Many large distilleries chill filter their whiskey to make it shine on the shelf, however Amanda and I do not. To chill filter they drop the whiskey’s temperature around freezing (some as low as -10° C), and pass it through fine micro filters removing any particles not suspended by this extreme cold. But this process also strips away larger flavor molecules found in the esters we work hard to produce. It’s then common to add back E150a, a caramel coloring, used to make sure all the bottles look the same in stores. But Swift will never contain additives.
Our yeast and long ferment produce apricot notes by the 3rd day and wine tones after the 4th. The casks can impart vanilla and chocolate backbone with cooked down fruits and rose aromas. Why remove these flavors? Amanda & I already capture only the hearts of the spirit and traditionally filter them through muslin cloth. Similarly many people prefer unfiltered olive oil and don’t mind tartrate crystals in their wine.
The flavor molecules are actually suspended fatty acids. You can envision them like butter where they can be solid or liquid if the temperature gets too cold. In fact, you can vigorously shake the bottle and the crystals will disappear returning to liquid. But, just like butter they’re actually the best tasting part of the whiskey! Some of our customers syphon them into their glass with a straw.
Amanda & I invite out and sent samples to all the professionals we had met along the way before launching. We unanimously agreed 43% abv provided the best flavor to smoothness ratio in blind taste testings. However most distilleries were unwilling to launch at this proof because they would either have to chill filter or raise the abv to 46% to remain “shiny.” We always wanted to make something we’d like to drink, and knew flavor would be what was most important.
The best Scotch we’ve ever tasted came directly out of the casks in the distilleries’ warehouses filled with debris. In Speyside, they would drop a copper thief on a chain into the barrel to retrieve a sample, called “walking the dog.” At our distillery, when we roll over a sherry casks to get the last of the whiskey, the toasted, slightly evaporated, syrupy part at the bottom is some of the best tasting! From day one Amanda and I have prioritized the taste of the whiskey, and secondly the look. So we are proud to be “Non-Chill Filtered” because the taste won out.