With new craft distilleries popping up around the United States at a record pace, there is a debate brewing about chill filtering Bourbon. Some distilleries choose to practice chill filtration and some do not. With most if not all commercial distilleries chill filtering their Bourbon, craft distilleries are looking to non-chill filtered Bourbon as another way to be unique and offer something different and better.
So what is Chill Filtration? Chill filtration is essentially the process of cooling a liquid to a temperature around 38 degrees Fahrenheit, then forcing it through a thick dense piece of cardboard using a mechanical pump. The reason for this is to remove as many of the fatty acids left over from the manufacturing process of the liquid as possible. Since the liquids we are discussing use corn or small grains in their recipe this is the source of the fatty acids.
Chill filtration is widely used in the beer industry, which also use a variety of grains in their recipes. Some large commercial beer brands even go as far as to advertise chill filtration in their TV spots. Chill filtration in the beer industry can easily be seen and tasted. For example, Coors light advertises cold (chill) filtered beer, as a result their beer is very clear, clean and to most people has less flavor and aroma then most craft beers. Very few craft breweries chill filter their beer, as a result non-chill filtered beers are cloudy and have significantly more flavor and aroma. This directly correlates to distilleries and Bourbon, more flavor and aroma in non-chill filtered products. Commercial distilleries choose to chill filter their Bourbon to produce a clear product because as a consumer we have been told this is what we want. Many craft distilleries have chosen to step out and not chill filter their Bourbon because they are more interested in an authentic, quality and amazing product rather than a product big business has told them to produce.
Chill filtration has nothing to do with safety or the cleanliness of the Whiskey. It's primary purpose is to clarify the Bourbon and remove the fatty acids. A good non-chill filtered Bourbon will actually be cloudy and you may occasionally see some of the fatty acids chain together in the bottle, if the grain bill was high in corn. This product is completely safe, it is only the nature of the genetic make up of the Bourbon and the quality ingredients used to produce it that make it cloudy. Scotch is one of the oldest classifications of Whiskey on the market today and most bottles of Scotch over $100 are non-chill filtered, the flavor and quality are more important to the distiller than the appearance.
So what are the Pros and Cons to Chill Filtration?
Advantages of non-chill filtered Bourbon
- A more authentic Bourbon, enjoy it the way the creator hoped you would.
- Larger flavor profile, you will be able to taste more of the carefully chosen ingredients.
- Exceptional aroma, less removed from the Bourbon equals more to experience.
- Smoother finish, leaving the fatty acids in the product will smooth it out making it easier to enjoy.
- Classic product, getting back to our roots and away from Commercial products and procedures.
Disadvantages of non-chill filtered Bourbon
- The product will be cloudy in nature
- Takes longer to create, more care will have to be taken in the manufacturing process because fewer impurities will be removed due to not chill filtering.
- It will look different from the commercial brands on the shelf.
Well now that you have a brief over view of chill filtration and the pros and cons of the process it is up to you to make your decision. Try a few of both if you need some first hand research, in the end I am pretty confident you will choose the non-chill filtered product but let me know. Benjamin's Bourbon from Valley Shine Distillery is non-chill filtered and as authentic as it gets. Try some today and experience the small batch difference.