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Thread: Chill Filtering

  1. #1
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    Chill Filtering

    There's a lot of talk about aging and warehouses and barrels and stills and mashbills and yeast and vatting, and how all of these influence the flavor of bourbon, but I haven't heard all that much about chill filtering - basically the final step before bottling.

    If you talk to the scotch people, there's this uproar among the connisseur types about how chill filtering takes away flavor and aroma without any real benefit, and so (at least for the high end stuff) it shouldn't be done at all.

    I recently got to try the same scotch chill-filtered, and un-chill-filtered (the famous Laphroaig / Leapfrog for those keeping score), and by gum, there is a difference. The non-chill-filtered has more yummies.

    Arguments for chill filtering are basically that the un-informed consumer gets a little unhappy when the drink is cold and develops a "chill haze". And that's about it - purely cosmetic.

    Does chill filtering have a large effect on the enticing aroma and great taste of bourbon? When did people start chill filtering? Are there variations in the process/extent of chill filtering? Are there un-chill-filtered bourbons? Is this one of the big secrets of making great bourbon (refrain from taking away the flavor?)

    - A very curious Tim Dellinger



  2. #2
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    Re: Chill Filtering

    The people who practice chill filtering, which is most of the distilleries, will tell you that it has no effect on taste or on anything other than the problem it is intended to solve, which is chill haze. Essentially, the spirit is chilled to 30-something degrees and passed through a single layer of silk. This removes the amino acids that cause chill haze.

    Quite asisde from chilling, the silk filter also removes wood chips and other sediment.

    Booker's has always made a thing about the fact that it is unfiltered. I don't know if there are any other bourbons that are not chill filtered.

    I don't think chill filtering has a significant impact on a whiskey's character.

    --Chuck Cowdery

  3. #3
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    Re: Chill Filtering

    Tim,
    I guess I'll put in my two cents worth here just to let you know what I've experienced.
    I chillfilter all my whiskey(actually down to about 18 degrees Chuck), except anything 100 proof and over.You must get the whiskey chilled down to as close to the coldest temperature that it may encounter while being shipped so that it does not cloud up. Jimmy Russell has told me that they do not chill filter their Wild Turkey 101 proof. And I'm pretty sure Marker's Mark does not chill filter. If the whiskey is young(like Maker's 5 or 6 yrears), and you use good water(soft-no minerals) the whiskey should not cloud. I may experiment with my 107 proof sometime by chilling one batch and not chilling another. Tasting the two batches could be interesting. Since there is more alcohol in 100 proof & higher, chilling is not necessary.
    I have a new rye label I started selling in France.(No John & Omar, you cannot get it in the states). It is my 13-year, but it is 100 proof. The customer requested that I not chillfilter the whiskey because that is what sells over there. The label even states, "Unchill-filtered". I have tasted that 100 proof and my 95.6 proof together, and I believe the 100 proof is smoother. Of course it could be the 5 degrees in proof difference.
    My 107 proof will cloud up in a glass since it is not chilled. I do not chill my 107 proof mainly because it saves a step in processing. Hope this answers a few questions.
    Julian


  4. #4
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    Re: Chill Filtering

    At Buffalo Trace, we now chill filter all of our bourbon. We have found that charcoal filtration tends to strip out some of those fine characteristics we want to keep in the whiskey. We have measured the color of whiskey chill filtered and found it to be 13-17% darker than comparable whiskey filtered with "activated carbon". In addition, gas chromatography reveals that chill filtering leaves a higher level of those compounds which affect taste in a positive way. If you run bourbon through enough charcoal, you can strip out all of the color and taste compounds. When Jack Daniel's drips their product through the 10 feet of maple charcoal, they do it BEFORE it goes into the barrel, otherwise, they would strip many of the positive taste compounds.
    As to which is better, that is all up to the consumer. Different strokes for different folks.

    Ken


  5. #5
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    Re: Chill Filtering

    Interesting older post from Julian on chill filtering. I am glad to learn my ORVW 15 year old (soon to be Gazebo's) is unfiltered. I think every nod to tradition like this makes for a better bourbon experience. I always say, maybe you can't tell the effect of non-filtration but when everything is positive (the basic quality of the whiskey, the proof, lack of filtration) somehow the final result always seems better.

    Gary

  6. #6
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    Re: Chill Filtering

    Gary, do you know if the new Pappy 15 is also un-chill filtered? I know that people claim in doesn't make that much of a difference with bourbon, but I'm always interested in a more "authentic" (whatever that means) experience.

  7. #7
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    Re: Chill Filtering

    I don't know but I would think it is not, based on Julian's statements that high proof whiskey doesn't require the treatment (although he said too he may experiment with the idea).

    I should add I assume Julian kept to the practice he stated of not filtering the ORVW 15 year old 107 proof bourbon, i.e., until the final bottles were filled. I just have that feeling although it is possible he did the taste test he was thinking about and altered his practice; if he did I would think Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old gets the same treatment.

    Either way, were any two bourbons in the aged style ever better than these? I doubt it!

    Gary




  8. #8

    Re: Chill Filtering

    I thought Stagg, which came out after Ken's post, is not chill filtered. It is a higher alcohol content bourbon so it may not need it, but it certainly has lots of taste.

  9. #9
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    Re: Chill Filtering

    When I had my bottling house in Lawrenceburg, before June of '02, I chillfiltered only in the winter, but not in the summer. I was afraid of the whiskey getting a chill haze when shipped in the winter.
    Now at Buffalo Trace, all my whiskey is chillfiltered.
    Julian

  10. #10
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    Re: Chill Filtering

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I must say that in and of itself I have never noticed any difference from chill filtering or its absence. I have read on this board that Chuck Cowdery feels the same way. E.g. recently I was tasting Blanton single barrel (the barrel proof version available outside the U.S.) against the Gold version where the barrel proof was let down to 90. Couldn't see any difference from the Gold just because one was filtered and one wasn't. If anything the Gold seemed a tad richer in taste but that could be from the batch make-up. Personally I prefer a clear spirit (as I do for beer) but I recognise that is an aesthetic thing not necessarily related to taste.


    Gary

 

 

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