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What Is Chill Filtration and How Does It Affect Whiskey?

You may have noticed some whiskey being advertised as non-chill filtered. But what does this term actually mean? Is non-chill filtered better than chill-filtered? In this article, we’ll explore what they are and how they differ from each other. Read on to learn more about the differences between these two methods of whiskey filtration and why one might be preferable to the other.

Why Non-Chill Filtered Whiskey is Becoming So Popular

The popularity of non-chill filtered whiskey, which is sometimes called pure whiskey, has been growing steadily over recent years. This is partly due to a change in consumer tastes, but it’s also due to a more technical factor: many brands simply aren’t able to chill filter their product. As you’ll discover later in our guide, these two types of filtering have very different results—and it goes without saying that some drinkers prefer one type over another. 

The Chill Filtration Process

Chill filtration is done to separate it from certain fats, proteins, and oils that cause cloudiness in aged spirits. The process involves chilling the whiskey to be between 41℉ and 50℉, then passing it through a number of filters that each trap different sized particles. After this is done, the whiskey is left clearer and free of any unwanted additives. Sounds cool and refreshing, right? Since the process is supposed to remove volatile congeners (lighter elements), which dilute a spirit’s taste over time, chill-filtered whiskeys usually come out tasting lighter and smoother than non-chill filtered versions.

How Non-Chill Filtered Whiskey Tastes vs Chill-Filtered

With non-chill filtered whiskey, you’ll taste a greater variety of flavors, aromas, and finishing notes. This is because it retains the fatty acids that give it a more natural flavor complexity. Overall, this type of whiskey delivers a richer tasting experience than its filtered counterpart.

However, some people believe that leaving the fatty acids can sometimes cause the whiskey to have a heavy and greasy feeling in your mouth. That’s why many distilleries choose to chill filter their whiskeys to ensure smoothness based on consumer preferences. Chill filtration makes the whiskey smoother and more palatable for people who may not be used to drinking a specific type of alcohol. Since the filtration process removes a majority of additives in the whiskey, you may also notice that there is less sediment at the bottom of your glass. This sediment is usually leftover from steps throughout the whiskey-making process.

Although chill-filtration may remove some impurities, many experts feel that non-chill filtered whiskeys have better flavor profiles.

Which Whiskeys are More Likely to Be Chill Filtered?

Generally speaking, American whiskey companies are more likely to use chill-filtration than those of Irish or Scotch. In order to be labeled as a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey according to TTB, the federal agency that regulates alcohol, a whiskey must be: (1) distilled from a fermented mash of at least 51% corn; (2) aged in new charred oak barrels; and (3) bottled at no less than 80 proof. 

However, since whiskey only needs to satisfy these minimum criteria with no mention made about chill filtration specifically, there is still some inconsistency when it comes to defining what straight whiskey really means. For example, many Scotch whiskey distilleries produce a high alcohol content whiskey that’s non-chill filtered but often diluted with water before being bottled. In contrast, Irish whiskeys are typically non-chill filtered and bottled at 100 proof or higher.

So How Do You know which one to choose?

It depends on who you ask! While some people prefer the characteristics of chill-filtered whiskey, others say that chill-filtration affects taste in an undesirable way. The only way to know is to try both and see which one you like better for yourself. There are also other factors that can affect your decision. For example, you may prefer non-chill filtered for its mouthfeel, but if you’re concerned about your health — or if you’re planning on sipping your spirit straight — chill filtering may be a smart choice.

The biggest difference between chill and non-chill filtered whiskeys is that non-chill filtered whiskeys will retain more of their natural character, which may include a slightly thicker consistency. Some whiskey drinkers prefer chill filtration as it makes for a smoother drinking experience by lessening some of the more bitter flavors. 

Chill filtering makes sense if you want a whiskey with a clean finish but don’t care about any of these other attributes. If you do care about them then chill filtering is definitely not for you—whiskeys that are non-chill filtered can retain more flavor compounds, which allows them to have fuller and richer taste profiles as well as strong notes of wood and spices. Many experts agree that non-chill filtered whiskey also offers a better overall experience compared to chill-filtered whiskey. For these reasons—and for preserving natural character—you’ll want to stick with non-chill filtered whiskeys if you can find them.

Final Thoughts

For all the reasons mentioned here, Designer Dram whiskey is always non-chill filtered. We want you to get the most out of your custom blend and indulge in all the rich flavors that your whiskey has to offer. Taste every note of our premium barrel-aged whiskey from start to finish. 

Get started creating your own custom whiskey today and see what makes our process a one-of-a-kind experience. If you have any questions while building your perfect blend, reach out to us and our master distillers will be happy to walk you through each step of the process.

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