As part of my Islay visit in February 2012, we managed to get across to Kilchoman distillery.
I recommend anyone visiting Islay with a loved one, particularly one not into drinking whisky, that they make a day out of visiting the west coast. Pack a picnic (and a hip flask) and head over to Machir Bay on the west coast. You can have a lovely beach walk, maybe even a beach picnic if the weather goes your way. The more adventurous can have a beach hack with a local riding school.
In February, the weather was dry but very cold and windy. Hardly sunbathing weather! So we had our walk, ate the picnic in the car, then headed round the corner to Islay’s farm distillery for a very personal tour of a tiny place.
And Kilchoman really is tiny! I’ve never seen smaller stills and washbacks! This only adds to the charm of the place and you really feel like this is a farm that also has a couple of stills.
After the tour comes the tasting and we got to sample the whole range at the time, including the then just about to be released Machir bay expression, named after the beach that, if you have followed my advice, you will have just come from. I liked the Machir Bay, but the dram that really caught my palate was this one:
Kilchoman Inaugral 100% Islay. This is Kilchoman, but made 100% from ingredients grown on Islay. So they take local barley, malt it themselves on their own malting floor, make the whisky and mature it right there. It’s more expensive, but you could really tell the difference between the 100% islay and the standard Kilchoman. Here are the dramstats:
- Price: ~£70
- ABV 46%
- Non coloured
- Non chill filtered
Nose: Tropical fruits, banana, mango, passion fruit, coconut, and, of course, peat smoke. Vanilla, creamy barley. Time in the glass leads to sticky smoked chinese style ribs. This is still obviously young though.
Palate: Creamy smoke, more medicinal than the nose. Faint passion fruit and creamy barley. Almost like porridge made with barley not oats, (if there is such a thing).
Finish: Smoked coconut and banana with mango. It’s subtle and very nice. Malted milks fade.
Verdict: It’s nice but it does need a few more years. I’d like to try this at 6 or 7 years old. You get the notes I mention if you work hard, but there is a lot of that youthful harshness to get through first. At £70 I would not buy this again. I realise that growing and malting the barley on Islay adds to the cost of producing the whisky, but you might think that some of that cost would have been offset by only having to have stored it for 3 years and by having barely tired the cask (so that it can be reused many more times). It is, by far and away, the best 3 year old I’ve ever had, but the price is pretty annoying.
You may ask why I bought it, and I think, to be honest, I wasn’t considering price and was treating it more like a holiday souvenir. I’ll be looking out for the 100% Islay Kilhomans and, specifically, looking for them to get older and come down to a reasonable price point. Kilchoman is a great distillery and a great place to visit, but I have come away feeling somewhat of a sucker. 😦