Kilchoman Machir Bay, 2012 Release

Kilchoman Machir Bay, 2012
There have been two releases of Kilchoman’s Machir Bay and this is the first. While the bottle label does not specify the year, the box does. The second release came a year later in 2013. I don’t really keep up with distillery news and so I’m not sure whether the Machir Bay series is intended as an ongoing regular expression until they get to whatever their regular age stated release is going to be, or what the relationship is between this and the vintage releases. If you know please chime in below.

This runs between $50 and $60 in most US markets which puts it slightly above my proposed price ceiling for young NAS whisky.

Kilchoman Machir Bay, 2012 Release (46%; from my own bottle)

Nose: As seamless a blend of sweet vanilla and phenolic smoke as you could imagine. Some lemon too and some fine ham. Gets saltier as it sits (sea salt crystals) and there’s a tiny bit of rubber mixed in with band-aids. Water pushes back the phenols just a bit and makes it a touch creamier.

Palate: Starts out sweet as on the nose but when the phenols hit they bring a fair bit of tarry smoke with them, and some ink. Nice mouthfeel. More lemon on subsequent sips. Not a whole lot else going on but what there is is very nice. Water pushes the tar back here too but also throws off the balance.

Finish: Long. The tar slowly subsides but the smoke lingers for a good while getting ashier as it goes. With time the acid begins to hang out as well.

Comments: This is as representative an introduction to Islay peat as the Laphroaig 10, Ardbeg 10 or Caol Ila 12, and despite it being much younger than those three heavyweights I’d put it up there in their weight class (it is, of course, also slightly more expensive than those three). There’s not a tremendous amount of development (very little in fact) but this is a good, easy drinking smoky whisky. One to drink while watching tv or reading a book. I’d hold the water.

Rating: 85 points.

10 thoughts on “Kilchoman Machir Bay, 2012 Release

  1. I found that the complexity decreased significantly from the first few drinks in the bottle to later, after it had been sitting open for a few months. At that point it was also much easier drinking, so it wasn’t a terrible trade-off.

    But I do think this is supposed to be an on-going release. They’ve shifted the components upward a bit, so newer ones may not have quite as many rough edges as this first one. I’d definitely buy it again at ~$50, but the $60 that it goes for around here right now is far too much. Sadly their prices seem to just be heading up – I got a PR email announcing that Loch Gorm is going to have an MSRP of $95, which is just silly.

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  2. When you were there did they give any hints about their plans for release of age-stated stock? If they release a 10 yo it had better be $50 or below.

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      • I guess if people keep buying all the young whisky they put on the market at high prices they won’t have much incentive to do so at all.

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        • I’ve wondered for a while if they’re even going to bother releasing older whisky. What they have seem to work rather well around 5 years old and, as you note, bringing a 10 Year into rotation would force them to bring the price down, à la Port Charlotte 10. As long as the demand exists, they don’t have a lot of incentive to change their product structure.

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          • The question still remains: why *is* their whisky so good at such a young age? What do they know that others don’t?

            I remember very well visiting them with the family in 2010, and tasting a sample after the distillery tour. They were a novelty back them, I only learned about them *after* getting to Islay. I would have been fine with anything better than napalm. When my wife and I tasted it we just looked at each other with raised eyebrows, as in “what did just happen?” She ended up buying me a bottle, which I’m still nursing. Best 3yo Scotch I can expect to taste.

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          • My guess would be that doing things on a small scale is the key: greater attention possible at every step, and probably a very low number of duff barrels. as a result, probably the “averaging” that happens when they vat comes out pretty high, and truly hand-picked single casks are likely to be very good to great.

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          • It’s entirely possible to make whisky that is good and flavorful at a young age. As Oliver Klimek has pointed out, a lot of single malt used to be bottled at 5-8 years old and it was quite often pretty good stuff. Choosing malt that will produce a lot of flavor compounds instead of selecting for high alcohol yield, long fermentation times with lots of microflora, direct firing of stills to get less homogenous spirit, carefully choosing cuts to maximize flavor, and choosing casks that will both add and subtract just enough.

            I think a lot of the big distillers are trapped by their own age statements. They’re trying to get around it by going NAS, but they’re not set up to consistently produce flavorful, young whiskies. Kilchoman was designed from the ground up with that in mind, so they are actually producing different spirit than the big Kildalton distilleries.

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  3. I’d agree that producers are trapped by their duplicity on age statements (see Stuart Harrington on this point – http://www.theshout.com.au/2013/11/08/article/Talisker-embraces-flavour-led-whiskies/GTJEXVFUFF.html), but are trapped just as much as by current yield and profit models. They want to tell you that age doesn’t matter in order to enhance productivity and profits, but they can’t show you age doesn’t matter because they won’t devote sufficient resources to the question: as Jordan indicates, where you can’t depend on cask time to even out the bumps, making a truly great whisky under 10 y.o. is a very fussy affair. And so instead we end up with a lot of young (and sometimes slightly over-hyped) very economically produced whisky that lands in the 80’s; good, sure, but saying it’s great also says a lot about what one thinks of young profiles.

    And producers’ profit models trap them at the other end as well: if Talisker and Bowmore, for example, WERE able to replicate some of the young classics of decades gone by for sale at a price of less than a king’s ransom, actually proving that age doesn’t matter, the market for their expensive older age statements disappears, or at least those prices have to be seriously re-examined – and those bottles are being depended upon to generate a lot of profit in the years to come.

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  4. Drinking this again a few months later and I have to agree with Jordan (in the first comment above): the complexity has decreased, especially on the palate. It tastes more bitter/tarry and the balance is off. On the nose though I’m getting a lot more cereally notes than I did on the occasion that I wrote the review.

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