And Then There Was Kilchoman

Cask No. 1 in the warehouse at Kilchoman Distillery. Photo courtesy of Kilchoman.

Cask No. 1 in the warehouse at Kilchoman Distillery. Photo courtesy of Kilchoman.

The Kilchoman distillery is the new kid on the Islay block.  Built in 2005, it’s the first distillery built on the Scottish island in over 120 years.  Their first distillate was barreled later that year.

One interesting thing about Kilchoman is that it’s built on a farm, and grows about a third of its own barley.  The rest comes from Islay’s Port Ellen Maltings.  Their website (see link at bottom of this post) lists so much information about the distillation process it will leave a smile on every whisky enthusiast.

Kilchoman whiskies feature no chill-filtering and natural color.  Since the distillery was founded in 2005, clearly none of their whisky is older than 10 years old.  In fact, most are between 3 (the minimum aging to be called Scotch whisky) and 7 years old.

Machir Bay

Photo courtesy of Kilchoman

Photo courtesy of Kilchoman

Named after a beach close to the distillery, Machir Bay is Kilchoman’s core expression.  It’s aged in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, which is unusual as most of Kilchoman’s whiskies are aged in bourbon casks.  Machir Bay is bottled at 92 proof.

Right off the bat, there’s some fat peaty smoke.  But there’s much more to the nose.  Bold tropical fruit and honey add sweetness, while the bourbon barrel maturation give a bit of vanilla and spice.  All the aromas carry over to the palate.  Bright citrus, smoked fruit and a candy-sweet toffee are the big flavors here, and they work together beautifully.  The finish is a bit on the hot side, probably due to the whisky’s youngish age (there’s no age statement on this whisky).  That continuing theme of sweet smoky fruit continues through the long finish.

I have a soft spot for peated whiskies that are fully or partially matured in ex-sherry casks.  There’s something about that smoked fruit note I enjoy.  Machir Bay is a fantastically rich, sweet and smoky release from Kilchoman.  Recommended!


100% Islay 5th Edition

Photo courtesy of Kilchoman

Photo courtesy of Kilchoman

Everything about this whisky is Islay.  The barley is grown and malted on Islay.  The water is from Islay.  It’s distilled and aged in Islay.  You get the picture.  This Kilchoman expression is bottled at a hearty 100 proof.  The company’s website states the peat levels here are lower than their other expressions.

Kilchoman 100% Islay is sharper, crisper and overall lighter than Machir Bay.  The nose is all lemon peel and barley grain, with an undertone of smoke.  It’s not a heavy smoke.  Rather, it’s light and helps carry the bright citrus forward.  I also get just a little sweet fruit in the background.  The entry doesn’t have the initial hit of alcohol I expected for a 100 proof whisky.  Instead, the burn slowly develops as Lemonhead candy, grain and light peat in the form of grass quickly become the dominant flavors.  I detect some vanilla towards the end of the mid-palate.  The finish is a little hot, but leaves behind a sweet grain note.

I appreciate what Kilchoman was going for here, but I’m not a huge fan.  It feels a bit too young for my own taste.  That doesn’t mean it’s a bad whisky.  I think it’s the beginning of what could be an outstanding release in a few years.

(Note: Review samples were provided by Impex Beverages.)

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