The month began with reviews of a pair of Speysides. This was followed by a week of Arran and then a week of distilleries in the Highlands. Let’s close the month out now with a big dose of peat. First up is Kilchoman, three of them to be exact. I’ll begin with a special cask strength release of their Machir Bay release. This was put out to mark their East Coast Tour of 2016. (I believe Journey was the opening act. I couldn’t make it to this tour but hope to catch them at the Minnesota State Fair one of these years.) It’s made with malt peated to 50 ppm (I can’t remember if that’s the case for all the Machir Bay releases) and from spirit mostly matured in ex-bourbon casks (90%) and partly in ex-oloroso casks (10%). A total of 840 bottles were released, which is actually a limited release as these things go. The last time I reviewed a Machir Bay of any kind was back in 2014, just a year into the blog’s life. That was the regular 2012 release at 46%—the very first release, as it happens. I’m curious to see how much similarity there will be between that and this one at 60.1% from four years later. At any rate, I’m sure this will be very different from the last two Kilchomans I reviewed this year, both of which were ruby port cask matured (here and here).
Kilchoman Machir Bay CS, 2016 Release (60.1%; from a bottle split)
Nose: A big wave of salt and behind it carbolic peat with cracked pepper. The peat expands on the second sniff and there’s a hit of mezcal in there now. As it sits lemon emerges and the salt expands dramatically. A few drops of water and both the mezcal and the salt recede and it gets sweeter.
Palate: Comes in sweet with a big wave of ash behind. Quite approachable at full strength with rich texture. More citrus on the second sip—more lime than lemon here. After a bit there’s some vanilla. The citrus and smoke merge as it sits but no new notes emerge. Okay, let’s see what water does for it. Ah, it pushes the ash back and emphasizes the citrus and the sweeter notes and melds everything together nicely.
Finish: Long. The sweetness comes back but then is overtaken by increasingly ashy smoke, turning a bit bitter and tarry at the end. With time there’s more of the lemon and salt here as well. Develops as on the nose and palate with water, which is to say it’s now less tarry and there’s better integration and balance of all the notes.
Comments: This is very good young peated whisky—as most Kilchomans are. (This is 3-5 years old as per Kilchomania.) The 2012 Machir Bay had more vanilla in it but it also had ham which doesn’t show up here. Neat, we’ll call it a draw. With water this picks up a Caol Ila-like elegance which pulls it ahead. A good start to the week—let’s hope the next two are at least as good.
Rating: 86 points.