Islay’s youngest (functional) distillery calls itself Islay’s farm distillery, and has been in operation for only 10 years, meaning that everything is young. Here’s where the attitude part of terroir starts to come through though, with floor maltings, barley grown locally and everything done onsite in a small, craft way, the output from Kilchoman has always been incredibly high quality. They only just upgraded the bottling line (onsite) to mechanise putting the corks in – there’s a brutal job to do by hand all day! The attitude and quality reminds me a lot of Arran, and when I look at how incredible Arran’s output is now we’re getting 19s and 20s (this year) with the official 18 being so totally wonderful, it really excites me about the future for Kilchoman.
I’ve had a few Kilchomans on this blog before; the 100% Islay 4th Edition was a big favourite, the 2007 Vintage, everyone loves the recent port cask matured, Loch Gorm 2nd edition, and the Abbey Whisky exclusive PX cask, which I grew to like less and less as I worked through my share of the bottle. No need to gild the lily.
Nose - Fresh, cereal, sweet peat. Vanilla sponge, light phenols and a touch of lavender. Toasty, quiet coal tar and barley. A really sweet, tasty nose. With water, opens up offering more floral sweetness, some boiled sweets and an older peat tone.
Body - Arresting, fresh peated barley. Young and feisty, but balanced and moreish with bright, herbal, dusty lavender again. Sourer with water.
Finish - Long, medicinal, numbing and fierce (but balanced) wood bitterness. Haunting but intense. With water, some of the intensity is lost and the bitterness is knocked out of kilter, but some Sichuan peppercorns come through.
What’s not good about it - Young, bright and sour. Untamed, citrus peat.
What’s good about it - Complex, challenging and well made (as ever), beautifully intense peat, balancing sweetness and well integrated. Fabulous nose, what intensity!
Worth the £80, just, but the 100% Islay 4th edition at half that gives it a serious run for it’s money.
Nose - Sweet, light, breezy peat. I love Kilchoman’s ability to be fresh like a spring day but seriously, granite strength peated (which is I think, on reflection, why the Abbey PX finish Kilchoman sat so badly with me, it’s just too cloying and confused). Balanced, confident, ozone dusted cereal and lemon frosting. Delicious. With water, sweeter, more vanilla pastry and oiled steel, and that dirty, summertime musk from the Islay Barley.
Body - Classical Kilchoman, and massively Islay. Dusty sweet lemon, lemon peat, toffee pennies, arrestingly sour.
Finish - Long, malty and tingling. Summer in a glass (I don’t understand why people consign peated whiskies to winter). Retronasally, a little tangerine peel and lingering gunpowder.
What’s not good about it - Nothing as a young, feisty Kilchoman. The prices on these things are a bit much though.
What’s good about it - Confident, clear, extremely accomplished, classical Kilchoman (very on-style) and seriously drinkable. Lovely stuff.
Kilchoman Club 2nd Release, Sherry Finish, 58.2% A⊕
October 2008 to November 4 2013, Casks 485-490, 567, 568. 8 first fill bourbon barrels finished in 4 fresh Oloroso butts. This has a special place in my heart because it was bottled on the date my twin daughters were born. I am saving my bottle for their 18th birthday so I’ve never tried it until now. The power of twitter brought me 3cl to try - thanks Rob for the sample!
Nose - With this cask billing this should be massive, but remember how young it is. It’s gentle and herbal, rosemary stalks and hobnobs, oyster shells and ozone. Complex but restrained, with time the sherry sweetness starts to poke through a bit more, backed by quite a fetid peat note. With water, it works even better, with the fetid and sweet notes coming together and letting the sherry through.
Body - Here’s the first fill bourbon, immediately sweet on the front of the tongue, backed up by what feels like refill sherry (but is only a finish) and enormous lemon peat. Water makes it juicier overall, and I’m strangely, and appropriately reminded of jelly boats (jelly poured into the half-shells of oranges, left to set and cut into boat shape segments).
Finish - Long, complex and lots of gunpowder. Zesty and complex. A clash of seasons - spring and autumn. Ultimately, more fetid notes, which distracts slightly but then this isn’t supposed to be a party drink, it’s more of a beard stroker. Also, my lips have gone numb.
What’s not good about it - Lingering, thought provoking old cereal is a bit of a concern.
What’s good about it - But thought provoking is good, and contemplative is even better. You can’t find young Islay done better than Kilchoman really, I really think if you compare it to young Bunna you see the difference.
Kilchoman Club 3rd Release, Madeira Cask, 58.4% A⊕
February 11th 2010 - November 24 2014 (4 years old)
Body - Salty. More dirty wine. Earthy, savoury and grapey. Prunes, petrol, inner tube, fence panels and liquorice torpedoes. With water, more wine, more liquorice and juicier.
Finish - Very long, and cigars (the numbing on the front of the tongue). Salty and tannic. Very compelling indeed. I miss cigars.
What’s not good about it - Young and brutal...
What’s good about it - ...but complex and very interesting, and very very well made. Kilchoman is so epic and such an early age, the mind boggles what the 18 year old will be like. I regret not buying a bottle of this, I only had a 10cl split of a bottle, but man, I can’t own them all!
Kilchoman Private bottling for Whisky in Leiden 2014, 60.4% A⊕+
Bourbon hogshead. Cask number 142/2007, 13.06.2007-21.02.2014.
Body - Gunpowder. Sweet, zesty lemon, metallic cereal and very compelling. Water brings out lemon zest and juice and a touch of mandarin.
Finish - Long, lemon toffee sweet and straying into spicy. What a cask!
What’s not good about it - I can’t think of anything given what it is.
What’s good about it - This is a beautiful, young (6 years old), spicy Kilchoman showing exactly what the distillery can do.
Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2015, 46% A+
Kilchoman’s Loch Gorm releases are traditionally matured in ex Oloroso sherry butts and this latest edition is no exception. Where the 2015 version differs from the previous year is the use of sherry hogsheads to mature a portion of the whisky rather than just sherry butts. This edition will also be marginally older than the five year old 2014 version, it being bottled from casks filled in both 2009 and 2010. [Robbie’s Whisky Merchants] - 2014 edition reviewed here.
Nose - Seasidey and sweet. Seriously seasidey actually - Whitstable harbour with oyster shells baking in the sun, and that factory turning out tons of shells into the yard by the pebble beach. Behind this, very earthy peat, and some diesel fumes. I’m not sure if this is summery in it’s own right or just by association with Whitstable. In terms of fruit; stewed plums with vanilla cream, intense and juicy and I would have definitely called a long spell in an ex bourbon cask. With water, the fetid peat is back with more fruit, plus chalk dust on the nose.
Body - Sweet, tannic dry, oaky, and back to toffeed. With water, almost winey (chardonnay, sweet and oaky). Just a touch of sulphur (I think that’s in the diesel fumes in the nose).
Finish - Long and tannic, with that dry oaky peat Kilchoman does so well. Almost grapefruit bitterness. It’s a well put together whisky though, quite grown up too.
What’s not good about it - A bit thin compared to some others in this lineup (like the Leiden one).
What’s good about it - Big, complex and summery. Stern and fun?
SMWS 129.3, Kilchoman, Unwind and set your watch to Islay Time, 4 years old, 60.2% A+
12th September 2008, 1st fill bourbon hogshead, 256 bottles. I’ve only had three SMWS Kilchomans (although I guess that’s half of them) - 129.1 was wonderful and 129.6 big fun too. This guy is in the middle - I rarely taste Scotch so young!
Body - Sweet, delicious fruit and intensely peated. Hay and apple. Big mango.
Finish - Pear, toffee and oak. Balanced, high quality cask.
What’s not good about it - Young and brutal.
What’s good about it - Balanced, confident and showing the quality of the spirit.
Next up, the Laga!