Kilchoman Loch Gorm (2018 Release)

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2018Distillery: Kilchoman
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

As usual, the 2018 edition of Kilchoman Loch Gorm is a vatting of whiskies that were aged exclusively in sherry casks. This makes Loch Gorm a much richer, sweeter proposition than other Kilchomans, and that’s never been more true than for the 2018 version. This year’s release comprises 15.000 bottles, made up of 19 ex-Oloroso sherry butts that were filled in 2007, 2008 and 2011. These are some of the oldest sherry casks ever filled at the distillery, and it shows: Loch Gorm 2018 is a stunner, a real sherry bomb of a Kilchoman. Of course, Kilchoman would not be Kilchoman without a generous helping of peat (50 ppm), so while this Loch Gorm is sweet and rounded, it’s also still a very lively Islay dram. All of this is right up my alley, so I can’t wait to dive straight into the review 🙂

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Kilchoman Distillery

Kilchoman Tasting

Today I had the pleasure of attending a whisky tasting led by Peter Wills, son of Kilchoman distillery owner Anthony Wills. Naturally then, there were some fantastic Kilchomans lined up for us to explore, and Peter was able to share his wealth of knowledge with us. A full description of the whiskies can be found below, but first a short introduction to Kilchoman distillery.

Kilchoman distillery was opened in 2005, becoming the first new distillery on Islay in 124 years. Located in a farmhouse where all processes from malting, distilling, maturing and bottling take place, Kilchoman provides an interesting insight into what a traditional whisky distillery may have looked like two centuries ago. Correspondingly, Kilchoman is by far the smallest distillery on Islay in terms of capacity, and indeed one of the smallest in Scotland.

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Kilchoman Sanaig

Kilchoman SanaigDistillery: Kilchoman
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 46%

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!

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Islay Tasting

islay-tasting-01

For a long time now I had been intending to organise a tasting that includes each of Islay’s eight distilleries, and tonight the time had finally come. Known for its distinctively peaty, smoky whiskies, the island of Islay is often considered a whisky region in its own right. This is no wonder, as the island lives and breathes whisky, providing the lifeblood for a population of just over 3000 people. Peat bogs are ubiquitous, the salty sea breeze can be felt anywhere and the sight of a distillery’s chimney is never far away.

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Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014

Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014Distillery: Kilchoman
Region: Islay
Age: Vatting of 5 and 6 year old malt
abv: 46%

Opened in 2005, Kilchoman was the first distillery to be built on Islay in 124 years. Like so many whisky distilleries in the old days, Kilchoman is built on a farm that produces its own barley. While most distilleries have gone on to become large production sites, Kilchoman is as of yet very small, giving a unique insight into what a whisky distillery might have looked like two centuries ago. Indeed, all processes, from malting, distilling, maturing and bottling, currently take place on the farm, making Kilchoman unique on Islay. This means that the distillery is well worth a visit, and I can certainly recommend their tour!

From the very moment that its first spirit became whisky, Kilchoman has boasted a large fan base. This is impressive, given that many whiskies at 3 years old are quite undrinkable, let alone marketable. Yet Kilchoman’s raw spirit is of an exceptional quality, allowing for its whisky to be bottled at such a tender age. While I love the youthful, intrepid character of their whiskies, I can’t wait to taste what Kilchoman will be like after a few years’ extra maturation. For now all the signs indicate Kilchoman have a very bright future ahead of them!

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