In my last blog about “What gives whisky colour?” I listed a number of chemical compounds that give whisky it’s colour. What I was wondering is how these colours match with the Odour and Taste of whisky.

So I made a wee list combining the Revised Scottish Whisky Flavour Wheel with information I dug up on PubChem. It took some while to find all the information and combine it.

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What is fun to see is that with the increase in time some of the colour compounds in whisky increase. This however also means the odour and taste increase/decrease in time as is documented in this research article “Formation of volatile and maturation-related congeners during the aging of sugarcane spirit in oak barrels”, JOURNAL OF THE INSTITUTE OF BREWING, Volume 120, Issue 4, 2014, Pages: 529–536, André R. Alcarde, Leandro M. Souza and Aline M. Bortoletto

Some of the compounds mentioned in the article do not have a colour so they are not listed in the table below. Also some compounds that are listed and would give a colour to a liquid I did not list since these originate in other liquors / drinks. I will check this if I feel like it! It would be fun to add Oloroso / PX / Bourbon / Rum cask influences to the list below.

Anyway, enjoy the list.

Name in Whisky Technology Odor Taste Congener SWFW Colour of Liquid as listed on PubChem
4-ethyl phenol POWERFUL WOODY-PHENOLIC, YET SOMEWHAT SWEET

MEDICINAL, PHENOLIC

SWEET SMOKEY Smoky COLOURLESS OR WHITE NEEDLES; TEND TO YELLOW ON EXPOSURE TO LIGHT
Alpha-ionone It has a warm, woody, floral odor with balsamic and sweet tones and is strongly reminiscent of violet flowers.

Sweet-floral odor, reminiscent of violets

Woody, floral, berry, fruity with powdery nuances Floral (Artificial – scented, perfumed) Colourless to slightly yellow liquid
Benzaldehyde  Characteristic odor or volatile oil of almond

Odor resembling oil of bitter almond

Burning aromatic taste

Similar to bitter almond

Nutty Colourless or yellowish, strongly refractive volatile oil Strongly refractive liquid, becoming yellowish on keeping.
Decanol  Floral, fruity odor

RESEMBLE ORANGE FLOWERS

SLIGHT, CHARACTERISTIC FATTY TASTE Soapy Colourless to water-white liquid
Dimethyl sulphide UNPLEASANT ODOR OF WILD RADISH, CABBAGE-LIKE Characteristic flavor Vegerable Colourless to straw colored liquid
Euganol Odor of cloves

Warm, spicy, floral

Spicy, pungent taste Spicy Colourless or pale yellow or amber-colored liquid. Colourless or pale yellow liquid.
Furfural Peculiar odor, somewhat resembling the odor of benzaldehyde… Almond-like odor … Distinct caramel taste Nutty Colourless to amber liquid. Colourless, oily liquid … Turns yellow to brown on exposure to air and light and resinifies. Colourless liquid (becomes reddish-brown on exposure to light and air)
Geraniol Sweet rose odor

Pleasant geranium-like odor

Pleasant, floral odor

sweet floral rose, citrus with fruity, waxy nuances Floral (Artificial – scented, perfumed) Colourless to pale-yellow, liquid oil
Guaiacol Aromatic odor

CHARACTERISTIC SWEET ODOR, SLIGHTLY PHENOLIC

Burnt / Smoky Colourless to yellowish oily liquid
Hydrogen sulphide rotten egg odor Faint taste

Tasteless

Meaty amber-colored molten liquid
m-Cresol Phenolic odor

Sweet, tarry odor

Distinct phenolic odor, with an odor threshold of 5 ppm; sometimes referred to as an empyreumatic odor

Burnt Colorless, yellowish or pinkish liquid
o-Cresol Phenolic odor

Sweet, tarry odor

Medicinal Colourless or yellow to brown-yellow or pinkish colored liquid. Crystals in liquid becoming dark with age and exposure to light and air
Octanoic acid  FAINT, FRUITY-ACID ODOR

UNPLEASANT AND IRRITATING ODOR

Slight odor

Slightly sour taste

lightly unpleasant rancid taste

Colourless to light yellow liquid
β-ionone Warm woody, dry, and fruity odor

Odor reminiscent of cedar wood; violet-like upon dilution

Woody, berry, floral, green and fruity Floral (Artificial – scented, perfumed) Colourless to light yellow liquid

Colourless to pale, straw-coloured liquid

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