.

If I was the new food minister, I'd knock industry heads together and tell them we are going to make "Irish" a byword for "natural", "pure" and all those good things as far as food and drink are concerned. Irish whiskey is a pure product that can't be promoted as additive-free because of the trivial use of caramel. Ban it, and start getting the message out there that we don't adulterate our products.
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Re: New Kilbeggan 18

Postby IrishWhiskeyChaser » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:45 pm

I'm sure the Kilbeggan 18yo will be available in Ireland and that the Picture is just the German one which JohnM probably just happened to spot on a German site.

In relation to Caramel ... and I not trying to slag anyone off here but just speaking in general. I think the whole issue is basically a non issue and that people make more of it because they are subconsciously thinking thee is a difference in a whiskey because there has been a colour added due to comments made by so called experts. To say that caramel is added when the spirit goes into the casks before maturing is totally illogical and has no foundation and is basically one of these urban myths that grow legs. It is illogical as the colour of Jameson and Powers especially are expertly derived at by scientific analysis and is coloured to meet the desired hue year on year. However by colouring the contents of a cask before you mature it you cannot guarantee a specific colour and could possibly over colour as you do not know how deep the cask itself will colour the contents. I really do not understand why this is an issue at all as the majority of blended Scotch and Irish whiskey at the entry point of a brand is coloured. What is more confusing is that I have never come across a person that has complained about the effects of Caramel(E150) in Powers Gold or Jameson nas or any of the Market leader Scotch blends (bar Master J Murray). It seems always the colour issue comes up with more premium whiskies which contain whiskey that has matured for longer and in Midleton's case they have stated that they do not colour their premium range. I would actually believe this from seeing cask samples first hand. First fill Sherry & port casks impart very heavy colouring to the whiskey but they also impart a very full and heavy flavour profile and that is why IDL are slow to release a single cask Sherry or Port only matured whiskey. Glenfarclas is a prime example of Distillery that releases very heavily sherry matured whisky and I have had a couple of their single cask versions and found them to be heavy and cloying. I actually currently have one from Germany which has no mention of Mit Farbstoff (sic).

Further if the KIlbeggan 18yo is coloured you can bet that the 15yo was also coloured as we all know how pale Cooley Malt is. Yet it has won a stream of awards so why does it seem not to be an issue in this whiskey yet an issue in another. The Bourbon matured Kilbeggan possibly would have more colouring than a Sherry based whiskey. This yet adds to my confusion about colouring as I don't think anybody suspected (or at least made an issue out of it) that the Kilbeggan 15yo was coloured. So this again leads me to believe that peoples minds are coloured (excuse the pun) by the suggestion that a whiskey maybe coloured.

Caramel (the colour) is possibly a necessity for all the many basic blends on the market so banning it is probably not an option but I would agree that it should be noted on the bottle also in all markets not just Germany.
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Re: New Kilbeggan 18

Postby DavidH » Fri Mar 11, 2011 2:08 pm

IrishWhiskeyChaser wrote:In relation to Caramel ... I think the whole issue is basically a non issue and that people make more of it because they are subconsciously thinking thee is a difference in a whiskey because there has been a colour added due to comments made by so called experts.

I agree that's the complaint usually made. It's not why I object to the caramel though. The routine tampering with a natural product tarnishes all Irish whiskey, whether they are coloured or not, because it establishes the principle that Irish whiskey can have additives.

Put it this way, which message would you rather sell:

1. Irish whiskey has no additvies. Barley, yeast, time. (Think German purity laws.)
2. Irish whiskey mostly has no additives. Sometimes we add caramel, but that's not the sweetener it sounds like. It's added in small amounts just for appearances because we don't trust consumers to know what they are getting. We swear it has no effect on taste. Honest!

It's such a wasted opportunity to steal a march on Scotch.
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Re: New Kilbeggan 18

Postby bredman » Fri Mar 11, 2011 2:53 pm

Well said David. Good whisky doesn't need it.


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Re: Caramel E150

Postby IrishWhiskeyChaser » Fri Mar 11, 2011 4:05 pm

I agree with the sentiments of banning colouring but it is just not going to happen. It also is not a simple case of being very honourable and having no additives in your whiskey as there is much more to consider. Basically whisk(e)y's mass market and the bread winner for the majority of Whisk(e)y companies is the blend. If you don't have this market you possibly would not have a whisky sector as strong as it currently is. This is a basic and unsophisticated market, cheap and affordable, which expects (and assumes) it's whiskey to have a constant taste and colour every time they go back to it. From a conversation with Iain Buxton he commented how impressed he was with a current day Teachers tasted side by side with one over 60 years old. Both were amazing similar as has been Jameson & Powers for the last 40 years. To maintain a blend at such a taste standard requires the expertise of an excellent master blender. By virtue of maintaining a constant taste it is virtually impossible to also maintain an identical colour standard batch by batch hence the need for colouring. Why, because colour deviation would be seen as a deviation in quality and therefore you run the risk of losing your customer base.

It is also worth remembering that 90% of all scotch produced is blended and the huge majority of this is coloured as are many entry level but well known single malts. So unless you get the Scotts to do the same the Irish companies are not going to run the risk of losing any more of their market share to a visually stable scotch. And I suppose that is why I get annoyed with the mention of E150 in relation to Irish whiskey as it wide spread amongst all types yet Irish Whiskey more often than not gets tagged with such sentiments which is unfair and counter productive. My stock of The original Redbreast 15yo was all sourced in Germany and it does not have the Mit Farbstoff tag ... yet Jim Murray thought in his wisdom to mention that he thought he could taste caramel in it. I have yet to meet anyone else to say such a thing and this is considered one of the best Irish whiskies in a long long time. And even if it did contain E150 why should it be an issue.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby bredman » Fri Mar 11, 2011 6:23 pm

IrishWhiskeyChaser wrote: By virtue of maintaining a constant taste it is virtually impossible to also maintain an identical colour standard batch by batch hence the need for colouring. Why, because colour deviation would be seen as a deviation in quality and therefore you run the risk of losing your customer base.

Where would they go? A little education can go a long way. Older whiskies are darker and considered superior, dressing young blends up with colour is marketing deceit, as it suggests they are 'older' than they are. People would soon recover from the loss of e150a in their spirit. Personally colour changes in batches would never bother me, one of the original concerns was people feeling their pub served dram may appear watered down if it was suddenly paler. There are no such concerns these days, i just don't see the need for e150.

Another approach would be to not call for added colour to be banned, but for clear and honest labelling on bottles. UK ( and i assume Ireland ) labelling laws allow all alcoholic beverages to NOT list ingredients ( or something like that ). The Campaign For Real Authentic Whisky threads on wwwforum is organising a voice to cover this very issue.


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Re: Caramel E150

Postby DavidH » Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:29 pm

IrishWhiskeyChaser wrote:This is a basic and unsophisticated market, cheap and affordable, which expects (and assumes) it's whiskey to have a constant [...] colour every time they go back to it.

That's a big assumption. On the shelf, one green bottle of whiskey looks much like another. When mixed, they look pretty similar too. Who in this unsophisticated market is comparing pure samples of whiskey from multiple batches?

I'd like to know what the natural variation of colour is of one vatting of 100s of casks of a particular age profile. I bet it's not much, since individual cask variation is smoothed out by the vatting. There is also the Bushmills trick of keeping a rolling vatting going, ie topping up the vat before drawing some off, that further reduces the rate of variation.

I think "consistency" is the excuse but darkening is the true purpose. And that's deceptive, as bredman says. We have all seen Irish whiskeys with ludicrously deep colour, even good ones. It ruins a really good story about age, sherry casks, etc.

Regarding RB15, I will take the word of IDL that there is no caramel in there. But if some whiskey writer speculates that caramel notes may be due to colouring, then that is exactly the kind of damage being done to the reputation of Irish whiskey that I'm talking about. It's not the fault of the writer, it's the fault of the industry for allowing that doubt to arise in the first place.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby bredman » Sat Mar 12, 2011 1:56 am

DavidH wrote:I think "consistency" is the excuse but darkening is the true purpose.

Some believe that e150 can be tasted. Others believe that it has more of an effect rather than flavour. Most agree that it dampens down flavours somewhat, effecting the mouthfeel, and coating our tastebuds. Of course the industry claims it doesn't effect taste, if it does in fact effect taste that makes it illegal, as flavour altering additives are simply not allowed.

I believe it does effect taste, and that e150 can be used to dampen down the finer complex nuances to be found in whiskies, including the faults. This makes it a beneficial additive to the big blend producers, causing deceit on the eye ( colour ) and deceit on taste ( ironing out flavours/faults ). My argument is that it's unnecessary, and perhaps nothing more than a lack of confidence with their product ( mass produced blends possibly containing some below par whisky ), as opposed to full blown deceit.

Some are more sensitive than others to the presence of sulphur, and it seems that it's the same for e150 - i'm referring to the effect on flavour and mouthfeel rather than for ethical/purity reasons. Some it seems, have learned to associate this effect of e150 as a sign of good whisky, and therefore need to be re-educated, so to speak.

Imo.
Last edited by bredman on Sat Mar 12, 2011 2:09 am, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: Caramel E150

Postby bredman » Sat Mar 12, 2011 2:07 am

So lets put it on the labels, those that are effected by it can avoid it. Those that feel cheated by it's presence can also avoid. And everyone else can make a choice. I do feel the majority would choose the colour free whisky. Maybe that is the key here, what does the market want?

Interesting how small batch one-offs and single casks have it in. No consistency concerns there.

Many "craft-style" distilleries no longer use it ( Bruichladdich even state it on their labels ).

Its all food for thought.


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Re: Caramel E150

Postby IrishWhiskeyChaser » Sat Mar 12, 2011 5:41 pm

DavidH wrote:That's a big assumption. On the shelf, one green bottle of whiskey looks much like another. When mixed, they look pretty similar too. Who in this unsophisticated market is comparing pure samples of whiskey from multiple batches?


It not the difference between one brand to another but within brands.

If you have the end of a bottle of Jameson at home which you bought a few months ago and you purchase a new one as your going to run out as the lads are over. You have no major interest in whiskey as a category but have drank Jameson for years as it is your brand. So your at home with the lads and your pouring a few whiskeys during which you finish your old bottle and pour the rest from the new bottle and notice a difference in colour. What are you going to think, as you have no idea that whiskey does not necessarily need to be the same colour just taste good? More over, Take any Supermarket they can easily put a few cases of one type of whiskey on a shelf. So the difference is when mass marketed whiskeys like Powers which is sold in a clear bottle has say 2 different batches on the same shelf.

There is where the possibility of a colour difference between batches could affect a persons purchase choice. i.e. When a customer sees a difference it causes confusion and a perception of difference in quality. And that is why they try and keep is constant.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby IrishWhiskeyChaser » Sat Mar 12, 2011 5:45 pm

bredman wrote:So lets put it on the labels, those that are effected by it can avoid it. Those that feel cheated by it's presence can also avoid. And everyone else can make a choice. I do feel the majority would choose the colour free whisky. Maybe that is the key here, what does the market want?

Interesting how small batch one-offs and single casks have it in. No consistency concerns there.
.


Totally agree and I'm not trying to overly justify it ... but it is a massive industry wide issue and needs to be tackle from the point of the whole industry.

And yes small batch should never have it.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby Michael Foggarty » Sat Mar 12, 2011 6:26 pm

bredman wrote: Older whiskies are darker and considered superior, dressing young blends up with colour is marketing deceit, as it suggests they are 'older' than they are.


Not always true, maturation has a massive part to play in this along with cask selection.

I dont believe anyone can really taste the carmel in the whiskey, but they want to think they do.

How much more jargon do we need on a whiskey label, blend, single pot still, pure pot still, non chill filtered, pure malt, blended malt, single malt, grain, cask strength, single cask, batch x, bottle number x, finished in 3000 types of casks, year of distillation, age of whiskey. I actually wonder if you asked every member of the society to define these terms how many would actually get them right. A simple label system like the aussie wine v french wine labeling would surely help the industry more.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby JohnM » Mon Mar 14, 2011 2:09 pm

American bootleggers used Dr Pepper to colour their spirit during prohibition...
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby John » Mon Mar 14, 2011 3:30 pm

From David's EurLex link above:

2. Whisky or Whiskey
(a) Whisky or whiskey is a spirit drink produced exclusively by:
(i) distillation of a mash made from malted cereals with or without whole grains of other cereals, which has been:
- saccharified by the diastase of the malt contained therein, with or without other natural enzymes,
- fermented by the action of yeast;
(ii) one or more distillations at less than 94,8 % vol., so that the distillate has an aroma and taste derived from the raw materials used,
(iii) maturation of the final distillate for at least three years in wooden casks not exceeding 700 litres capacity.
The final distillate, to which only water and plain caramel (for colouring) may be added, retains its colour, aroma and taste derived from the production process referred to in points (i), (ii) and (iii).
(b) The minimum alcoholic strength by volume of whisky or whiskey shall be 40 %.
(c) No addition of alcohol as defined in Annex I(5), diluted or not, shall take place.
(d) Whisky or whiskey shall not be sweetened or flavoured, nor contain any additives other than plain caramel used for colouring.

From this legal definition it is very clear that producers have to do everything to ensure that it is not possible to taste the caramel from the spirit as it is only allowed to have a colouring function - so how some people are allegedly able to pick it up in a simple taste test is beyond me. :roll:
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby DavidH » Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:11 pm

John wrote:how some people are allegedly able to pick it up in a simple taste test is beyond me. :roll:

I'm more surprised how the caramel can be in enough concentration to change the colour of a whiskey and yet have no influence on taste/aroma. We are sensitive to flavours in very minute quantities.

Anyway, I have a cheap whiskey here, bourbon-aged for a few years but with a very deep colour. I know how it should taste but it doesn't taste that way. I reckon it's the caramel.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby John » Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:33 pm

The point I'm making is that if a distiller produces a whiskey that yields a taste of caramel or E150 to be specific then technicaly should that product be classed as an adulterated spirit and be recalled? Therefore, given that it may be in a producers interest to give a greater brown hue to its' produce - it is certainly from the commercial standpoint not in their interest for consumers to be able to taste it!?

I also find it funny sometimes when I listen to or read tasting notes from other whiskey drinkers where they describe a sweet aspect of a certain whiskey and attribute almost every form of sweet taste, sugar, coffee, chocolate, toffee: except caramel! Perhaps in case it is not meant to be there in the first place?! :D
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby JohnM » Mon Mar 14, 2011 6:49 pm

I don't think spirit caramel is sweet, but bitter. Can't say I know for sure if I've tasted it or not, but the distillers say you can't taste it. Who knows... I don't.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby jcskinner » Mon Mar 14, 2011 11:14 pm

DavidH wrote:
John wrote:how some people are allegedly able to pick it up in a simple taste test is beyond me. :roll:

I'm more surprised how the caramel can be in enough concentration to change the colour of a whiskey and yet have no influence on taste/aroma. We are sensitive to flavours in very minute quantities.

Anyway, I have a cheap whiskey here, bourbon-aged for a few years but with a very deep colour. I know how it should taste but it doesn't taste that way. I reckon it's the caramel.


I would agree with Michael in that I don't believe anyone can taste added caramel in whiskey. But I do believe that the addition of caramel encourages people to blame caramel when a whiskey doesn't taste as it was expected.
For that reason alone, it should be stopped as a practice. Then we could categorically be sure that when a bottle is wrong, it's just wrong and no excuses.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby IrishWhiskeyChaser » Tue Mar 15, 2011 12:36 pm

jcskinner wrote:I would agree with Michael in that I don't believe anyone can taste added caramel in whiskey. But I do believe that the addition of caramel encourages people to blame caramel when a whiskey doesn't taste as it was expected.
For that reason alone, it should be stopped as a practice. Then we could categorically be sure that when a bottle is wrong, it's just wrong and no excuses.


Good point JC

JohnM wrote:I don't think spirit caramel is sweet, but bitter. Can't say I know for sure if I've tasted it or not, but the distillers say you can't taste it. Who knows... I don't.


Caramel (E150) is basically burnt sugar so yes it would be bitter rather than sweet.

This is a very interesting subject and one I'd love to get to the bottom but how many have actually tasted E150 and have a base to compare that to what they taste in whiskey. I've only ever read about how it tastes and that is from other people whom I don't know whether they have the right to judge what they are tasting is E150. That would be my main gripe. Jim Murray says that a cloying characteristic is one of the signs of E150 being added however I'm wary of such a description as I've had a cloying-ness (sic) in many a heavily sherried single cask whiskey and I'd put it down to a sherry cask characteristic more than anything else. Who knows but keep up the discussion.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby JohnM » Tue Mar 15, 2011 1:49 pm

It's used in a huge amount of things in the food industry, including beer.

What I'd be slightly cautious about is the fact that it's also used as an emulsifier, which might change the mouth-feel of something. But that might be a different kind of caramel, as there's lots of ways to make it.

However, there are lots of things that can change flavour and mouth-feel without caramel being involved. I'd love to try a coloured whisky and an uncoloured version beside each other to see if there's a difference.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby varizoltan » Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:51 pm

there is a sweet factory near my homeplace,

i will try to get a bit of E150 to taste and play with :twisted:
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby IrishWhiskeyChaser » Tue Mar 15, 2011 2:57 pm

Do we know which is used in Whiskey ... I'm hoping E150a which has no nasty additives just sugar.


E150a
Plain Caramel

E150b
Caustic sulphite caramel

E150c
Ammonia caramel

E150d
Sulphite ammonia caramel

These colourings, which range from dark brown to black, are made by controlled heat treatment of sugar beet or sugar cane (with or without the presence of alkalis or acids) but as it is possible to use sugar from maize starch which may come from a Genetically Modified crop. The caramel group of colours are the most widely used group of colours, comprising some 98% of all colours used.

Between them they can be found in beer, brown bread, buns, chocolate, biscuits, brandy, chocolate flavoured flour based confectionery, coatings, decorations, fillings and toppings, crisps, dessert mixes, doughnuts, fish and shellfish spreads, frozen desserts, glucose tablets, gravy browning, ice cream, jams, milk desserts, pancakes, pickles, sauces and dressings, soft drinks particularly cola drinks, stouts, sweets, vinegar, whisky and wines.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby rathbeggan » Thu Mar 17, 2011 1:11 am

Interesting thread.

I think it's silly to add caramel.

People say the caramel added is infinitesimal, so can't affect the flavour, but something like 99.8% of whisk(e)y is either water or alcohol, both of which are odourless and flavourless. The aroma and flavour is in the other 0.2%. So the fact that the caramel is only added in small amounts doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't affect the smell/taste, or indeed deaden other smells/tastes, or affect the mouthfeel, as has been suggested above. It could be a significant portion of that 0.2%.

Jim Murray isn't the only person to claim caramel affects the flavour - the late David Daiches thought it did also (see his seminal Scotch Whisky book).

If we start getting a bit of clout, could we think about persuading our distilleries not to add caramel, at least to some drinks? It could be a selling point, as DavidH has suggested.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby dave-c » Mon Mar 21, 2011 10:42 am

Interesting Blog entry from the Master of Malt putting E150a to the test: http://www.masterofmalt.com/Blog/post/Can-you-taste-Caramel-%28E150a%29-in-Whisky.aspx

Also a recent response on the matter from Whyte and Mackay's master blender Richard Paterson, who was just named Whisky Magazine's 'Whisky Ambassador of the Year'. (from http://whisky.scotsman.com/viewnews.aspx?id=680)

Question from Martin P
What is your opinion on adding caramel colouring to whiskies and does Whyte and Mackay add any to its whiskies?

Answer from Richard Paterson
Rest assured caramel colouring produces one word. Confidence. If we were to release whisky that had variations in colour the consumer would quickly question the reliability of our products due to this potential inconsistency. What I would add is that only a small amount is used to produce the necessary consistency to our consumers.
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Re: Caramel E150

Postby IrishWhiskeyChaser » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:03 am

Very interesting piece Dave-c thanks for posting. I am also delighted to learn that it is E150a that is used which does not contain any sulphites or the like.
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