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24 Nov 2023

Arran Whisky's Approach to Chill Filtration

Enjoyed by novice drinkers and connoisseurs, whisky holds a special place in the hearts and palates of millions around the world. Its complex arrangement of tastes and olfactory aromas are derived from a well known process from malting the barley to creating the mash through to distillation, maturing and finally bottling. But there is another step that can influence the final dram, chill filtration. In this article we will look at what chill filtration is, why it is used (or not), how it affects the appearance and, vitally, flavours of whisky. We’ll also look at the stance we take on this technique. 

What is Chill Filtration?

Chill filtration, a common practice in the whisky industry, is essentially a technique to clarify the appearance of the spirit. After the whisky is crafted and before it makes its way to your glass, it undergoes a chilling process, bringing its temperature down significantly to between -10ºC and +4ºC. This chilled liquid is then passed through a fine filter, removing certain elements like proteins and esters. The reason behind this procedure lies in maintaining the visual clarity of the whisky, particularly when served with ice or in cooler conditions which can cause whisky to become hazy.

How does Chill Filtration Impact the Taste of Whisky?

While chill filtration might contribute to a visually clear and pristine whisky presentation, it's a choice that comes with trade-offs. The process has its critics who argue that it can compromise the overall taste experience. Subtle flavour compounds and aromatic nuances, integral to the whisky's unique profile, can be lost in the filtration process, potentially leading to a spirit that lacks the full spectrum of flavours and aromas appreciated by enthusiasts. 

Where does Arran stand on the process?

At Arran Whisky, our stance on chill filtration is straightforward. We opt against chill filtration in the production of our whiskies when they are bottled above 43% ABV or at cask strength. We usually serve our whiskies at 46% ABV, which means that bottlings such as our Arran 25 Year Old with rich notes of baked ripe figs, sultanas and black cherries stand up well to the addition of ice or a little splash of water. However, it's essential to acknowledge that chill filtration has its merits and is relevant in expressions with a lower ABV, especially when you consider that higher ABV products are much less likely to haze up at room temperature. That’s why we choose to employ chill filtration for our new Barrel Reserve, a crisp, light, and elegant no-age-statement Single Malt Single Barrel Scotch Whisky.

Why do we make this choice? Because, above all, we champion the knowledge and experience of our Distillery Manager, Stewart Bowman, and his incredibly talented product team. Our respect for the craftsmanship, tradition, and originality that define our spirits extends to making considered choices in production. 

Book a tour and taste experience

Plan a visit to our distillery and get a firsthand taste of our authentic, non-chill filtered single malt whiskies and indeed try the difference that chill filtration can make. Dive into the heart of Arran Whisky production, from the pure waters of Loch na Davie to the time-honoured methods that shape our outstanding spirits.