It’s been a while since I last tasted (or reviewed a Kilchoman). I have a large number of samples sitting on my shelves from swaps and previously deceased bottles and it’s time to bring their number down a bit.
Kilchoman, as you probably know, is the youngest distillery on Islay. They’re a very small distillery, with very limited output (compared to the big boys on the island) but their reputation is quite high. They may not be set up to produce much but what they put out is invariably good. For their regular releases they use barley peated at the Port Ellen maltings on Islay to about 50 ppm (which is at Ardbeg levels) but for these 100% Islay releases (of which this is the 3rd edition) they use only barley malted on site to 20-25 ppm (see Jordan D.’s post from late-2013 confirming this). This means this will be quite unlike the other Kilchomans I’ve tried and so I’m quite looking forward to it.
Kilchoman 100% Islay, 3rd Ed. (50%; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Lemony smoke; quite creamy/buttery as well. It may not be heavily peated but the smoke is not hard to find. A green, farmy note as well and a fair bit of salt too. After a minute the salt and lemon are joined by green olive brine. Very reminiscent of Caol Ila and very nice indeed. The smoke gets ashier as it sits and you’re not going to mistake this for a lightly peated whisky, no matter what the ppm may be. Water pulls the mezcal notes from the palate out on the nose as well (quite close to this 5 yo Talisker now).
Palate: Sweeter on the palate to start and there’s a mezcal’ish new-makey note too along with the lemon. This must be just about 3 years old. As on the nose, it gets ashier as it sits and saltier too, and there’s an almost vegetal bitterness too. Alas, the new make notes don’t dissipate with time. No improvement with water, I’m afraid. If anything the bitterness increases.
Finish: Long. No new development; the salt hangs around for a while and then as it fades the new-makey notes get prominent again.
Comments: I have not got those notes that I associate with new make with any other Kilchoman, including others that couldn’t have been very much more than 3 years of age. I guess the higher peating level of those releases covers them up. Well, I quite liked the nose of this one but the palate and finish were dominated by the new make notes.
Rating: 82 points.