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Kilchoman may be Islay’s newest distillery but it has already gained a reputation as a producer of some excellent whiskies.
Kilchoman was founded by Anthony Wills in 2005. Having previously run an independent bottler, Wills became intrigued with the prospect of creating a traditional farm distillery and decided that Islay would be the ideal place for such a venture. Within some disused farm buildings, Kilchoman began to take shape, surrounded on all sides by some of the best barley growing land on the island.
While Islay’s western coast was chosen for purely practical reasons, it is perhaps fate that a distillery would one day stand on this land. At the nearby Kilchoman Church stands an ancient Celtic cross, upon which is inscribed the name ‘MacBeatha’. The MacBeatha were scholars and men of science and medicine who arrived on Islay having left Co. Antrim in Ireland. They made their home at Kilchoman and some believe that it was they who translated the ancient Latin texts on distilling into Gaelic. It is perhaps not beyond imagination that they put their knowledge to good use on this rugged, Atlantic coast.
In many ways, Islay’s newest distillery is a window to the past. It is a glimpse into the old-fashioned way of doing things, with barley grown on the farm, distilled, matured and bottled onsite. Of course, the surrounding farmland can’t supply enough barley to meet the distillery’s needs so the excess is brought in from Port Ellen maltings.
100% Islay is an annual batch whisky made completely with grain grown on the island.
100% Islay is bottled at 50% abv and at natural colour. Sensibly, Kilchoman do not chill filter any of their whisky, meaning you can expect good texture and mouthfeel from each expression.
Smell: 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: Right up my street, Creamy Vanilla, a touch of Coastal Salt, a bit of Honey and Lemon and then Smoke to wrap things up.
Thoughts: There’s no age statement here but we know Kilchoman is a young distillery without the aged stock. In any case, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest peated whisky works better at a young age. Granted, the price of £70 may put some off but the uniqueness of the product and the added cost of growing and malting your own barley may go some way to explaining that.
There’s a fine balance between the flavours of the barley and the peat while cask impact has wisely been kept to a minimum. What would be the point of going to all that trouble with the barley, only to swamp its flavour under oak.
Kilchoman is making some fantastic whisky and the 100% Islay, though expensive, is perhaps the most Kilchoman of Kilchoman whiskies.