Here now is my last distillery report from our visit to Scotland in June. Fittingly, it’s of the most recently built, functioning distillery on Islay, Kilchoman. The smallest distillery on the island, it’s the one that’s least like the others: the most remote (relatively speaking), located not on the water but among farms, and absolutely independently owned. I’ve liked their malt since the very first one I ever tasted—a 3 yo bottled for Binny’s in 2010—and so I was glad to be able to stop in for a few minutes on our way for a ramble around Machir Bay (Kilchoman may not be on the water but you’re never far from the water on Islay).
(My other distillery reports, in reverse order of publication, were of stops at Bruichladdich, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, Laphroaig, Tomatin and Oban, Lagavulin, and Talisker.)
To get to Kilchoman from the southern part of Islay you start out on the A847 from Bridgend and head in the direction of Port Charlotte. About 4 miles later, and about a mile before you get to Bruichladdich, you turn right onto the B8018 and go another 4-5 miles to get to Kilchoman. The turn to Kilchoman is clearly marked; if you didn’t turn there, the same road would take you to Machir Bay. The road, unfortunately, is mostly, if not entirely single-track (I don’t remember because I don’t want to). Actually, it was not quite as much of an adventure as our drive to and from Bunnahabhain. When you see the big sign for Kilchoman you turn left and you drive alongside fields in which barley for the distillery’s “100% Islay” releases is growing. This stretch of the road, by the way, is currently an ode to the pothole. When we got to the distillery there was a lot of construction happening there and I can only hope, for the sake of future visitors, that this may extend to improving that access road.
Another way in which Kilchoman is different from all the other Islay distilleries is that they have a gigantic parking lot. This is, I’m told, a recent development but it’s midwestern American grocery store parking lot big. Beyond it stretch rolling green hills with lots of happy sheep in them. The distillery itself is compact, with no towering buildings, and seemingly a far smaller outlay on whitewash—though, as with all the other distilleries, there’s no shortage of visual cues for their branding: the Kilchoman blue is everywhere. You pass the production buildings as you enter from the parking lot. There were not many visitors during our brief visit and there did not seem to be any tours in progress. I peeped into some of the buildings and understood what a friend had meant when he’d quipped that you could walk through the entire production process there in five minutes: it really is a small, farm distillery.
The visitor centre, however, is large. It includes a shop that sells a lot more than whisky and a lot more than Kilchoman-branded doodads. There’s also a large’ish cafe at one end. This seems like a very good idea. If we’d known about it, for example, we would have probably lunched there or purchased some sandwiches to take to Machir Bay with us. The cafe is a far more casual affair food-wise than Ardbeg’s Old Kiln Cafe. You order at a counter and sandwiches and baked potatoes are the mainstay (though as I say this I worry that I may have failed to turn the menu over when I was looking at it; if you’ve eaten there please let me know if there’s more cooked stuff to be had as well).
Here are some pictures. Scroll down for closing thoughts and a preview of what’s left to come from Islay.
The distillery has a quaint charm to it and I think if I were to come back to Islay I’d probably want to tour it—it is, as I say, the least industrial of all the Island’s distilleries. Of course, I have no idea what the scale of Ardnahoe, the distillery that will be opening soon in Port Askaig, is going to be (and visiting Ardnahoe is yet another reason to return).
Well, while I am done with distillery reports, I still have a number of meal reports to come: lunches in Oban and Tarbert and the rest of our meals on Islay. I’d threatened to include some pictures from Machir Bay in this report but I might actually put up a separate gallery of images of the non-whisky activities that took up the bulk of our time in Scotland.
I’ve been a huge fan of Kilchoman ever since I attended their 10th anniversary tour two years ago. In April I also got to visit the distillery on Islay and take part in the standard tour. It was great fun and a nice contrast to Laphroaig, which I visited before. Everything’s indeed much smaller and more intimate at Kilchoman. I also wrote a lil’ blog post on the tour experience. Check it out if you like. :)