Decolorizing Aged Spirits

edited May 2016 in Usage

Anyone decolorizing spirits or play around with this? Talking about specifically removing undesirable color from short-term barrel aging.

From what I can garner - this is either a bit of a guarded secret in the industry, or is so highly variable that it's impossible to use any kind of standard protocol, and you need to use trial and error.

I realize this is a bit of a balancing act as well, enough to remove color, not enough to significantly impact flavor.

If not - how about we group-source the answer?


  • edited May 2016

    From a Cabot Carbon PDF:


    781 x 687 - 126K
  • One consistency across carbon manufacturers is that they specify a powdered carbon from virgin wood as the ideal.

  • edited May 2016

    I thought this was a decent overview:


  • I had some carbon samples from a carbon distributor i gave away once. They were acutely designed products for filtering different accents from finished spirit. One or two were decolourisers that would leave taste and body while removing colour. There were other ones that did the opposite, and some that were for filtration only.

    If you contact a specialist carbon or winemaking supply place you will get the products you need.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • edited May 2016

    On a whim I called General Carbon, a local company, to see what advice they had.

    Ended up stopping into their offices (only a few miles from me) and chatted with their chief engineer. Had a fantastic discussion, they actually have many distillery customers in the US and the islands.

    I walked away with a sample of a virgin powdered wood-based, with very high macropore structure, very high surface area. It's like confectionary sugar, or a super fine flour. God help you if you spill this.

    Ran a little test.

    What I will say, filtering this stuff out is a chore. They had recommended a specialty fine granule that they thought might be easier to work with, that'll be the next step, because once this powdered carbon hits the spirit, it turns black as night.

    For anyone wanting to do this on a hobby scale, it's going to be very tough to do - the losses due to filtration are pretty sizable. I had to run this through a couple different filters to clear it, progressively smaller. This was by 2 or 5 micron or so, I didn't pass it through smaller cartridges because I didn't have much left after starting with a liter.

    Here is a shot with flash:


    Here is a shot without flash:


    Organoleptically, I'm surprised, it's awfully close to the starting point. This was 30 minute reaction time, but probably closer to 1 hour before I could filter it out sufficiently.

    None of this was chill filtered.

    It's really good.

    800 x 600 - 56K
    800 x 600 - 51K
  • I could probably go with a bit less carbon, or an even shorter reaction time, and get it close. This was shot under lights that were pretty yellow - it's absolutely colorless.

  • what about time and settling? And I wonder if this is how they made Zima?

  • Was there much difference in taste?

  • edited May 2016

    Thats what he means by organoleptically, what can be sensed, @grim said very close to the original.

    StillDragon Australia & New Zealand - Your StillDragon® Distributor for Australia & New Zealand

  • I have always heard that Bacardi does something like that to their light rum after aging.

  • Settling won't work, no way. A tiny bit of it appears to settle, but it's probably just the largest particles. Just touch it and everything goes back into suspension.

  • edited May 2016

    This first try - it's a little bit "muted". The flavor about 90% similar, but the aroma - a bit less overall - about 70%. If you have no reference, the treated smells great. But smell it next to the untreated, back to back, and it's clear that there is less aroma.

    They are different, there is no mistaking them, but I don't find the treated to be worse, or the untreated better.

    However, I probably overdid it in terms of quantity and contact time. To do this right you really need to sample, sample, sample, and as soon as you get your color reduction, filter it as quickly as possible. This was only 30 minutes contact time, probably removed half the carbon by 45 minutes, and the remainder by the hour mark.

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