Here is the second cask in the first batch of Kilchoman’s Cask Comparison series. As I noted in the introduction to my review of the first cask on Wednesday, this batch comprises two casks, both distilled in 2012 and matured for 8 years in ex-Buffalo Trace barrels. Cask 719 was distilled from the distillery’s own farm barley peated to 20 ppm (making it a 100% Islay release), whereas this cask, Cask 726, was distilled from malt from Islay’s Port Ellen maltings peated to 50 ppm. So there are two variables in play here: barley type and peating level. Let’s close the comparison out. By the way, when I took notes on Cask 719 I tasted 1.5 oz of it over an hour or so, tasting .5 oz of Cask 726 alongside for reference. My notes on Cask 726 were likewise taken from the remaining 1.5 oz of that sample with the remaining .5 oz of Cask 719 as reference. I am nothing if not conscientous here at the My Annoying Opinions Tasting Rooms. More detail on my comparison of the two casks follows the review itself.
Kilchoman 8, 2012, Cask Companion Series, Cask 726 (55.4%; bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Starts out as well with bright, carbolic peat but there’s no mossy, earthy turn here and no chilli pepper either. Lemon and vanilla sweetness come out soon and merge with the peat. After a couple of minutes there’s a fair bit of salt and other coastal notes (shells, kelp). Some savoury notes (ham brine?) emerge with time. A few drops of water bring out some muskier notes: some charred pineapple to go with the ham (no pizza though).
Palate: Bright peat on arrival here as well with some cracked pepper on the back end. Not as sweet at the get-go. Quite approachable at full strength and nice texture. The tar pops out a bit earlier with time but this is not as bitter as cask 719. Sweeter with water and the tar turns to carbon paper and pencil lead.
Finish: Long. The smoke expands and then there’s some tar. Saltier with water.
Comments: Two things: first, this has more “generically” Islay peat character than the other—which might tell us there’s a difference between the barley types. (I am assuming, of course, that they did not send their own barley to be peated to 50 ppm at Port Ellen Maltings.) Second, despite this being at 50 ppm vs. Cask 219’s 20 ppm, it doesn’t taste appreciably peatier/smokier. My guess is that the actual phenol content of the two distillates after distillation is probably quite closer. It is, as I note, a different peat character, however. That may also be a function of different peating levels interacting with the qualities of the different types of barley. So, it does make for some interesting comparisons but in the end there’s more than one variable at play and so it’s hard to draw conclusions about which is driving the distinctions.
And, as it happens, even though this has, as I said, more “generically” Islay peat character, I do like it a bit better. This doesn’t have any more complexity than the other—mostly I like the fact that it’s not as tarry/bitter as the other, which allows for more nuance to emerge.
Rating: 86 points.