In the whisk(e)y world, the discussion of chill-filtered versus non-chill filtered is one that will probably never die. If you don’t know these terms — many distilleries “chill-filter” their whiskeys. This means they cool the spirit to 0 degrees Celsius. This is a way to remove impurities, esters, and seemingly unnecessary proteins. Non-chill-filtered whiskeys keep all the chemical compounds, good and bad.
It’s believed that keeping these “impurities” in whiskey also preserves important flavors that are otherwise lost in the process. So which way is “right”?
“This is a no brainer,” says Josh Cameron, head bartender at Boulton & Watt in New York City. “Non-chill filtering almost always makes whiskeys better.”
So why do people hesitate? Because a non-filtered whiskey that is 46 percent ABV or lower will go cloudy when water or ice is added.
“Whiskies over 46 percent don’t require chill-filtration since higher alcohol levels mean less chance of cloudiness,” says Diane Wade, bartender at the Hound’s Tale in Williamsburg, Virginia. “But most distillers believe chill-filtration affects the flavor — since it removes the natural fatty acids and proteins, altering the aromas and characteristics.”
Regardless of where you stand, it’s no secret that many distilleries have decided to forego chill-filtration and a lot of the people who mix up our cocktails really enjoy these expressions. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to non-chill-filtered whiskeys.
Yamazaki 12-Year Single Malt Japanese Whisky
Emmanuel “Manny” Pressley, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia
My favorite non-chill filtered whiskey is the Yamazaki 12-Year Single Malt. As one of the most popular whiskeys worldwide, it deserves all the praise it receives. It delivers a silky-smooth product with rounded and subtle, spice notes. It’s on the pricier side but makes a great gift for yourself.
Kilchoman Machir Bay Scotch Whisky
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Unfortunately Kilchoman Machir Bay is not a scotch you see at every bar. However, it is an incredibly delicious and balanced whisky. The palate has light floral notes, a bit of citrus, and a nice salty peat note. The peat doesn't come out and attack your palate, it blends very well with the citrus and lingers after you have swallowed the sip. Machir bay is an interesting dram to say the least and deserves a try if you are a peat-lover. Cheers to Kilchoman! #ScotchNYC #Whisky #Whiskey #Bourbon #Cigar #Follow #Like4Like #NewYorkCity #Macallan #Scotch #NYC #Alcohol #Scotland #Drinks #Bar #Cheers #Glenfiddich #kilchomanmachirbay #Oban #Brooklyn #Queens #Citylife #Glenlivet #Williamsburg #HighlandPark #Instafamous #Photooftheday #Singlemalt #Balvenie #Kilchoman
Allie Klug, bar manager at Cleo in New York City
Kilchoman is a small farm distillery on Islay in Scotland, one of only nine on the island. This distillery’s ability to use peat with such elegance has always blown me away. That bonfire note is there immediately upfront on both the nose and the palate but then it opens up to stone fruit pie and finishes rich with some peppery spice. It’s a real journey for your palate.
Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
Drew Hairston, beverage manager at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC
When it comes to non-chill filtered whiskeys, I’m a fan of Four Roses Single Barrel. It has a fair balance of rye spice without getting overly fruit-forward or papery, like others can get.
Glen Grant 15 Year Scotch Whisky
Josh Cameron, head bartender at Boulton & Watt in New York City
Glen Grant 15 Year Scotch is the non-chill, high proof, bourbon barrel-aged, full-bodied, and absolute number one Scotch in my book. And my book has a lot of whiskey. They won “best whiskey” in the world with their 18 Year Scotch, which you really have to try. But don’t go without trying that 15 year. The viscosity left from the non-chill filter makes all the difference.
Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey is one of my favorite non-chill filtered products. I had Teeling in Dublin years before it was relatively easy to find in the states. It has such a great character and full palate. I love the impact California wine barrels have on its flavor.
Henry McKenna 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon
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Seems like @heavenhilldistillery can’t stop releasing pretty great hits. After I scored this for @thewhiskybuzz I had a look at scores. Pretty much everyone nailed this score from somewhere between 89 and 92. That says a lot about this whisky. That it was an affordable prize bottled-in-bond once upon a time (all of six months ago) says a lot about the state of bourbon. … #Whisky #whiskey #whiskygram #whiskeygram #instawhisky #instawhiskey #spirits #alcohol #booze #drinks #bottledinbond #henrymckenna #henrymckenna10yr #henrymckenna10 #henrymckennabourbon #straightbourbon #straightbourbonwhiskey #kentuckybourbon #heavenhill #heavenhilldistillery #heavenhillbourbon #heavenhillbrands
Stephen George, beverage director at 20|Twenty in Carlsbad, California
Non-chill filtered is pretty much all higher proof whiskey (over 92 proof), I’m going to go with a great bottled-in-bond (100 proof) Henry McKenna 10 year Single Barrel B.I.B. This is quite the treat from Heaven Hill Distillery, great depth of flavor that you can only get from the thoughtful aging process. This award-winning Bourbon is still reasonably priced, and you can actually get your hands on a bottle… which is very cool.
Sean Beck, beverage director of H Town Restaurant Group in Houston
Give me Bookers any day for a quality non-chill filtered. It’s one of Beam’s most underrated products and it is just bursting with flavor, a super masculine flavor profile with lots of worn leather, spice, and heat on the finish. It’s a bottle that actually benefits with a little water to help it open up, which to me is part of the charm of a non-chill filtered version, it changes so much during the course of drinking a glass.
The Bookers is flat out hedonistic, spicy and oozing flavor.
Wild Turkey Single Barrel Bourbon
Josh Streetman, head barman at Motor Supply Co. Bistro in Columbia, South Carolina
In general, Wild Turkey is the best non-chill filtered whiskey. At Motor Supply, we participate in Wild Turkey’s single barrel program. We stand with them because of their quality and aesthetic, and we have similar values about the care that goes into creating a product. The single barrel programs allow for variation, and Motor Supply is an enthusiast for that concept. If we’re not talking Wild Turkey single barrel, I’d go with their Rare Breed.
Booker’s Shiny Barrel Batch Bourbon
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Happy Father's day to all! All you dad's out there deserve a nice pour today. This new batch of Booker's is one of them. Check out my newest review for Booker's "Shiny Barrel Batch" 2019-02. Cheers! https://youtu.be/OpOahSS9p4E #bourbon #whiskey #whisky #bookers #bookersbourbon #bookersshinybarrelbatch #bookerswhiskey #shelfie #jimbeambourbon #jimbeam #bookernoe #shinybarrelbatch #whiskeytube #whiskytube #bourbonreviews #themashanddrum #nonchillfiltered #uncut #unfiltered
Diane Wade, bartender at The Hound’s Tale in Williamsburg, Virginia
As part of this an ongoing battle, we agree that non-chill filtered whiskey offers a more natural whiskey experience. Heavier mouthfeel, more of the woody flavors. Booker’s Shiny Barrel Batch is 124 proof. It has a toffee and citrus notes in the taste. It smells of vanilla bean, toffee and oranges. Very bold for those who are looking for a new whiskey this one is worth giving it a go.
George T. Stagg Bourbon
Matt Tanner, concept beverage manager at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston
My favorite non-chill filtered whiskey is George T. Stagg from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. While very limited, the batches every year offer very complex flavors.
Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Rye
Ben Gummere, bartender at Field Brewing in Westfield, Indiana
A steady backbar item for us is Wild Turkeys Russell’s Reserve series. The Rye 6 year is great in a Black Manhattan, the 10-year-old and single barrel are great in classic old fashions that really let the bourbon shine. All are bold and hold very well in cocktails or even just neat.
High West American Prairie Bourbon
Hailey Coder, lead bartender at The Park Bistro & Bar in Lafayette, California
High West American Prairie. It is aged in new, charred, American oak which adds a nice smokiness to a beautiful aroma of caramel and vanilla bean. Its earthy rich flavor can be enjoyed with any meal or on its own. With a nice caramel apple finish, it can also be great with dessert.
Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon
Guy Goldstein, sommelier at Arba in New York City
The answer to that one may be argued, yet, Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon Whiskey is some (if not) the most highly coveted. While yielding a very high price tag, it is near perfection for the enthusiast. Deep, Unfiltered and powerful meets perfect balance.
Four Roses Small Batch Select
Chris Patino, co-founder of Raised by Wolves in San Diego
I honestly didn’t understand the reasoning behind Four Roses’s decision to release Small Batch Select (it’s not like they would have asked me anyway), especially when Four Roses Small Batch is already so delicious. Until I tasted it. The lack of chill filtration adds another dimension to a superbly complex whiskey that lingers longer than a summer day in San Diego.
Writer’s Pick: Belle Meade Bourbon
This high-rye, non-chill filtered bourbon is perfectly balanced. It begins with hints of caramel, vanilla, and subtle oak and then ends with a healthy dose of peppery rye spice. It’s perfectly suited for cocktails and sipping alike and appeals to both rye and bourbon fans.