Let’s make it a week of Islay whiskies. On Monday I had a review of an 18 yo Laphroaig and yesterday I had a review of a 10 yo Bowmore. We have another big drop in age today, all the way down to 3 years old, the legal minimum for Scotch whisky; and we’re also moving from the larger, more established and storied distilleries to a small upstart. Kilchoman, the small Islay farm distillery (which I visited briefly last June), only started distilling in late 2005. I believe the first official whiskies were released in 2009. There were a bunch of cask strength releases in the US in mid-2010. I still have some of at least one of these saved (the Binny’s cask) and will probably get around to reviewing it one of these decades. At around the same time they had begun to release larger vattings at 46%. There were a number of these seasonal releases for at least the first few years—I confess I’ve sort of lost sight of what Kilchoman has been up to in recent years, despite rather liking all the early releases I’d tried. Well, maybe I’ll try to address that.
Meanwhile, here’s a blast from the past. This was put together in a complicated way with a mix of bourbon and sherry casks—a finish may have been involved (I’m too lazy to look it up).
Kilchoman 3, Spring 2010 Release (46%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: A big wave of phenolic peat with some cereal notes. Some brine as well and some kelp. Gets sweeter as it sits with a hint of aniseed. With more time still the smoke picks up some char. A few drops of water bring out muskier notes and a whiff of gasoline.
Palate: Thinner on the palate and the smoke is sourer. More acid here—lemon—and some pepper. The texture is also a bit thin. On the second sip the sherry brings in a leafy, almost vegetal quality. With time the smoke gets bitter earlier and there’s some barrel char in there too. The musky notes show up here too with water—lemon, a bit of melon—but it gets thinner still.
Finish: Long. The smoke gets more tarry; the pepper hangs out as well. Less tarry with water.
Comments: This is another very good young whisky released by the distillery in its early years. Very good for a 3 yo whisky, that is; there’s expectedly no real complexity here or much depth of flavour. I would guess that peat covers up a lot but not very many 3 yo whiskies are this good. (And apparently not all of Kilchoman’s 3 yo whiskies were this good. The ever ruthless Johannes gave the Summer 2010 release 51 points!)
Rating: 84 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample!
What finally got me off the Kilchoman train is that it seemed like they weren’t going anywhere. The whiskies were generally good, but since they were all relatively young it got a bit same-y so you might as well just stick with Machir Bay if you like the profile. I have some more recent ones to try as samples so I’m curious to see if that’s changed at all, but at this point they have a lot of work to do to convince me that they’re worth what’s being charged.
The fact they aren’t doing very much with their range doesn’t bother me so much. Better they put ouf solid malt than endless one-offfs. Their methods definitely produce very good whisky at a young age. I’m surprised they don’t put out a standard 10 yo. My ideal model for them would resemble the Laphroaig lineup from a decade or so ago: a 10 yo, a 10 yo CS, and in place of the Quarter Cask, the Machir Bay.
It’s hard to put out a standard ten when you can drop single cask 10 year olds left and right for astronomical prices. I do like Kilchoman and have to agree that they make for some great young whiskies, but the pricing we see here in Canada for anything with some aging is full on silly.
I have one of those Summer 2010 bottlings unopened and waiting for my tenth wedding anniversary in 2020…. but now you have me worried thanks to some dude named Johannes.
Don’t worry: Johannes gave the Taj Mahal only 70 points on his original Architecture Madness site.
I hadnt heard that Summer 2010/Johannes story! Of the 6 Kilchomans I’ve had, I remember that one most fondly, though it did set me up to be slightly disappointed by other bottlings.