This week of reviews of bourbon cask whiskies has been going rather well. Wednesday’s Teaninich 11 from Berry Bros. & Rudd, at the border of austere and fruity, was very nice indeed. And Monday’s Bowmore 17 from the SMWS was a fruity delight. To close out the week now, I have another 11 yo and it takes us back to Islay. This Kilchoman was distilled in 2007 and matured in an ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon barrel before being bottled for the American importer’s Cask Evolution series. Though the back of the box mentions the fact that Kilchoman’s 100% Islay range uses barley grown and distilled on Islay, I don’t believe this is a 100% Islay bottling. It was distilled from barley peated to a pretty high level of 50 ppm, whereas the 100% Islay line comes in at 20 ppm. Of the ImpEx Cask Evolution releases I’ve tried this is certainly the most staid one. You may recall that my previous review was of a 7 yo that had received a mezcal finish; and before that I’d reviewed an 8 yo that had been doubled matured in port casks. I did like both of those—the port cask more than the mezcal finish—but am looking forward to this one, as my boring opinion is that ex-bourbon Kilchoman is the best Kilchoman. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.
Kilchoman 11, 2007, ImpEx Cask Evolution (56.4%; bourbon barrel; from a bottle split)
Nose: Carbolic peat (Dettol) mixed with lime, salt and a bit of vanilla. The peat and the salt expand on the second sniff. A hint of ham cure pops up for a bit but then gets covered up by more of the vanilla. A few drops of water pull out some citronella and more of the carbolic peat.
Palate: Comes in as indicated by the nose and then gets sweeter as it heads to the finish. Very approachable at full strength with decent texture. The sweetness quickly becomes the top note and stays that way even as the phenols also expand a bit. Some toasted oak and roasted malt emerges as well. Okay, let’s see what water does for it. It pulls out ashy smoke but doesn’t really do away with the sweetness, which is now a bit overbearing.
Finish: Long. The sweetness expands and is the top note here. The phenolic smoke is there below it but it’s all about the sweetness (just short of simple syrup). The lime emerges at the end as the sweetness fades. With time the phenols expand but the sweetness is still the top note. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This started out very well indeed but then got a bit too sweet and stayed that way. Perhaps it’s one to drink faster than I did. Anyway, it’s enjoyable enough but there’s not very much going on below the sugar and the smoke.
Rating: 85 points.