Whiskey Nips: Filtering Whiskey
Filtering whiskey from the barrel isn’t just to remove char, it’s done to affect the flavor as well. In my very first blog post for the Whiskey Corner, I talked about how chill filtration strips whiskies of flavors, as well as oily mouthfeel. I know I prefer whiskey that is unfiltered, but what if the whiskey that comes out of the barrel just isn’t good, or isn’t the profile that you are looking for? This is where chill filtration, and other filtering methods, can be used as an advantage.
Willie Pratt, former master distiller at Michter’s, was known for his skills with filtration. According to Chuck Cowdery, Pratt took a sample of 10 year rye whiskey, and was able to create 10 unique iterations from that sample using different filters, charcoal, and other methods. This sort of filtration does not violate the laws of bourbon, because there is nothing being added, rather, it is subtractive. Once you learn how to use different methods of filtration, you could take some unfiltered whiskey that you consider to be too harsh, because of the presence of bitter tannins or other unwanted compounds, and filter those out to reach a better profile. Think of it like a Brita filter removing unpleasant flavor compounds.
Michter’s is not the only the distillery that does this, in fact, most distilleries filter their whiskey. This helps them to put out consistent products. I would guess that most consumers want something like their bottle of Buffalo Trace to taste like Buffalo Trace every single time. I’ve noticed a big change in taste profile between 2016 and 2017 releases of Old Weller Antique 107. This could be a result of different barrels being blended together, or their filtration methods, or a combination of both. I was not able to tell the difference between 2017 and 2018, however, and this could mean that it was the same batch, or they were consistent with barrel selection and filtration methods from the previous year.