Deductive Whiskey Tasting, Sequential Tasting Method

Whiskey Tasting Theory™: Mahogany Color

Last week, we talked about deductions you can instantly make when your whiskey is clear. I left you with the question; if your whiskey is a rich red mahogany, what does that mean?

Let’s pick up where we left off.

A whiskey’s color comes from its interaction with wood. A red mahogany tint means the whiskey has mingled a lot with oak.

In a blind tasting this typically means one of two things:

(1) It could mean the whiskey has sat in the barrel for decades. Why? Because that kind of dark hue is a sign that the whiskey had plenty of time to extract color from the wood.


(2) It could mean it’s been aged in a very hot climate in the United States. And I don’t mean Kentucky summer hot. I mean hot hot. Like Texas or Florida. Why can we deduce this?

Because extremely hot climates accelerate the whiskey and wood interaction. Now, there are hot climates like India where whiskey is aged. So why the U.S. specifically? Because most American whiskeys are aged in new oak barrels. Much like a new teabag versus a used teabag, new oak barrels have a lot more color to give than used barrels.

So, how do you tell if it’s the first option or the second?

You use the mahogany color in conjunction with the other information you recorded in your Whiskey Tasting book.

Open your book.

We’re going to be using the first three categories – Intensity, Age, and Barrel – in the Nose box of your Whiskey Tasting Chart.

If your whiskey has a mahogany tint, ranked Delicate to a 3 on Intensity, and ranked Moderate or Mature on Age, then it’s likely option one. Your whiskey is probably a couple decades old. You’ll know you’re on the right track if the nose intensity is mild and the palate is smooth and clingy.

On the other hand, if your whiskey is a mahogany hue, ranked 3 to Powerful on Intensity, ranked Youthful or Moderate on Age, and scored New Oak in the Barrel category, then it’s likely option two. You’ve got a whiskey from the Southern United States. It likely won’t be more than 6 years old.

You can zero in on this if the nose is sharp, possibly with a light hint of nail polish remover. The palate may dance on your tongue with little points of fire. And you’ve definitely got it right if there’s a dryness that sucks the moisture out from behind your molars in the corner of your mouth.

To recap, if your whiskey is a reddish mahogany then it’s most likely either decades old, or it’s been aged in the South.

Got it?


Keep trying stuff. Keep using your Whiskey Tasting Book. And stay tuned for more Whiskey Tasting Theory articles as we work progressively through the Sequential Whiskey Tasting Chart.

— Zac Smith