Whiskey Nips; Bourbonology: Non-Chill Filtered

When I first heard about this process and some of the bourbons and whiskies that are non-chill filtered, I realized a lot of those are what I have gravitated towards over the past few years. Products like Four Roses Single Barrel Barrel Strength and Russell's Reserve, as well as anything from Smooth Ambler and High West, are all non-chill filtered and what constantly fill my glass. There is this thick, rich, oily, and viscous mouthfeel that they tend to have, with a long finish that coats my mouth, and I really enjoy it.

So what does chill filtering do to a whiskey? Basically, it's a process that chills the whiskey to remove the fatty acids and proteins so that the final product does not cloud up. Cloudiness typically happens with non-chill filtered products when they are below 92 proof and when ice or water is added, or when they are in a cooler environment. After Prohibition, the market saw a lot of lower-proof whiskey, and consumers noticed that a lot of it was cloudy. They thought something was wrong with it and it was not pleasing to their eye. Distillers began improving their filtering systems and figured out that chilling the whiskey before bottling helped preserve the clarity of it. It was done purely to enhance the look and not the flavor, but some argue that it takes away flavor.

If you notice cloudiness in your whiskey today, don’t let that throw you off. Try to find out whether it has been chill filtered or not. While the saying “you eat with your eyes first” may be true, or in this case, “drink with your eyes first,” remember that those proteins and fatty acids provide substance to your whiskey. I like to think of it like a nicely marbled steak compared to one that is really lean. Go out and try a non-chill filtered whiskey and compare it with a similar product that is chill filtered. See if you notice a difference in texture and depth of flavor.

Tony Freund

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