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.