Dram Review: Kilchoman Single Cask Release (For the Japanese market)

[59.9%・5 Years Old・Distilled in 2009・Bottled in 2015・Official Bottling・Cask No. 407/2009・Single Cask Release of 678 Bottles]

Nose:

Pungently brine-y, oily toffee with a hearty dosage of raisins and raspberries. The nose fares a tad earthy and dusty, with seaweed and ashes eased by fig syrup.

Palate & Finish:

More raisins coming through, maple syrup getting drizzled on black cherries as the oiliness of the stickily sweet toffee settles to the base. The vegetative note hits thereafter as sea water and the seaweed driven peat wash up.

A relaxed finish of brown sugar, pepper and menthol.

Thoughts:

Personally I think the Sherried or Sherry finished single casks from Kilchoman in the past few years haven’t really caught the wave on full stride, somewhat promising but also could use some poise. This is likely to change with their stock becoming more mature.

This cask is solid however at 5 years old, what it lacks in grace it shows in flair. Close to scoring a star.

✓ [Recommended if you like the distillery/style]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Kilchoman Single Cask 100% Islay Exclusively Bottled for HNWS Taiwan 

Style: Sweet, Herbal and Smoky

Nose:
A half-syrupy, herbal dose of Islay smoke. Barbeque pork on the main palate whereas the Kilchoman confectionaries are scattered on the side. Semi-dissolved muscovado sugar lightly brushed on top of it. Iodine, dirty kelp and roasted barley sitting quite deep. Interesting aroma.

Palate:
Waves of brown sugar water rush in and carrying the flavours – starting with coastal breeze, smoked kelp, followed by a confectionary-sweetened, bright malty core. Liquorice highlighted by herbal overtone, anise (?), vanilla pods, taking a hint of creaminess while the spice cuts through the expression. Challenging but an interesting palate.

Finish:
The herbal spicy theme rests and the tone begins to settle down. Confectionary sweetness breathing out in a more relax pace and the smoke gently lurking at the back.

Thoughts:
When I look at the colour I assume this is going to be an Islay sherry bomb, instead, it is more like a vessel to carry and transmit the other elements in the spirit. Sweet confectionary notes, lesser maritime influence, but a strong herbal edge with subtleties residing in it, it is still Kilchoman through and through, but there is an interesting twist to it.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[57.8% / Original Bottling / 2011 Distilled / 2017 Bottled / Single Cask / Cask Strength / Cask Number: 617/2011 / Matured in a Sherry cask / Aged 5 Years]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Kilchoman Fresh Bourbon Cask Sample #175/06

Style: Bright and Smoky

Nose:
Bright aroma as the curtain of heavy smoke lifted beautifully by bourbon fruits. Dryness and spices combines with fresh ginger while the peat slowly comes through. Beautiful nose.

Palate:
Pear drop, honey and caramel springs off from ginger, very fresh, almost grassy at times. Magnificent touch. Smoke looms in the middle with burning ember and spices. Briny at the back with the malt swaying lightly while the others on the retreat.

Finish:
Briny brushes as peat smoke lingering. Lemon and aloe vera to give a bit of sweetness.

Thoughts:
If I remember correctly this is a control cask for the Machir Bay bourbon component. A lovely 10 years old giving a very bright and classy vibe. Sweet and nicely layered. More than qualified for a single cask if you ask me. Superb whisky.

☆ [Recommended]

[57% • 2016 Bottled  • Original Bottling • Cask Strength • Cask Sample Aged 10 Years • Cask Number: 175/06 • Quick Impression]

-Esmond

 

Dram Review: Kilchoman Loch Gorm Bottled 2017

[46.0%・Distilled in 2009・Bottled in 2017・Official Bottling・General]

Nose:

A very bright nose with dark cherries, prune syrup and coastal peat all being highlighted. It’s uncomplicated and clean with a brush of heather drawing out the brine and oyster shells.

Palate & Finish:

Blackcurrants folded into butterscotch fudge. Sour plums giving that juicy edge over the peat and vanilla cream base. Pepper and ginger with hints of chocolate coated hazelnuts and marshmallow “rocky road”.

Quite a drawn out finish with the maritime peat.

Thoughts:

Tasty Sherried expression from the young Islay distillery.

I must admit in the past I haven’t really been a fan of their non-Buffalo Trace casked expressions but it seems like they are starting to get the hang of things. Let’s see how this expression will evolve with a few more years under its belt..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Kilchoman Madeira Cask Matured

Tasting Notes:

Kilchoman Madeira Cask Matured

Style: Sweet and Smooth

Nose:

Grind black pepper over toffee and fruit cake. Honey, chocolate and sugar plums with a touch of acidity. Briny peat smoke swiftly follows but in a rather modest fashion. Nice balance of sweetness, mellow spice.

Palate:

Juicy ruby grapes sails through on the forefront. Again the sweetness is pleasantly weighted. Silky chocolate with a light sip of smoky water. Sultanas with an oily texture, going slightly soapy. More peat undertone unwraps at the back.

Finish:

Extra sultanas as malt vaguely visible on the horizon. A slight hint of smoke and dryness towards the end.

Thoughts:

My quick impression on this is the integration of flavours is excellent – another sipper in my opinion. Nice sweetness and quite smooth that I did not feel it is a 50% abv. Although I feel the smoky signature of Kilchoman is slightly subdued when compared to the others, if you have a sweet tooth but testing water with peaty, smoky whiskies, I think this is a new alternative malt you can try.

[50% •  2015 •  Original Bottling •  Non Chill Filtered •  Non Coloured •  Aged 3 to 5 Years]

-Esmond

Bang for your buck: Kilchoman Sanaig

[46%・2016・NAS・Original Bottling・General Release]

If you visit your local Australia bottle shop as often as I do, chances are you would have noticed that there has been a dramatic price drop on the Kilchoman range, in particular the Sanaig which only came to Australia earlier this year.  Still, priced between $110- $140 at the moment, the Sanaig is exactly everyone’s idea of an entry level Islay whisky.

In the age of NAS, it does feel like whiskies with age labels are inherently the valued picks, though one can argue that Sanaig doesn’t actually need an age statement when the distillery itself has just celebrated its tenth year of existence.

It’s of course worth noting that most whiskies available in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s were young whiskies, mostly 10 years of age, rarely older than 16; this is especially true for peaty whiskies, one theory is that they really don’t need that much maturation since the cask influence tend to diminish the characters of the spirit.

Nose:

Back to the Sanaig, it really doesn’t feel young at all despite the lack of an age statement, the spirit comes across as being rather mellow with none of those volatile new make characters. The peat smoke is akin to smoked bacon, oily with the milky and peppery notes giving it enough strength but keeping everything at bay, nothing offensive jumps out at all.

Palate & Finish:

The peat is full-flavoured despite being compressed by other sweeter, fruitier characters, not much has been stripped off or diluted despite not being bottled at cask strength. 46% feels just about right, striking a balance that’s quite a rare sight for contemporary expressions that largely focus on either hiking up the rough, peaty profile or providing something utterly inoffensive.

The finishing however is really the highlight of the dram, lengthy and far exceeding one’s expectations of a young whisky. Also, the finishing feels natural, it’s one continuous motion that seamlessly transitioned from the palate, with just nicks of dark chocolate dust that makes one salivate without either proving to be overly complicated nor a let down.

Thoughts:

The Sanaig was said to have contained “predominately sherry (Oloroso) cask influence” (vatted along with bourbon casks), but it really doesn’t feel as though the casks have been particularly loud. The dram feels like a genuine homage towards how whiskies were like in the old days, crafted to please rather than to excite.

During Whisky Live Singapore, I got chatting with an independent bottler and one of the organisers of the event and we were discussing the three key components of whisky making: fermentation, distillation and maturation. They have of course been drinking well made whiskies for decades and they were adamant that the fermentation and distillation processes from the past were superior.

I was curious as to which distillery still manages to produce new make on par with the old. They nominated Glendronach and Kilchoman.

If you are still not convinced, the Sanaig is and will be a “continuously available release”, a phrase that has been used too scarcely these days; and this is really what bang for the buck is about, something you can get for a good price from just about any shelf.

☆ [Recommended]

Nicholas

For my previous quick thoughts on the Kilchoman Sanaig, click here.

 

Whisky Review: Kilchoman Original Cask Strength

Tasting Notes:

Kilchoman Original Cask Strength 2014 ☆ [Recommended]

Style: Lively and Smoky

Nose: 

A big puff of charcoal smoke with a briny bite on the nose. Chilli flakes, towering spices with a touch of grassy notes. The core sits quite deep and unravels at a sluggish pace – quiet floral sweetness, and opens up to lavish honey with smoked cedar wood aroma. Drier undertone with sea salt, mineral notes and earthy peat.

Palate:

Smoky water, delicious honey layer on top, topped with nice icing sugar sweetness. Raw timber shavings seasoned with white pepper, followed by a massive tropical fructose rush, pineapple and coconut notes blossom extravagantly. Finishes off with roasted walnuts, fresh oak and light vanilla. Peat smoke fuming gently from the back.

Finish:

Soft peat smoke swaying, light vanilla oak and wonderful pineapple notes with a dash of sea salt gives a lengthy finish.

Thoughts:

A lovely malt which showcased the charisma of young Islay characteristics – Powerful, bold, vivid with explicit sweetness. It is rather smoky while the peat is comparatively subtle which brings out the brighter side of the tropical fruits, beautiful. Lively with some nice twist and turns. I like it! (59.2%/2014/CS/NCF/NC/OB)

[59.2% • 2014 • Cask Strength • Non Chill Filtered • Non Coloured • Original Bottling • No Age Statement]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Kilchoman Small Batch Release 4th Edition

Tasting Notes: 

Kilchoman Club Small Batch Release Fourth Edition

Style: Ashy and Subtly Sweet

Nose:

A puff of sweet vine grapes quickly engulfed by ashy smoke. Followed by a dash of rice vinegar, pepper and spice. Creamy caramel can be traced in the almost overwhelming smokescreen, is this a competition with Lagavulin? No…Different style, not as meaty. Clearer fruits and peat sitting at the finish line.

Palate:

The sweetness from the grapes amplifies, yes, some French dessert wine this is, satisfying sweet and grape-y fragrance filling my mouth. Then I am shrouded in smoke again, flakes of ashes fired up with heated spice, this is no ordinary Kilchoman. The sweetness in the body stays strong, it transcended to a multiple fruitiness, some orange and mango notes… The oak gives an extra bitter bite at the very end.

Finish:

Plenty of grapes and fruits sweetness lingering on the finish without too much hassle, the veil of smoke slowly waning. Left we have more of the oak and peat. Ticklish spice fizzles for a short bit and all comes to an end.

Thoughts:

I tried a fair few Kilchomans and this is something different. You have a lot of smoke in this. While I think the sweetness from the Sauternes was utilised to balance against the robust smoke, but interestingly the flavours did not merge. Instead the sweetness and smokiness are somewhat parallel to each other, it is like a dessert sweet Kilchoman is traced by a shadow of smoke and burning ashes. Bold, interesting character that I enjoyed more and more when I re-taste it (Yes, I usually taste a few times when I write my reviews, if it is my own bottle…).

[60% • 2015 • Non Chill Filtered • Non Coloured • Cask Strength • Aged approximately 5 years • Limited Edition • Bottle Number 352 • 909 Bottles]

Whisky Review: Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014

Tasting Notes:

Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014 Edition ☆

Style: Maritime and Delicate Fruits

Nose:

Starts with sea-salt rubbed pineapple notes which offer fresh, sweet fruitiness and vibrant youthfulness, a touch of seaweed flakes, the saltiness and slightly peaty aroma has effectively masked the distant vanilla and pecan hiding behind the scene.

Palate:

Delicate first touch at the palate. The texture is so delicate and silky that not a particle is offensive when it reaches you tongue… The flavour slowly unwinds and we have some creamy coconut ice cream, freshly cut pineapple at the side, topped with a few drops of hazelnut oil and orange zest, delicious dessert! A small pinch of white pepper and spice was added towards the end of the course and the smoke and peat rolling in at the back to set in a deeper tone.

Finish:

The remaining peat mixes with dried apricots, faint hints of hazelnuts and vanilla oak. Light fruitiness and tender creaminess stays on long enough to enjoy.

Thoughts:

The Machir Bay is the very first Kilchoman that I have come across, the ultra-light character has made a huge impression on me. There is a wonderful character to this award winning dram, exceptionally light bodied whisky with sufficient flavours coming through. Light, lively and aromatic, slightly peated and smoked to give a lovely balance; the addition of nutty oloroso element makes the sweetness rounder and fuller… This is something that I recommend to those who haven’t tried it yet, remarkable stuff!

(2014/46%/OB/NCF/NC/LR)

-Esmond