Age: No age statement
Kilchoman has been hugely successful in gaining an early fan base (myself included), who eagerly lap up all the limited editions that the distillery releases. Since Kilchoman’s whisky is so very drinkable from a young age, there have been several cask finishes to generate income while the rest of the distillery’s stock matures. While some of these releases have been excellent (the Port Cask was particularly brilliant), it is always a little bit sad when you finish your bottle and there is no way to get another. Luckily, Kilchoman Sanaig is now here to stay, forming Kilchoman’s core range together with Machir Bay.
Like Loch Gorm, Sanaig is named after a geographical feature close to the distillery. As whisky makers continue to release new bottlings, I have to say the topographical references become more and more obscure (Bowmore Black Rock or Old Pulteney’s Lighthouse Series are good examples), but hey, every whisky needs a name… More importantly, Kilchoman Sanaig has received an additional maturation in Oloroso sherry casks, imbuing the whisky with sweet, fruity notes, as well as a bit of extra character. While this dram retains plenty of punch and smoke, Sanaig is much more graceful and complex when compared to the peaty onslaught of Machir Bay. I think the sherry finish complements the distillery character rather well, and this a very well-balanced and enjoyable dram!
Nose: Lively, with an immediate rush of peat smoke and salty sea spray blazing out of the glass to meet you. Yet there are also fruity notes, with orange peel, pear and raisins in attendance. The smoke fades into more earthy aromas of peat bog and fragrant heather, before giving way to scents of grilled lobster and subtle seaweed. On the whole, more mellow and elegant than I am used to from Kilchoman.
Palate: Soft-bodied and surprisingly smooth. Thick layers of wood smoke dominate, burning down ever so slowly into oaky ash and cinders. Then a creamy profile takes over, with cocoa nibs and a hint of vanilla. The palate is not quite as fruity as the nose suggests, but still rather sweet. Cracked black peppercorn and smoked seafood provide a fiery punch leading up to the finish.
Finish: The bonfire continues, with notes of heavily charred wood and toasted barley. The fruity flavours from the nose also make a return, but now it’s as if they’ve been flame grilled. The finish is medium long but intensely warming, with a good, oaky aftertaste.
Verdict: This new offering from Kilchoman ticks all the right boxes, and it’s great to have an extra addition to the core range that you can keep coming back to. Compared to the Machir Bay, the Sanaig has a more intense and diverse flavour bouquet, with added depth. While Machir Bay is largely focused on smoke alone, the Sanaig is more elegant and refined, in as far as this is possible in a whisky so young. The sherry finish does take some of the rougher edges off this whisky, but it’s still very youthful and feisty, and thankfully Sanaig does not lose its signature Kilchoman kick. Although sold at a slightly higher price point than the Machir Bay, the extra layer of sweetness and complexity justifies the price hike. Sanaig is another great example of why I love Kilchoman distillery, and I will be eagerly awaiting any new releases!