New Poll: Caramel and Chill-Filtration on the Whisky Label

by Oliver Klimek on January 6, 2011

The ongoing discussion about caramel colouring and chill-filtration of whisky has been taken to another level by Marc Connelly of the Whisky Whisky Whisky Foum presenting the idea of a “Campaign for Real Whisky”.

Discussion has been rather intense with also some headwind regarding the chances of success of such a campaign and also about the definition what “real whisky” should be at all.

I don’t want to get too much into the nitty-gritty of it all, but a proposed ban of E 150a and chill-filtration would probably have very little chance to pass legislation. But a majority of participtants in the discussion favour that at least there should be an obligation for both treatments to me mentioned on the lable of any whisky bottle.

In this poll I want to find out about your feelings regarding the labelling issue. I have also added options to be in favour for only one of the two components. The options are:

  1. Both should be mandatory
  2. Only E 150a (caramel) should be mandatory
  3. Only chill-filtration should be mandatory
  4. None of the two should be mandatory
  5. I don’t care

An important note: This poll is not about how you feel about colouring of chill-filtration in general. It is only about the labelling.

The poll will run until midnight CET on 31st January 2011.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Gal January 6, 2011 at 11:52 am

Oliver,

this poll is not really required…

can you see any whisky geek not wanting both to be displayed?

we know the results beforehand.

Reply

Oliver Klimek January 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I agree on the possible result, but sometimes it’s better to have some numbers to underline your arguments than just a diffuse “most geeks are in favour anyway” feeling. Problem here is that this place is pretty geeky so the result won’t be too representative. I suspect that many casual whisky drinkers just don’t care.

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dbk January 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm

I might have to disagree a bit, Gal. I fancy myself a “whisky geek”—though perhaps not so geeky as you ; ) —but I think only the use of caramel should be mandatorily displayed on the label.

The issue of caramel is both one of prior-to-purchase marketing and taste: it increases the probability that someone will purchase a coloured whisky over an uncoloured one of the same age, quality, etc. without adding any real “value” to the whisky, and of course, it seems to influence the taste. It’s false advertising, and we don’t like that in our whisky.

But the issue with chill filtering, while for marketing purposes, is really just one of taste, and arguably the alterations are for the lesser. Chill-filtered whiskies do not appear any different from nonchill-filtered ones at the time of purchase (i.e. in the bottle), and so have no “false” impact on initial purchasing behaviour, even if they do eventually influence those who take their whisky “on the rocks.” Such whiskies might, however, taste like slightly-to-modestly poorer versions of their nonchill-filtered selves, and so the whisky industry hurts itself by using chill filtration to the degree that people find these whiskies lackluster. If the average whisky purchaser can’t tell the difference, why should they care? And, if geeks like ourselves *can* tell the difference, then why do we need the label to tell us? After all, I’m sure there are some whiskies you’d enjoy drinking even if they are chill filtered, and others you wouldn’t. I’d sooner not purchase the ones that are significantly tainted by chill-filtration than avoid all bottles that say “chill filtered” on the label at the cost of missing out on a good whisky (even if it could be better without the chill filtration).

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Justin January 11, 2011 at 11:34 am

My sentiments precisely.

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