What is chill filtering and why do they chill filter whisky?

Credit: laszlo-photo

Credit: laszlo-photo

Chill filtering is the practice of cooling the whisky all the way down to 0°C, or lower for blended whisky, so you can filter out potential sediments (fatty acids, proteins and esters) created in the distillation process or passed along by maturation in the casks. If you don’t chill filter, those particles can precipitate and make the whisky cloudy. They can also create a sediment at the bottom of a bottle if it sits for some time.

So the benefit to doing this is that you get a clearer whisky with no potential sediment… what’s the downside? When you take anything out of the whisky, you affect it’s taste!

Some people claim that it’s all cosmetic, that taking out those particles won’t have an impact but I find that difficult to believe. I might not be able to taste the difference because my palate isn’t refined enough, that’s I can buy, but to say the two are identical in every way is unbelievable.

Here’s another fun factoid, a chill filtered whisky is more expensive to produce because you have to go through the chill filtering process. Every extra step means more time, equipment, and person hours – all of which cost more money. It’s in the best interest of the distillery to NOT chill filter because it gets the product out the door faster.

Funny enough, if your alcohol by volume is greater than 46%, you don’t need to chill filter because the higher alcohol content prevents the cloudiness from forming. So anyone with a 46%+ abv will often advertise that they are “un-chill filtered” or “non-chill filtered” as a selling point even though they know that 1) they wouldn’t have needed to and, 2) it’s cheaper to produce!

What do you think about chill filtration?

2 thoughts on “What is chill filtering and why do they chill filter whisky?

  1. Non chill filter the term makes me smile but anyway….. I will keep this simple in many industries the pure the product the better it is. Scotch or most whiskeys are good for if you just have a dram a day or every other. This getting a bit philosophical and the grammar issues are mounting but quality usually trumps most things that I get. So lets keep with alot of age statements and non chill filtered Scotch. Anyway the “Novice” has spoken.

  2. Not a thing wrong with chill filtering. I don’t like cloudy whisky with a bunch of crap floating around in it… or sediment on the bottom…

    Fewer hangovers too!

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