Port and peat week started at Bunnahabhain on Monday. That was an 8 yo that spent 5 years or so in ex-bourbon casks and the rest of the time in ex-tawny port casks. I’d call that a proper double maturation. That cask was bottled by Cadenhead and I rather liked it. Today I have for you another 8 yo and another whisky from an Islay distillery. It’s from Kilchoman and is an official release (are there any indie Kilchomans?). This one is billed as a ruby port finish. As to whether that means it spent just a few months in the port cask or quite a bit longer than that, I don’t know. It was released in the US as part of the “Cask Evolution” series by Impex, who are Kilchoman’s importers in the country. (And no, I have no idea what the other releases in this “Cask Evolution” series are or what the concept of the series is supposed to be.) Will this be as good as Monday’s Bunnahabhain or will my general fears of port cask whiskies and finishes—to say nothing of port cask finishes—be realized? Only one way to find out.
Kilchoman 8, 2013, Impex Cask Evolution (55.9%; Ruby Port Finish; from a bottle split)
Nose: Phenolic smoke off the top with both iodine and Dettol in evidence. Not much sign of the port at first. Quite coastal on the second sniff with brine and seashells; some green olive brine as well. Some sweeter fruit begins to emerge as it sits but it’s still about the phenolic smoke. With a few drops of water there’s some milky cocoa.
Palate: Comes in with the big peat here as well but the sweeter stuff bubbles up very quickly and by the time I swallow it’s already begun to separate a bit. Approachable enough at full strength but I wonder if water will knit this together better. On the second sip there’s a fair bit of chilli pepper along with the smoke which gets quite dry and “thin” as it heads to the finish. With time/air the port separation seems to mostly fix itself but it’s still a bit too jumbled here for my liking. Okay, let’s see what water does for it. Ah yes, it does bind everything together and pulls out the inky note earlier; some dried orange peel too now
Finish: Long. The smoke goes on for a bit but in that dry, liquid smoke’ish vein. With time it gets richer here and some pipe tobacco emerges at the end along with some ink. With water the liquid smoke note is completely gone and it develops as on the palate.
Comments: I loved the nose neat and with water. The palate and finish needed the water to show their best selves but it came together really well at the end.
Rating: 87 points. (Pulled up by water.)