Chill filtration. In the quiet world of whisky, there is a bit of controversy.  What is chill filtration, what is it all about, and how does that impact on the taste?

The distillery with with most mispronounced name, Bunnahabhain (pronounced Bū-na-ha-venn) or come to the festival and hear it spoken with the proper accent.






Bunnahabhain, produced on the Isle of Islay, known for its world-famous whiskies, will be offering tastings of its new un-chillfiltered 12, 18 and 25 year-old single malts, soon to be released in South Africa, at the 2011 FNB Whisky Live festivals in Cape Town and Johannesburg.


Ian MacMillan, master distiller and blender of Bunnahabhain, will also conduct private tastings at the Cape Town festival in the CTICC from 2 to 4 November. In the case of the Johannesburg festival, to be held at the Sandton Convention Centre from 9 to 11 November, Ian will only be available for private tastings on the first evening. Thereafter Pierre Meintjes, who has 40 years’ experience in the whisky industry and a Master of the Quaich, will conduct these tastings.


The new Bunnahabhain un-chillfiltered whiskies will replace the current 12, 18 and 25 year-old range of cold-filtered single malt whiskies that are on sale in South Africa. Visitors to Whisky Live will thus be able to sample these weeks before they become available nationally.


According to MacMillan the new un-chillfiltered range represents whisky in its purest form, “the way it would have been made by Bunnahabhain’s distillers many years ago.”


“In the case of un-chillfiltered whisky, nothing is taken away or added. The whisky retains its depth of flavour, allowing the gentle, subtle notes of the malt to come through, providing a purer taste, nose and appearance.


“The process of chill-filtering removes some of the oily-fatty compounds produced during distillation or extracted during maturation.  It prevents the whisky, when in the bottle or when served, from becoming slightly hazy when chilled.  A few whisky experts believe chill-filtration removes some of the flavour and body from the whisky while with un-chillfiltering it retains the maximum depth of flavour. Moving the strength to 46.3% alcohol by volume the whisky retains all of its natural flavour and character.


“Bunnahabhain’s single malts are known for their gentle taste profile and by un-chillfiltering the unique character of these extraordinary malts become more pronounced. Unlike most single malts from Islay, Bunnahabhain is crafted from unpeated malted barley and the pure spring water that flows freely underground, untainted by the peaty moorlands. Consumers either new to single malts or who prefer the slightly fruitier offerings from Islay will select Bunnahabhain as their whisky of choice.”


According to the world’s best-known whisky writer Dave Broom the result of moving Bunnahabhain range of single malt whiskies to unchillfiltering is “revelatory” bringing “the distillery’s signature gingerbread notes” to the fore. Dominic Roskrow, acclaimed whisky expert and journalist, says the “extra strength is to the whisky what High Definition is to television, bringing the oral sensation into sharp focus. Non-chillfiltration leaves in nuances of flavour which provide depth and complexities to the whiskies.”


Bunnahabhain (pronounced Bū-na-ha-venn) means mouth of the river in Scottish Gaelic and refers to the Margadale River that flows close by. Founded in 1881, the distillery lies on the north-eastern tip of Islay and the tiny village of Bunnahabhain that overlooks the Sound of Islay grew up around it. In the 1800s the sea offered the easiest access to this remote place and men would brave the ocean to supply the distillery with barley.


The new range of un-chillfiltered whiskies have already won numerous accolades and this year at the 2011 International Wine & Spirits Competition gold went to the 12 and 18 year old, with the latter achieving best in class. At the 2011 San Francisco World Spirits Competition both the 18 and 25 year olds received double gold.


McMillan, who has over 35 years’ experience in whisky distilling and blending, will incorporate the rich history and unique characteristics of Bunnahabhain’s three single malts in the private tastings. Bookings for the private tastings need to be made on the evening at the Bunnahabhain stand during Whisky Live.