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Issue 17 - Why whisky shouldn't chill out

Whisky Magazine Issue 17
July 2001

 

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Why whisky shouldn't chill out

Anthony Troon puts forward his views on why chill filtering leaves the whisky enthusiast with a spirit that may well be a shadow of its former self

You pour yourself a dram and add a splash of spring water before holding your glass up to the light. Seen through the clear glass of your Blender's Malt Glass the liquid glows with a golden-amber brilliance – clear, pure and absolutely transparent.

It's getting late and your mind wanders: by savouring this luxury nightcap in an attempt to ease your way into sleep you are experiencing exactly the ritual your forefathers might have enjoyed. But you would be only partly right.

The reason for this is that when your discerning grandparent added a splash of water to his Scotch early last century, the dram would go slightly cloudy.

Holding his tumbler up to the light, he would see tiny particles suspended in the liquid, giving it a faintly muzzy, very faintly opaque, appearance. He would not, of course, worry about this in the slightest and would ‘take off' his dram with relish and absolute confidence.

In his day, Scotch whisky was expected to react in this way to the addition of cold water. In fact, the suspended particles could often be seen as soon as the whisky was poured from the bottle. They were simply visible evidence of the trace elements that gave each single malt much of its unique flavour and which were carried forward into the blends when blending malt with grain whisky gained complete acceptance around 1909.

So what has happened to whisky between then and now? The answer is something called chill filtering, a process that is applied to almost all Scotch as it...

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