What is Chill Filtering?

Chill Filtering is a common practice in the modern whisky industry but some people believe that it can be detrimental to the final product.

Whisky in it’s natural state turns cloudy at low temperatures. Some customers find this off-putting and I’ve even heard of people actually returning bottles and demanding a refund, assuming that their purchase is in some way, faulty.

Of course, this cloudiness (or scotch mist) is made up of oils and fatty acids that give the whisky weight and flavour but the issue is a big enough concern for distillers that a process of filtration was designed to remove some of these oils.

The system works by chilling whisky to around 0°C and passing through an absorption filter. Reducing the temperature causes the acids and oils to congeal so they can be sieved out by the filter, leaving a clear product at the finish line.

There’s no benefit to aroma or flavour, quite the opposite in fact and there are many distillers who insist on bottling their whisky without chill filtration, taking pride in it’s natural state. Similarly, independent bottlers tend to prefer to bottle the liquid as naturally as possible. 

Wouldn’t it be better to state on the label that the whisky ‘may turn cloudy in low temperature’, rather than industrially stripping out the heart of the spirit?

I’m generally a fan of non chill filtered whisky. In fact, much of the best whisky I’ve ever tasted has been bottled that way. There are exceptions of course, with some great whiskies undergoing the filtration process before bottling but I always find myself wondering what might have been if they were left alone?

Look out for it, you’ll generally find that non chill filtered whisky will clearly say so on the label and if it isn’t mentioned, you can probably bet that filtration has taken place. 

See the image below… There’s chill filtered whisky on the left… Non chill filtered on the right… See the mist?

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