Kilchoman Sanaig Scotch Whisky Review

Editor’s note:  I have the pleasure of presenting the first guest post here at  Jay Whittemore from Tasty Whiskey shares his thoughts on Kilchoman’s Sanaig.  I’m a fan of sherry cask-matured peated whisky, so I’m a tad jealous I didn’t get to sample this fantastic whisky.  Please welcome Jay, and be sure to check out his blog. – Bobby

Photo courtesy of Kilchoman.

Photo courtesy of Kilchoman.

Kilchoman – the small family-run farm distillery based on the west coast of Islay – recently issued a press release announcing that Sanaig, their 46% ABV sherry cask matured Scotch (~$75), won a double gold and “best of category” awards at recent competitions.

Bobby and I have both previously reviewed other Kilchoman offerings, so I figured it was high time to add to the collection.

The “TL;DR” recaps (with links to full reviews):

Kilchoman notes that Sanaig will join its core range of expressions, and that this release is matured in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels before being transferred for further maturation in Oloroso sherry casks. With the recent introduction of NAS sherried Islay single malts by Ardbeg (Dark Cove) and Laphroaig (Lore), Sanaig seems positioned to compete in this same stylistic category.

The color is a light golden brown (worth noting: Kilchoman doesn’t add any coloring additives to its whiskies, and they are also not chill-filtered). The aroma is richly peaty and heavily maritime in character, which is typical for Islay single malts. It makes me think of old dock ropes, first aid kits (gauze, BandAids, iodine), smoldering bonfire pits at the beach, and something more minerally/rocky, like rain evaporating off pavement. On the palate, Sanaig starts sweet with vanilla and caramel. Then peat smoke shows up on the midpalate, steadily building into a long finish, which also introduces a nice roasted walnut element and some bright cooked fruit flavors (apple/peach).

Kilchoman Sanaig is excellent, and definitely recommended.  The classic Islay flavors are here in full force, but they are nicely balanced by underlying sweetness. Given the production notes, I believe this sweetness is coming from both the ex-bourbon barrel maturation as well as the Oloroso sherry barrel finishing. All of which is to say there isn’t a gigantic sherry influence similar to what you’d see in a first-fill sherry cask expression or a PX-finished whisky. In no way does that detract from the experience; it’s just worth tempering your expectations for a “treacly sweet peat” experience.  8/10

(tasting sample generously provided by Kilchoman; views are my own)

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