Whisky Advocate

Burn Stewart whiskies now un-chillfiltered

October 21st, 2010

Burn Stewart has made it official: no more chill-filtering. From now on the entire line–Bunnahabhain, Tobermory, Ledaig, and Deanston–will not be chillfiltered, and they’ll be bottled at 46.3% abv.

It’s great to see more and more companies following this trend toward keeping more flavor and texture in their whiskies. Their official announcement is below.

Burn Stewart Distillers Malt Portfolio Takes a Traditional Twist

Burn Stewart Distillers, producers of Bunnahabhain, Tobermory, Ledaig and Deanston malt whiskies has made a bold move to re-launch its entire range of malts as un-chillfiltered – the way whisky would have been produced at the hands of craftsman many years ago.

The evolution of the portfolio has been introduced across its Bunnahabhain 12 year old, Tobermory 10 Year Old, Ledaig 10 Year Old and a new addition, Deanston Virgin Oak.

This move is in line with the vision of Burn Stewart Distillers’ Master Blender, Ian MacMillan. Ian comments: ‘Whisky spends all those years maturing in the casks, developing the aroma and flavour. By un-chillfiltering, nothing is taken away or added so whisky lovers can enjoy the whisky at its very best, giving them a better whisky experience. Each dram retains a depth of flavour, allowing the gentle, subtle notes of the malt to come through, providing a purer taste, nose and appearance.’

Tobermory, Ledaig, Bunnahabhain and Deanston Virgin Oak will all be bottled at 46.3% abv, a transformation which will delight whisky drinkers as un-chillfiltration leaves in nuances of flavour, providing depth and complexity to the malts.

Deanston Virgin Oak, a new addition to the portfolio, has been finished in virgin oak casks sourced from a family-owned cooperage in Bardstown, Kentucky.  Unlike most, these casks have not been used for any other alcohol so the Deanston malt picks up more of the oak flavour in maturation.  Everything else about the process is kept close to home, with only local barley and yeast used with water from the River Teith which runs alongside the distillery.

Bunnahabhain Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky from Islay and Tobermory and Ledaig which are both from the Tobermory Distillery on Mull have also been given a new look to coincide with the launch.  For Bunnahabhain, smoked oak glass will replace the traditional emerald green of the 12 year old bottle, with dual labelling conveying an overall sense of speciality, subtlety, confidence and luxury, reinforcing the premium quality and heritage of the brand. Both Tobermory and Ledaig now have bespoke, embossed glassware to reflect the Tobermory family, emerald green glassware for Tobermory and clear flint for Ledaig with new labelling and etching of Tobermory Bay on the capsule. Both bottles are presented within a quality gift carton.  All the packaging for Deanston Virgin Oak is recycled or recyclable to keep the whisky as close to nature as possible.

The variation in method across the range has excited whisky lovers across the globe as it offers a richer, fuller flavoured whisky.

48 Responses to “Burn Stewart whiskies now un-chillfiltered”

  1. Rick Duff says:

    Great move!

  2. Leorin says:

    Very good news!
    I heard that the Bunnahabhain will also be bottled at higher strengh (46% not 40% as it used to be). Will this be the case with the other bottlings as well?

  3. ps says:

    I’m really looking forward to each of them. Nice work, B.S.

  4. John Hansell says:

    I’m curious. How many companies have gone 100% un-chillfiltered?

  5. Gllaguno says:

    This is great news! I wonder if any-day DIAGEO will do this… imagine that, Laga, Caol, Clynelish, and others at 46.3% and un-chillfiltered! wow!

  6. sam k says:

    Really good news, following Chieftan’s just a short while back. Could this be the beginning of a full-blown trend? Well, a fella can dream, can’t he?

  7. They had 46.3% versions of Tobermory/Ledaig and Deanston out 1½ year ago and I became an instant fan. This is just the way to go!

    I am really looking forward to taste the Bunna as well

    You also got to remember the impact this will have on the enviroment. All this shipping water around the globe was never a good thing :-)

    As whisky fans its our duty to spread the word and support companies that takes these steps.

    Bravo

    Steffen

    • Mr Claw says:

      have to say the only Ledaig I’ve got is the 4 1/2 YO sherried, cask-strength Berry Bros & Rudd one from earlier this year. I have to say it’s brilliant! And doubly so for such a young ‘un.

      I’d always heard very negative things about Ledaig, but if my bottle is anything to go by, it’s a distillery to keep an eye on…

      (Similarly I’d previously heard bad things about Tobermory’s non-peated output, but I’m [reasonably] well-informed that the new bottling of the 15YO is rather good – will have to give it a go…)

  8. Who else has done this ? or is doing it

    I can think of Glencadam, Springbank, Ardbeg and Benriach

    Steffen

    • Mr Claw says:

      I can think of some *distillers*:

      Ardmore
      Arran
      Bruichladdich
      Glen Garioch (all new releases appear to be 48%+)
      Does it count to say Kilchoman…?

      …And I understand it’s the plan with Glenglassaugh

      I was gonna say Glendronach, but when I went checking I noticed the 12 YO is still at 43%, but all the others are 46%+

      Should be standard if you ask me…

      • Mr Claw says:

        …and does Talisker count? Range bottled starting 45.8%

        It’s as good as…

        • Mr Claw says:

          BTW, ignore me – my beloved Talisker 18 says it’s got caramel in it (it’s a German bottle and says “Mit Farbstoff / Farven Justeret Med Karamel”).

          Gah! Well, still doesn’t stop it being an awesome drink.

          Assume Diagio does this to the range then (as I’ve just read they colour and CF the 57-Degrees and that’s bottled at, well, 57%). So be it.

          Still, I don’t know why they don’t bump up the ABV of standard bottlings by 0.2% and not CF. Seems odd to me – especially when that’s waht the punters want…

      • Tomatin is like Glendronach after they rebranded last year. The 12yo is 43%, the older expressions are 46% or cask strength

        Steffen

  9. DavindeK says:

    Good on Burn Stewart.
    I enjoyed Serge’s tongue-in-cheek prediction the other day that with more non-chillfiltered bottles coming on the market, wine finishing will become the new boogeyman.

  10. Matt J says:

    I had a bottle of Bunnahabhain 12 this summer that I’m pretty certain was non-chill filtered (but I didn’t keep the empty). It was 40%, though. I can’t wait to try it at higher strength– it was very tasty even at 40%.

    But, I fear a price hike. I know there was a big jump on the new Deanston, at least at my local store.

    • aw says:

      In the UK, TWE have the new Bunna 12 at 28 GBP. That’s cheap! Hopefully you won’t have to pay extra in the US. For typical UK prices of the other whiskies mentioned, check out the Loch Fyne Whiskies website.

  11. Luke says:

    At last! Will these be caramel-free as well? Reviews please!

    An 18YO Bunny to this spec would be something to behold.

    • aw says:

      The box and the bottle of the Bunna 12 say “Natural Colour”, as well as saying that it’s not chill-filtered. No caramel.

  12. DavindeK says:

    Mmmm . . . I think caramel gets a bad rap. It’s fashionable to dislike it, but taste tests have shown it can make a single malt vatting taste more “authentic.”

    • aw says:

      But surely it’s more authentic not to add anything?

      • DavindeK says:

        Well I guess that’s depends on what you mean by authentic. For hundreds of years whisky was flavoured and coloured. It is only relatively recently that marketing types have convinced us of the “only three ingredients” mythology, which gets thrown out the door, incidentally when they add 6 or 7 litres of wine by “finishing” it.

        It was highly respected Master Blender Robert Hicks who first told me that a tiny bit of spirit caramel helps knit the various constituent whiskies together. Remember, even most single malts are a blend of many barrels and most often several different types of whisky (based on the types of barrels they are aged in). I have since discussed this with a number of well-seasoned blenders – not the pr-type master blenders – and it seems caramel is not just used as a colourant but to help the whiskies marry better.

        • aw says:

          Thanks – that’s very interesting information. If it helps whisky marry, then I guess that’s no bad thing. Certainly I get the impression from industry folk in the know that chill-filtering is the one to get rid of, not so much the caramel (unless adding to make it look darker for marketing reasons). I was wondering why the Laphroaig QC and 18yo – both 48% and unchill-filtered – had “mit Farbstoff” (with colouring) on the packaging, and your comments re. Robert Hicks explain why. If it helps the various whiskies marry, then that’s good – and I certainly can’t fault the taste of either of those two drams. I have learnt something today, and from now on will be less concerned about the caramel.

        • Anster says:

          Love the one about spirit caramel helping to knit whiskies together in a blend. Maybe the fake tan helps protect it from UV damage too (actually I’ve heard that claimed about it too). Let’s have more caramel then so we can have more of the natural flavours. Loch Dhu anyone?

  13. aw says:

    I can tell you that the new Bunna 12 is a great improvement, as you would expect. And it says “Natural Colour” on the box and on the bottle, so no caramel. As for the price, check out the The Whisky Exchange’s price: very low. Roll on a new improved Bunna 18!

  14. B.J. Reed says:

    This is great news and a reflection of the recognition that those who drink and collect single malt whiskies care about quality. Burn Stewart is small in comparison to most whisky companies so this decision is trying to send a message that differentiates them some from the bigger guys. That’s a good thing.

    I still worry a little about their support for Bunnahbhain since I don’t believe they have replaced some of the capacity they had when John M. left last Spring but this gives me hope that they are committed to building their role in the industry.

  15. Andre Girard says:

    I still don’t understand why Bowmore lower their alcool ABV and still chillfiltering their whiskies…

    • Derek Stewart says:

      Andre, I agree regarding Bowmore. I had a glass of Bowmore 12 the other night and it tasted watered down and lifeless. You can tell there is potential there but they have stripped it out. Most of my other whiskies are non-chill filtered, 46%+, and no caramel, and it makes a huge improvement.

  16. Ray Abraham says:

    Hello John,

    Sorta off topic….Did you try and what are your quick thoughts on Royal Canadian Small Batch? as good as the more expensive Caribou Crossing?
    Thank you,
    Ray

  17. Ray Abraham says:

    Thank you John! One last question off topic also, ever tried 8 seconds Canadian Whiskey?

  18. Henry H. says:

    Thanks to Burn Stewart for this – and congrats to all you demanding drinkers out there. For what it’s worth, this move will get me to try another bottle of the Bunna 12 yo, which I had previously found lacking despite its pleasing profile. Also, this moves Ledaig up quite a few numbers on my to-try list.

  19. mongo says:

    not that i am opposed to whiskies being sold at higher strengths, without chill-filtering or the addition of caramel, but i am also aware that some of my favourite whiskies are ones that are at 43% (or lower), chill-filtered, and coloured: laga 16, the highland park 12 and 18, talisker 10 and 18 (45.8% but coloured and chill-filtered) etc. etc.. clearly these things don’t destroy whiskies or result in the creation of inferior products.

  20. sam k says:

    I can only hope that this concept is embraced strongly enough in Scotland that it spills over to our shores. Imagine big, bold, un-chill filtered bourbons and ryes!

  21. MD says:

    Does anybody know exactly when the new expressions will appear, and the old ones will be discontinued?

  22. Nj says:

    Whatever – I compared the old, chill-filtered Glenmorangie Port Wood with the new version without chill filtering. The old one was better (because of the slightly lower ABV) and there was definitely no reduced complexity or anything.

    The effects of chill-filtering on the taste seem to be very overrated.

    • Hi Nj

      It’s all about personal taste. Filtering is removing things from a malt. It could be things making the malt taste bad! Who knows

      Personally I think the effect of chillfiltering is UNDERRATED :-) . My experience is an endless amount of malts going from boring to something worth drinking when it became available at 46+%

      It could be the effect of less dilution, I wouldn’t know!

      The fact that you find lower ABV whiskies better, leaves you with an opportunity to add water if the strength is too high for you.

      I, on the other side, have no other opportunity than pour my whisky down the sink if the ABV is too low for my taste

      Steffen

      • Andre Girard says:

        Good thing about higher ABV is if is too high for you, you can add water, easy to do when bottling at 46, 48 ou up to 55 or 60%… But you can’t (necessarily) do that when bottled at 40…

        The main thing is if the bottle was bottled at 43, 46 ou 55 (whatever) i thing at least it’s a good thing to drink it at is original strength ’cause it respect the idea or what the master blender have in mind for his bottling…

        After trying more than 900 differents whiskies in my life (even if i’m not the god of whiskies, believe me) i still think chillfiltering is not a good thing. Unchillfiltered whiskies (usually) deliver a more beutiful mouthfeeel and have more complexity than most of the chillfiltered whiskies.

        • I agree with your experience with UCF whiskies

          Bottling whisky at cask strength would leave a Master Blender jobless :-)

          Steffen

          • Erik M says:

            I’ve only tried a few cask strength whiskies, but out of the ones I have (Glenlivet Nadurra, George T. Stagg, Booker’s) I find that they taste far better without any water. It makes me think that distilleries release certain whiskies at higher percentages because they have little to no flavor when watered down to 40ish % ABV. Anyone else notice this or am I just wasting too much water on good whisky?

          • John Hansell says:

            I felt that way with some earlier vintages of Stagg. Not recently, though. They seem a little more “beefed up”.

      • Nj says:

        Well, I tried diluting the new version, but it was not the same since the aroma was thinner then as well. I still prefered the old one. Of course the difference was very small.

        I don’t think many people have tasted the exact same batch filtered and unfiltered so almost nobody can tell objectively if there’s a difference. And whenever that happens, the “voodoo effect” appears, like in the HiFi scene where people lined the outer rim of CDs with green ink or froze them because it makes them “sound better”.

        Since chill-filtering serves no purpose from my point of view, it’s good to get rid of it. Just don’t expect it to affect taste in any meaningful way. If it did, manufacturers would have gotten rid of it a long time ago.

        • John Hansell says:

          Actually, I don’t agree with your last sentence. I’m sure that the people who drink most of the Scotch whisky in the world (standard blended whisky) will think something is wrong with their whisky if it turns cloudy (because it’s not chill-filtered), and the whisky companies who sell these whiskies don’t want to take this risk. So, they are willing to sacrifice taste (even if minor) for acceptable appearance.

          Keep one thing else in mind: if you like a chill filtered Glenwhatever as much or more than the same whisky that is not chill-filtered, keep in mind that the producer might have also changed another aspect of the whisky at the same time (typles of casks used in aging etc.) and maybe this is the reason why you like the chill-filtered version better.

          • DavindeK says:

            Yes John, I agree with you completely.

            The reason to chillfilter is strictly esthetic – to avoid cloudiness in the bottle which the vast majority of consumers would consider a problem.

            I have seen a filter pad after a long bottling run and it didn’t look like a whole lot had been left behind on the filter. If I’d had my wits about me I would have smelled or tasted it, but I didn’t.

            I agree with André that unchillfiltered malts feel creamier, but I have never done a blind taste test so I could just be imagining it.

            The problem with making non-chillfiltered malts is that you have to disrupt the delivery of whisky to the bottling line, so it could increase production costs. Nobody worries about this on a small run as the price is going to be higher anyway, but in tightly competitive sectors it only makes sense to deliver the product the largest number of consumers will appreciate (or the fewest will return to the store) and to do so at the very lowest cost possible. Diverting whisky past the filter means also diverting it past the cooling tank and simple as it sounds, it means someone has to intervene in the assembly line. Aficionados will pay for this added value, John Q. Public won’t.

          • Andre Girard says:

            Davin… you gave me a very good idea for one of our club’s blindtasting: Chillfiltered vs unchillfiltered… what a nice idea ! Thx

          • DavindeK says:

            You need more ideas? From what I’ve seen your tastings are pretty inspired already. If you do CF vs UCF, let me know. It would probably be worth the trip.

          • Andre Girard says:

            Check our website (what a plug hey…) !!!

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