The answer is an emphatic No. Bruichladdich whiskies are natural, the colour being obtained exclusively from the oak of the casks in which the whisky was matured.
New oak casks and barrels that recently contained a dark wine, such as some Sherries, induce darker brown shades in whisky; while oak casks that once contained red wines, such as Madeira, Port, Banyuls or Bordeaux, will impart a red-brown tint.
E150, or caramel colour, is used by most distillers for colour stabilisation. It allows a distiller – not Bruichladdich I hasten to add – to obtain a regular colour for each product, every time, regardless of the age, type or style of cask that the whisky was matured in.
E150, highly soluble in water, successfully mimics a wide spectrum of colours from the reds of fruit drinks to every shade of brown. It was first used in brewing, and is regularly used in fortified wines and spirits such as whisky and brandy.
Varying in colour from brown to black, it smells like burnt sugar as it is manufactured from the ‘controlled heat treatment’ of carbohydrates such as glucose syrups, sucrose and dextrose.
Generally added in small quantities at bottling time, the usage depends on the shade desired. As well as standardising batch-to-batch colour variations, it also has flavour applications as it contains flavour compounds similar to those found in chocolate and coffee.
Bizarrely, caramel colouring is legally permissible for colour stabilisation in whisky production, but illegal for flavouring whisky.
Germany is one of the few countries where the addition of E150 must be notified on the label. This is an excellent idea – we believe it should be mandatory.
At Bruichladdich we NEVER use E150.