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. Continue reading
And Kilchoman week comes to a close. I started on Monday with a 13 yo—the oldest Kilchoman I’ve yet tasted and reviewed. On Wednesday I reviewed a 10 yo. Both of those were bourbon casks bottled for the Spec’s liquor chain in Texas. Today’s release—bottled for some outfit called the Southern California Whiskey Club—is both the youngest of the three, at 8 years of age, and also a little more unconventional. It too started out in a bourbon cask but received a finish in a ruby port quarter cask. As per Kilchomania, it spent more than 7 years in a Buffalo Trace cask before entering the port quarter cask—which presumably was a quarter cask treated with ruby port for this purpose; I don’t think port of any kind is typically matured in such small casks. Port casks work best for me when heavily peated whisky is involved and so that part should be fine. But there’s also quite a bit of oak contact here and I’m not generally big on oaky whiskies. Which way will this one go? Only one way to find out. Continue reading
A week of Kilchoman reviews started on Monday with a 13 yo bottled for Spec’s in Texas. I liked that one quite a bit on the nose but found it increasingly dull on the palate. Today I have for you a review of another cask bottled for Spec’s, also a bourbon cask but this time a 10 yo. I’m hoping I’ll like this one a bit better.
Kilchoman 10, 2010 (55.3%; for Spec’s; bourbon cask; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ah, I like this better than the 13 yo already: carbolic peat mixed with ash and lemon and salt. Cracked pepper on the second sniff and it gets quite coastal with briny-sweet aromas of kelp, sea shells and oyster liquor. After a bit some vanilla emerges as well. With more time and air the vanilla expands and is joined by a cereal note. Water renders it a bit anonymous. Continue reading
Last week’s review featured whiskies from three different Islay distilleries (Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Caol Ila). We’ll stay on Islay for another week but this week’s reviews will all be from a single distillery: Kilchoman. They’ll also all be of Kilchomans specially bottled for the American market—which sometimes seems like it might be the majority of Kilchoman’s bottlings. The first two were bottled for the gargantuan Texas chain, Spec’s, and the third for the Southern California Whiskey Club (who these people are, I’m not really sure). The two Spec’s releases—both from 2021—were from bourbon casks. Friday’s Southern California Whiskey Club is—as you will see—a little different. So, two classic casks and then a slight twist. We’ll also take the week in descending order of age. In fact, this 13 yo cask is not only the oldest of the three I’ll be reviewing this week, it’s the oldest Kilchoman I’ve yet reviewed, and probably ever tasted. It will have to be rather excellent indeed to come close to justifying the $190 currently being asked for it by Spec’s. I have to admit I find that price to be rather inexplicable—is it in line with what’s being charged for Kilchomans being bottled by other stores as well? Anyway, let’s see what the whisky is like. Continue reading
On Wednesday I reviewed a Kilchoman released in 2015 and possibly available only at the distillery. Here now is a Kilchoman released just this year and a US exclusive to boot. This is a collaboration between Kilchoman and their US importer, ImpEx and features whisky matured in five barrels filled in 2012 that previously held wheated bourbon (I have no idea which ones). So a fairly small batch. It’s said to be “a tribute to the Bottled in Bond legacy of Bourbon in the US” but I’m not sure what that actually entails. If these five wheated bourbon barrels all held Bottled in Bond whiskey they don’t explicitly come out and say so. Is the connection just the BiB in both “Bottled in Bond” and “Bourbon Influenced Batch”? If you know more, please fill the rest of us in. Frankly, I’m not even sure what distinction is supposed to be imparted by the fact that this is “bourbon influenced”—I mean, isn’t most Kilchoman matured in bourbon casks? I don’t understand marketing. But I do like good whisky and hope this will prove to be one. Continue reading
After having reviewed only eight Kilchomans over the first seven and a half years of the blog’s life, I reviewed another five in the first half of this year. Let’s get that count up even higher by starting November with another pair of Kilchomans. First up is a multi-vintage vatting released in 2015 to mark the 10th anniversary of the distillery’s founding. This contains spirit distilled from 2012 to 2005. It couldn’t have any from the vintages after 2012, of course, because by law Scotch whisky has to be at least three years old. The oldest whisky in the vatting was 10 years old and indeed this includes spirit from the first cask ever filled at the distillery. The cask types are a mix of bourbon and sherry but I’m not sure what the mix is or what the proportions of the various vintages is. And while I’m listing things I’m not sure of, I also don’t know if this ever came to the US—the distillery’s page indicates it was meant to be on sale at the distillery only. At any rate, here are my notes. Continue reading
The final whisky of Kilchoman Week is the oldest. And with a young distillery it’s not surprise that it’s the oldest vintage as well. This was distilled in 2006—one year before Monday’s 3 yo—and bottled in 2019 from a single sherry cask. This was a private bottling for some entity called Islay Cask Company. Who they are, I have no idea. This does have a very high rating on Whiskybase which is promising because, Wednesday’s 7 yo notwithstanding, I’ve generally not been very persuaded by sherry cask Kilchoman. Let’s hope this keeps the positive streak going.
Kilchoman 12, 2006 (56.1%; sherry cask 324/2006 for the Islay Cask Company; from a bottle split)
Nose: Dry, ashy smoke mixed in with a leafy note. Some sweeter notes (orange peel) begin to come through as it sits but the smoke remains dry on the whole. Stays consistent with time which is another way of saying there isn’t much development. A few drops of water make it a bit richer: tobacco rather than ashy/leafy smoke now. Continue reading
Kilchoman Week began with a review of a 3 yo distilled in 2007 and matured in a bourbon cask. Here now is a 7 yo distilled in 2011 and matured in a sherry cask (the label on the sample bottle says 8 years old but as per Whiskybase this is a 7 yo). And this was one of their 100% Islay releases, which I think means it was made from Islay barley, perhaps from one of the nearby farms. This was a US release, bottled for the importer ImpEx. Historically, I have preferred bourbon cask Kilchoman to the sherry cask versions. Let’s see if this one breaks that mold.
Kilchoman 7, 2011, 100% Islay (56.1%; sherry cask #622/11; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ashy peat shot through with a mix of orange peel, brandied raisins and smouldering leaves. Some pencil lead/graphite in there too. A little saltier as it sits and then a sweeter mix of milky cocoa and vanilla emerges and expands along with the citrus. A few drops of water pull out some apricot to go with the citrus and push the ash back a bit. Continue reading
After a week of reviews of whiskies from Highland Park (which followed a week of reviews of whiskies from Glen Scotia) let’s do a week of reviews of whiskies from Kilchoman, Islay’s small farm distillery. This was the very first Kilchoman I ever had. It was bottled in 2010 for Binny’s in Chicago at the ripe young age of three. The distillery put out a number of these store exclusives among their earliest releases and they helped make their name in the US (and elsewhere too). Those were the days when Binny’s shipped out of state and I purchased a bottle right away. I drank it down slowly over the next few years and before finally finishing it in early 2013—as per my spreadsheet, a month before I started the blog—I put four ounces away for future reference, as was my practice at the time (well, my usual practice was to put away 6 ounces). In other words, this review is of a sample that was put away more than 8 years ago and from a bottle that was opened more than 10 years ago. Though I’ve stopped saving these reference samples in recent years, I do very much enjoy going back to some of the whiskies I drank a long time ago. I really liked this one back then, as I have a number of other young Kilchomans. Let’s see what I make of it now. Continue reading
I was going to say it’s been a long time since my last Kilchoman review but I actually reviewed one just this past January. That was from a sherry cask. Maybe I should say it’s been a long time since I’ve reviewed a bourbon cask Kilchoman. That would take me back to 2018 and this 3 yo. Today’s bourbon cask Kilchoman is quite a bit older at 11 years old. It was apparently bottled for a private group. As to whether that group is named “Friends of Kilchoman” or that’s just the name for the private cask program, I don’t know. I do know I’ve always generally been impressed by the quality of bourbon cask Kilchoman at very young ages and so I am curious to find out what it is like at 11 years of age. Are they still planning to only release young’ish whisky? As I recall that was the plan at the beginning—though, of course, at the time they did not have any aged whisky to sell. I guess I could have asked if I’d done a less perfunctory visit when we were on Islay a few years ago. Well, if I ever get back there again I will do a proper tour. Continue reading
I missed Kilchoman on my mini tour of Islay in December and so here now is a review of a Kilchoman. (I also missed Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich and will be stopping in at both of those distilleries this week as well.) I was a big fan of Kilchoman’s early releases of very young bourbon casks but have somehow lost track of them in the last five years or so. I’d hoped they’d graduate to putting out a regular 10-12 yo and it doesn’t seem like that’s happened yet. Their website only lists four NAS releases in their core lineup (of which I’ve reviewed releases of the Machir Bay and 100% Islay) and several annual limited editions. This was one of their limited editions for 2020, vatted from spirit fully matured in 11 fresh and one refill fino sherry butt. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Let’s make it a week of Islay whiskies. On Monday I had a review of an 18 yo Laphroaig and yesterday I had a review of a 10 yo Bowmore. We have another big drop in age today, all the way down to 3 years old, the legal minimum for Scotch whisky; and we’re also moving from the larger, more established and storied distilleries to a small upstart. Kilchoman, the small Islay farm distillery (which I visited briefly last June), only started distilling in late 2005. I believe the first official whiskies were released in 2009. There were a bunch of cask strength releases in the US in mid-2010. I still have some of at least one of these saved (the Binny’s cask) and will probably get around to reviewing it one of these decades. At around the same time they had begun to release larger vattings at 46%. There were a number of these seasonal releases for at least the first few years—I confess I’ve sort of lost sight of what Kilchoman has been up to in recent years, despite rather liking all the early releases I’d tried. Well, maybe I’ll try to address that.
Meanwhile, here’s a blast from the past. This was put together in a complicated way with a mix of bourbon and sherry casks—a finish may have been involved (I’m too lazy to look it up). Continue reading
I was recently mock-praised for reviewing something released as recently as a year ago. As even mock-praise makes me uncomfortable, I have in response a review of a whisky released five years ago: a sherry cask Kilchoman bottled for K&L in California.
Kilchoman was not quite new at the time but they weren’t quite as established and didn’t have as much of an identity as they do now. But they were already producing whisky that belied its (young) age. I think the very first Kilchoman I had was a 3 yo bottled for Binny’s in 2010 (I don’t think I reviewed it, but I do have a large reference sample saved…) and it was way better than any 3 yo whisky has any right to be. Most of the ones that I have reviewed have been just a bit older (including another K&L cask, this one ex-bourbon, and a PX cask bottled for WIN in the Netherlands). I’ve generally liked them all. And I can tell you before you get to the review that I liked this one—which was probably distilled at around the same time as that Binny’s ex-bourbon cask a lot. A more detailed accounting follows. Continue reading
Here now is my last distillery report from our visit to Scotland in June. Fittingly, it’s of the most recently built, functioning distillery on Islay, Kilchoman. The smallest distillery on the island, it’s the one that’s least like the others: the most remote (relatively speaking), located not on the water but among farms, and absolutely independently owned. I’ve liked their malt since the very first one I ever tasted—a 3 yo bottled for Binny’s in 2010—and so I was glad to be able to stop in for a few minutes on our way for a ramble around Machir Bay (Kilchoman may not be on the water but you’re never far from the water on Islay). Continue reading
This is my first Kilchoman that’s been anywhere near a Pedro Ximinez sherry cask. It was bottled for Whisky Import Nederland in 2014 (I’m not sure if it is still available). It was only finished in PX and the outturn was a mere 258 bottles. This suggests that it started out in a bourbon hogshead, though it’s not clear to me if in such instances they would only fill a sherry butt halfway to finish one bourbon cask or if two bourbon casks get dumped in together and the product then split for separate releases; if so, the cask number below may just be for the cask in which the whisky was finished. In other words, perhaps more Glendronach-style labeling. Or maybe not—if you know more, please write in below.
At any rate, I’m intrigued to try this. While I’ve not loved every Kilchoman I’ve tried, I am a big fan of the distillery and curious to see how their spirit stands up to the heavier and sweeter PX sherry. Let’s get right to it. Continue reading
This is one of K&L’s exclusive bottlings of Kilchoman and therefore THE GREATEST WHISKY FROM THE GREATEST DISTILLERY EVER! Well, I don’t know what Driscoll actually said about it as I don’t really read him regularly anymore—you can let me know if I’m very far off the mark.
Michael K., the depraved bastard who writes Diving for Pearls, proposed a bottle split of this some time ago. I’d completely forgotten about it till I got to Los Angeles and then he accused me of trying to renege on the deal and it got kind of ugly. Anyway, as recompense I had to agree to simul-review this, and I believe Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail is also doing one. So, after reading this you should go to their blogs and see exactly how they got it wrong. I’ll provide the links once I have them. As always, we won’t see each others’ reviews till they go up.
It’s been a while since I last tasted (or reviewed a Kilchoman). I have a large number of samples sitting on my shelves from swaps and previously deceased bottles and it’s time to bring their number down a bit.
Kilchoman, as you probably know, is the youngest distillery on Islay. They’re a very small distillery, with very limited output (compared to the big boys on the island) but their reputation is quite high. They may not be set up to produce much but what they put out is invariably good. For their regular releases they use barley peated at the Port Ellen maltings on Islay to about 50 ppm (which is at Ardbeg levels) but for these 100% Islay releases (of which this is the 3rd edition) they use only barley malted on site to 20-25 ppm (see Jordan D.’s post from late-2013 confirming this). This means this will be quite unlike the other Kilchomans I’ve tried and so I’m quite looking forward to it. Continue reading
There have been two releases of Kilchoman’s Machir Bay and this is the first. While the bottle label does not specify the year, the box does. The second release came a year later in 2013. I don’t really keep up with distillery news and so I’m not sure whether the Machir Bay series is intended as an ongoing regular expression until they get to whatever their regular age stated release is going to be, or what the relationship is between this and the vintage releases. If you know please chime in below.
This runs between $50 and $60 in most US markets which puts it slightly above my proposed price ceiling for young NAS whisky.