Auchentoshan, not to be confused with the fake tan…

There are few events more unconsciously homoerotic than bodybuilding competitions. I recently found myself at the Southern heats for the UK Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation competition.  Seeing around 200 men and women, covered by the flimsiest rags, oiled, sweating and heavily over tanned is a very odd and unusual experience. Most people that I have told, of both sexes, have immediately responded with incredulous responses of envy at getting to see these examples of physical perfection, however, after the 2nd set of bodies, it stops being entertaining, and you start seeing the obsession, the damage, the devotion and the commitment that it takes, you start to see the competition, the success and the disappointment, and more than anything else, you start to smell the fake tan.

Traditionally, everyone involved with bodybuilding has slathered on the fake tan for competitions the world over – this is apparently to increase the definition, or at least the visual sense of definition of the muscles. However, more recently, with improvements in understanding of the training in the first place, aesthetic ideals within the bodybuilding world, and lighting concepts at the shows, fake tan has become less essential. This was quite obvious at the UKBFF where although the majority were painted with teak oil, an increasing number were not, and their results seemed to be none the worse for it. In fact, some of those who were applying the cuprinol poorly looked distinctly odd, and seemed to be losing ground in the competition. Most of the winners were tanned, but seemed to have mastered the use of it, and applied it judiciously.

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There is an easy and obvious comparison here with the whisky industry and the phenomena of caramel, or e150a. For many years it has been added to whisky at the bottling stage to dress the whisky, to “improve” the colour by deepening it, giving the whisky a more consistent colour. This has long been a bugbear of many a blogger, writer and connoisseur; I have seen multiple posts, tweets and comments decrying the evil stuff, even one that stated any bottle in their collection found to contain E150a would immediately and henceforth be disposed of down the sink…

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a full range of shades is available, from pale straw, through burnished, to treacle…

To which I say, before you do that, give me the bottles. Or, in fact, any other whisky drinker. There are many bottlings found to contain colour after release and partial consumption – if you enjoyed them initially, why should this knowledge prevent you from enjoying them further? There are many who claim that they can taste the caramel, but there are as many who say there is absolutely no difference; Master of Malt recently followed up on a long-ago blog post where they blind tasted water with enough e150a added to bring it to the “average whisky” with a series of bottling designed to dispel/confirm this and other myths, along with variations in blending techniques – well worth a look if you haven’t seen it already…

one of these has no artificial colour added...
one of these has no artificial colour added…
Auchentoshan has a history of using colouring in their whisky, but it’s not something they tend to shout about – in fact, most of the people I have talked to have admitted it to be so and swiftly moved the topic of conversation on. I understand the wish to avoid derision and caterwauling from unhappy drinkers, but I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of.  I was recently gifted a travel exclusive bottle of the coopers reserve; whilst it has colouring, it hasn’t prevented me from enjoying it. It isn’t the most complexly layered whisky I’ve had recently, but it is sublimely enjoyable and fresh from the first moment. It is a 14 year old whisky, from a combination of both oloroso and bourbon casks
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Auchentoshan was one of the first whiskies I wrote about on this blog, and it’s one I keep coming back to – the smoothness gained by the triple distillation, and the depth to which this allows the flavour to be manipulated through initial maturation, finishing and combining casks is genuinely impressive. I would also recommend the tour highly – last time I was in Scotland I had another opportunity to visit, and this time picked up a bottle of their hand bottled single cask (sadly the facilities for hand bottling my own bottle weren’t available on that particular day).

Auchentoshan’s 14 Year Old Cooper’s Reserve
Nose: Red grapes, blood oranges, orange and passionfruit cake
Palate: Madeira soaked Sponge Cake, figgy pudding,
Finish: pepper and nutmeg, hazelnuts to the very end…
Overall: Having tried E150A in various forms and guises, can safely say i can’t taste it in here, only very lovely whisky indeed!
the issue really seems to be that the colour added is not always the problem with the product itself...
the issue really seems to be that the colour added is not always the problem with the product itself…

Some Further Reading:

What Tastes Good provides a systematic approach to testing for e150a, As does Master of Malt, Dramming.com provides a thorough insight, and Malt Maniacs provides a balance of the two

3 thoughts on “Auchentoshan, not to be confused with the fake tan…”

  1. One of the best thought out and considered articles I’ve read in a long time. Having been to the distillery I know that there are some lovely people there that work really hard. Plus I do love me some Three Wood…
    Keep on waffling,
    Nick

  2. Love the blog. Lots of good info here. I’m a big fan of whiskey as well as coffee. So I started sourcing and aging beans in whiskey barrels. Now I can get the nice finish of whiskey anytime! Would you be interesting in reviewing our coffee beans for your readers? I can get some free samples out to you. Let me know. Great site!
    -John

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