Chill filtration is a method used by distillers to filter out any fatty acids and esters (FAEs) that creates the spirit to become cloudy once it drops below a certain level. Chill filtration is used for vodka, gin, whiskey and other spirits, but we’ll just focus on whiskey!
Actually, all whiskey goes through some sort of filtering before bottling to remove sediment or other unwanted particles that may occurred, but not all whiskey goes through a chill-filtration process.
(note: just because a whiskey is not chill-filtered it does not mean it will definitely be cloudy. This image is just an example of a whiskey that has clouded because it hasn't gone through the process and has been exposed to temperatures that has made it cloud!)
There are a few reasons why chill filtration might not be used:
- Whiskies that are bottled at 53.5% ABV or above won’t cloud at freezing temperatures, therefore removing the need for chill filtration. This means many producers will not use chill filtration for cask-strength or overproof whiskey.
- The residue that is being removed by chill filtration consists of fatty acids and esters. These fatty acids and esters hold a lot of flavour, so by not using chill filtration, these flavours remain in the whisky. The residue also adds to the texture of the whiskey.
- The chill filtration process costs money, so by skipping this, producers will have a cost benefit. Which is a sometimes a great need and incentive for a business.
Why do distillers use chill filtration:
- For aesthetic purposes: the consumer generally enjoys a non-cloudy liquid as misconceptions about the whiskey being ‘off’ might be associated with cloudiness. Also, some countries have specific requirements around sedimentation and clarity of whiskey.
- It helps keep flavour and texture consistent because distillers can control the volume of fatty acids and esters in the liquid.
The chill filtration process has been around for centuries but has only become main stream in the last 50 years or so with the:
- advancement of technology, as processes became more efficient and cost effective
- increase in exports demands. Distillers and customers started to notice the liquid arriving cloudy due to the variety of temperatures the whiskey was exposed to whilst in transit. Also, certain destinations have a more varied climate than the origin of the whiskey might have, which also would cause the whiskey to cloud. (Once the whiskey is cloudy, it will remain that way regardless of the temperature)
There is absolutely nothing ethically or morally wrong with chill filtration, but some ‘purists’ do not like that process because they say it removes the essence of the whiskey. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to buy ‘non-chill filtered’ if you want to try the difference or enjoy the purist form of the whiskey.
Non-chill filtered whiskey you might fancy trying:
It is actually quite light in colour (some distillers add colouring to their whiskey to make it more appealing to a certain audience!) as no colour has been added, nor has it gone through the chill filtration.
On the Nose: it’s aromatic and fresh. Hay, fruit, gentle wood influence with light vanilla and spice.
The palate: is beautifully balanced with a subtle fruitiness, the lightest touch of malt mixed through a vanilla sweetness.
Great neat, but really opens up with a few drops of water.
From the great people at Filey Bay comes the second batch of its single malt peated finish whisky. It’s another Fliey non-chill filtered, natural colour, bourbon barrel, rich in flavour whisky.
On the nose: it is earthy, peaty, biscuity malty and zesty!
The palate: A caramel sweetness from the bourbon barrelling, that sits nicely with citrus fruits and of course a smoky peat.
Yep, this is a pricey one, but it is limited edition and only one purchase per customer is allowed! Some have brought this as an investment, whilst others have purchased this fine single malt whisky for its bursting flavour. Non chill filtered and all-natural colouring. Beautiful
On the nose: it is a creamy malted shortbread with raisins, strawberries.
The palate: is toasty with a gentle cinnamon spice complemented with cocoa nibs and juicy, sherry-soaked cherries.
This bottle is certified organic, which believe it or not is a rather difficult certification to acquire. Well done, Deanston.
This non chilled filtered whisky hails from the Isle of Islay, so peatiness is part and parcel of this ex-Rioja wine barrelled whisky.
On the nose: of it has the smoke, but you will get hints of blackcurrant and strawberries through the vapours.
The palate: has layers of juicy blackcurrants and raspberries with a buttery biscuit sweetness and hint of beeswax!
An intensely ‘sherried’ and meaty whisky, but it only has just a hint of smoke! It is matured in ex-bourbon barrels but then moved to Oloroso sherry octave for its last 3 months before bottling, which creates this intense influence of juicy sherry. 100% beautiful natural colour, and of course non chill filtered results in a hefty cask-influenced aroma and flavour.
On the nose: has notes of bitter orange, chocolate covered peanuts, warm spice and dried cherry.
The palate: strawberry and orange marmalade, earthy oakiness, amaretti biscuits, raisins and that touch of smoke which lovingly lingers.
Enjoy this as a highball. 1 part whisky to 3 parts soda. Drop in a slice of grapefruit if you have it. You can eat the rest for breakfast by cutting in half, sprinkling it with a little brown sugar and grilling!
*Spelling explained: whiskey = Ireland, USA etc… whisky = Scotland, England, Japan etc…