The Truth about Sediment and good Whisky

 

What’s that sediment swirling in my whisky?

 

We get the occasional inquiry from people who have purchased a bottle of our whisky and have found a hazy wisp (or snow cluster like appearance) swirling in the bottom of the bottle. While this is not that common it does happen especially if that bottle experienced a drop in temperature at some point of its storage. But don’t panic… what you’re actually seeing is flavour!

During the fermentation, distilling and the barrel aging processes various lipids, phenols and esters are produced or released. These components make up a lot of the flavours we all love and enjoy in whisky. Because of their natural properties, if the liquid alcohol’s temperature is decreased the molecules sometimes join hands (bond together) into long enough molecular chains where they become visible to the human eye.

The large volume producers use chill filtering to remove the visible components (mainly the lipids). Why? Because it makes the product look pretty! But this practice of chill filtering is strictly for cosmetic reasons and actually diminishes the flavour and mouth-feel from the product, leaving the connoisseur wanting for more of a flavour experience.

Chill filtering in whisky production has been a common practice for most of the last century but luckily with the renaissance of small batch craft producers, this practice is being challenged and therefore more flavour is remaining in those true farm-to-flask whiskies where filtering for cosmetic reasons is not utilized!

While as Craft Distillers we do filter (mainly to filter out wood and charcoal particles from the barrels), we do not employ chill filtering. At Okanagan Spirits, we want to present our whisky to our loyal whisky enthusiasts with its maximum flavour profile still intact, just as close as if it came straight from the barrel.

Don’t like how it looks in the bottle? Simply shake the bottle and these flavour components will unlock hands and be dispersed, falling back into suspension and returning the whisky to its clear state!

If a patron calls or emails about “floaties” or “sediment swirls” in their whisky please:

Use your whisky prowess and knowledge of the above to inform them of what this actually is… ie. Flavour molecules that are showing themselves.
Let them know that if they shake the whisky it will break the flavour fatty-acid/lipid bonds and the whisky will clear (and the best part… the flavour will remain).
If the patron is not accepting of this… let them know that we will swap out their bottle with new one that has a higher degree of filtration but let them know that although higher levels of filtration lead to clearer whisky they also lead to a slightly lesser taste profile as they ultimately filter out the sediment which holds many of the beautiful flavours.
If they are unsure on what they want to do, and ask you for our opinion… you can let them know that our family (and honestly, most whisky connoisseurs) would take substance over appearance… just like in a good relationship…;)