Here is the first part of an interesting diptych from Kilchoman. Islay’s farm distillery’s hallmark seems to have become the release of more and more single casks and cask variations and so forth to go along with their more edited regular lineup which—please correct me if I’m wrong—comprises the Machir Bay, Sanaig, Loch Gorm and the 100% Islay. For whatever reason, they seemingly are not interested in putting out a regular age-stated whisky—even though they would be able to put out a 15 yo by now. I guess if you can sell much younger NAS whisky then there isn’t much reason to tie up limited warehouse space. Or maybe there’s an age-stated lineup in the works and we won’t know till it hits us. Anyway, in 2021 they launched a “Cask Comparison” series. The idea is to release similar whiskies with some variation in them that allows the drinker to compare the effect of a single variable being shifted. Batch 1—a UK exclusive—comprised two casks of 8 yo spirit, distilled days apart in 2012 and matured for just over 8 years in ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels. What’s the variable that’s different? Cask 719—this one—was filled with spirit distilled from 100% Islay barley peated to 20 ppm; cask 726—which I’ll be reviewing on Friday—was filled with spirit distilled from barley from the Port Ellen maltings peated to 50 ppm. The idea is that the juxtaposition will allow us to tease out the difference between the peating levels…or wait…is it the difference between the types of barley…or wait…is it the difference between the combination of both those things? Hmmm the premise is at risk of breaking down before I even begin and so it may be best to just get to it.
Kilchoman 8, 2012, Cask Comparison Series, Cask 719 (55.7%; bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Starts out with bright carbolic peat but begins to take on an earthier, almost mossy aspect quite soon. Some chilli pepper in there too along with some salt and some lemon (let’s say preserved lemon). Increasing vanilla sweetness with each sniff. The tar begins to show up here too with time but then eases in favour of the citrus, vanilla and salt. Water turns the citrus to citronella and pushes the vanilla back a little as well.
Palate: Comes in with the acid and the peat. Approachable at full strength with decent texture. With time it becomes quite a lot more bitter, turning almost astringent heading to the finish. The bitterness keeps expanding and popping out earlier, I’m afraid. Let’s see what water does for it. It pushes the tar back some but doesn’t really bring out anything new.
Finish: Long. The peat expands taking on a fruitier aspect that shades into mezcal territory (think charred pineapple. The bitter notes that show up on the palate resolve into tar on the finish. Less tar here too with water and then more salt at the end.
Comments: For 20 ppm this packs quite a peat wallop. I was not a big fan of the tarry notes, taken neat. A little better with water but in general this doesn’t have anything very interesting going on—which is not a surprise for a 8 yo whisky. Okay, let’s see what Cask 726 is like.
Rating: 84 points.