What is Chill Filtration?
Chill Filtration is a process of purifying, or ‘filtering’ whisky in order to remove impurities, undesired particles and other paraphernalia from it. The process of chill filtration is carried out just after the whisky has undergone maturation, and is just about to be bottled. Chill Filtration, as the name suggests, includes chilling the whisky, and then filtering it.
As part of the process of chill filtration, the whisky is cooled down, bringing it just below 0° Celsius. This is the very first step in the process of chill filtration, after which the liquid is passed through a filter. These filters can be made of paper, or metal depending on the distillery. What gets caught in these filters are esters, tiny particles and fatty compounds that are trapped inside the whisky. These ‘contaminants’ are not visible to the naked eye under normal temperatures, but resurface under lower temperatures.
This makes the whisky appear hazy, cloudy and polluted, and can sometimes create an impression that the whisky inside the bottle, or your glass, has become contaminated. It has also been observed that sometimes non-chill filtered whiskies can develop some sediment at the bottom. These compounds also make their appearance felt when water, or ice is added to the whisky, or if you live in colder areas.
Why is Chill Filtration carried out?
Many experts believe that chill filtration as a process is merely a cosmetic exercise in order to make the whisky look more presentable and clearer. Other arguments too have gained momentum in recent years that do not support the practice of chill filtering whiskies. People opposed to chill-filtration claim that removing the esters and fatty compounds from the whisky rob some of its true nature and character.
Others believe that chill filtration does not affect the aroma, flavours or overall tasting notes of the whisky. Mainstream opinion of the whisky industry, whether in Scotland, Ireland, America or other countries, rests firmly in support of chill-filtration. This is because if whisky inside a bottle appears hazy, cloudy or contaminated, it might affect the sales of the product. Since the general consensus states that chill filtering whisky has little to no effect on the end result, chill filtration should be necessary.
However, many distilleries and whisky makers have released non-chill filtered whiskies from time to time. Usually, non-chill filtered whiskies are of the cask-strength variety, and that identity resonates with the ‘untouched, unfiltered and unadulterated’ perception of cask-strength whisky. Scotch whisky heavyweights like The Glenlivet, and Aberlour are big players in this area. Even some non-chill filtered Irish and American whiskeys have gained tremendous appreciation from the experts and consumers alike.
Is Chill Filtration necessary?
This part of the conversation surrounding chill filtration can be really subjective, and frankly there are no right answers. Purists may present a strong case for enjoying a non-chill filtered whisky in all its true glory, whereas others may argue that removing the compounds that make their drink hazy and cloudy is a good idea.
Beyond the aesthetics, opinions around this subject have been divided, and none of the claims have been validated or invalidated. It strictly depends on which side of the opinion you land on. There are more than a few mainstream chill-filtered whiskies available in the market, and the number of non-chill filtered whiskies continues to grow too.
If you haven’t had the chance to enjoy your own glass of non-chill filtered whisky, and would wish to form your own opinion, we can help you out with that one. These are some of our most highly recommended non-chill filtered whiskies that can help you develop your own insight, without having to worry about what the others are saying. We begin with our very first recommendation;
The Glenlivet Nadurra Peated Cask Finish Single Malt Scotch Whisky
When one of the biggest single malt Scotch distilleries of Scotland produce their first ever smoky whisky in over a century, the whisky world is sure to take notice. The Glenlivet’s range of single malts were already one of the most critically acclaimed core ranges of all time. They went ahead and bettered it by releasing the Nadurra series, an all-new cask-strength range of single malts, and within this new innovation was another.
t is a smoky whisky, sure but not in the way you would expect. The Glenlivet is a distillery well-versed and synonymous with innovation, and they did it in style once again. The Nadurra Peated Cask Finish has been finished in Oak barrels that previously contained peated single malt whisky. The delicate balance of smoky goodness coupled with the fantastic Glenlivet style was a recipe for divinity. Non-chill filtered, bottled at a ferocious 61.5% ABV and good to the last drop. It’s one of the best releases from the Speyside heavyweights in recent years.
Aberlour A’bunadh Small Batch Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Try to think of great cask strength whiskies, small batch whiskies, non-chill filtered whiskies and exceptionally well-crafted single malt Scotch whiskies, and the Aberlour A’bunadh is perhaps the only one that delivers on every single category! A classic release from the legendary Speyside distillery, the A’bunadh was an expression born out of chance. In 1975, workers found a bottle of Aberlour whisky buried within a time capsule. The whisky was wrapped into a newspaper dated 1898, and the workers gleefully enjoyed themselves by drinking most of it. Whatever was left of it, was analysed, tested and recreated by Aberlour, and thus A’bunadh was born.
First released in limited quantities in 1997, Aberlour have released an annual batch ever since. A no-age-statement single malt, the Aberlour A’bunadh has had tremendous success even during a time that cask-strength whiskies rarely hit the market. The name “A’bunadh’ means “Original”, and much of Aberlour’s labours have been to preserve its true nature. This was why Aberlour chose to release A’bunadh as a cask-strength whisky that had undergone no-chill-filtration. The Spanish Oloroso Sherry maturation really shines through, and the overall combination of these factors make this a truly sublime drink. Our suggestion would be to try the Aberlour A’bunadh at least once in your lifetime.
Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
A gorgeous non-chill filtered Irish whiskey from Redbreast, and a cask strength iteration of the lovely Redbreast 12 Year Old. This is a single pot still Irish whiskey of a different calibre, and leaves many of its compatriots behind by a mile. There are few single pot still whiskeys coming out of Ireland than can match what Redbreast are doing with their spirit. Among all the other Redbreast expressions like the Lustau, the 15 Year Old, the 21 Year Old and more, the 12 Year Old Cask Strength stands out for its high ABV, something purists swoon over.
This Redbreast release has been matured in ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry barrels, and has been referred to as ‘Redbreast in its natural, full flavoured taste’ by the brand itself. The flavours and aromas come bursting through, and even with the significantly higher ABV, it goes down remarkably well. The Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength has received a number of awards over the years for successfully capturing the unbridled spirit their whisky in its true from. Fans of the standard Redbreast 12 Year Old will immediately sense a familiarity with the Cask Strength expression, which has deeper, more pronounced Sherry and fruity notes.
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