A glass of whiskey on the rocks on a slate table top
What Gives Whiskey Its Color?
By Heidi Chaya
Certain spirits must undergo specific, regulated production methods to be marketed under their respective names, and many details at play affect how the finished products taste and look. With whiskey-making, all of its hallmark flavor and appearance has to do specifically with a humble fixture of the process that hasn't changed much in centuries — wood.
Whiskey barrels are made from dry, carefully processed, seasoned wood that is blasted with fire internally to create the smokiness synonymous with whiskey. White or American oak is the go-to wood for making whiskey barrels, but other woods are also used and can give the whiskey a different tint.
White oak barrels tend to tint whiskeys russet, while European oak tints it golden, and sherry oak tints it orange or pink. Some "white whiskey" has no color at all, having never undergone the oak barrel-aging process, and in some instances, color is added artificially to obtain the brown most associated with whiskey.