Kilchoman is Islay’s newest distillery but it has very quickly gained a reputation for producing excellent, albeit young, whisky.
There is a theory that whisky making first arrived in Scotland on the Isle of Islay, when the MacBeatha (Beatons) arrived from Co. Antrim. The Beaton’s were known scholars and translated the details of distillation from Latin into Gaelic. They made their home at Kilchoman on Islay’s west coast. No more symbolic a location therefore, could have been chosen on which to build the island’s first new distillery in 124 years.
Kilchoman distillery was founded by Anthony Wills in 2005 and despite the historical significance of the location, it was chosen for much more practical reasons. Wills had previously run an independent bottler but was intrigued by the idea of operating a traditional farm distillery and thought Islay, with it’s reputation for quality, characterful whisky, was the ideal place. The distillery was established within some unused buildings on Rockside Farm, thought to be one of, if not the best barley growing site on the island.
A traditional farm distillery is exactly what Kilchoman is and in many ways, Islay’s newest distillery is a window into the past – a glimpse of how things were done in the old days. Barley is grown on the farm, turned into whisky and bottled on location, though it should be noted that the surrounding land cannot supply all their barley requirements and some is obtained from Diageo’s Port Ellen maltings to make up the shortfall. However, Kilchoman release an annual batch of ‘100% Islay’ whisky which uses only barley grown on site.
The Scores: About the Scoring…
Smell: 19.5 / 20. I’m enjoying this! There’s Malt and Cereal notes with Vanilla, a touch of Lemon with Ash and Grassy Smoke – like Burning Straw.
Taste: 19 / 20. Right up my street, Creamy Vanilla, a touch of Coastal Salt, a bit of Honey and Lemon and then Smoke to wrap things up.
Value for Money: 8 / 10. No age statement here, which may put some people off for the price of £60 – £70. Having said that, Kilchoman have somewhat perfected the art of making young whisky taste great and this is no exception. Add the uniqueness of the product in that it was planted, grown, malted, fermented, distilled, matured and bottled all in the same place and the cost starts to look a little more justified in my opinion.
Overall: 46.5 / 50. A fine balance between Barley and Smoke and an all round good example of a medium peated Islay. Not to mention, a little glimpse into the history of scotch whisky.