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2020 has been an odd year and I’m sure many of us are looking forward to relaxing a little over Christmas. For me personally the year has been a bit of a slog but I’ve kept myself busy and despite a bout of what I suspect was Covid-19 back in April, I’ll be coming through the year relatively unscathed. It’s good to remember that many people weren’t so lucky.
Obviously whisky holds a special place in my heart throughout the year but at Christmas it seems to take on extra significance, to the point I now can’t imagine the holiday season without a wee dram of an evening. I love putting the Christmas tree up, or more accurately, I love having the tree up – putting it up with the “assistance” of my 5 year old daughter has become akin to a bizarre form of psychological torture dreamed up by one of Satan’s most depraved minions. Once it’s up though, and I’ve re-arranged all the bits my daughter made an arse of, I can sit back with a dram and really get into the festive spirit.
The winter months in Glasgow, much like the summer months for that matter, tend to be cold and very, very damp so a warming dram is a most welcome thing and there’s nothing more satisfying on a cold day than a drop of a peated malt – even more so if it’s been matured in Sherry. One such dram is Kilchoman’s Loch Gorm, an annually released single malt matured exclusively in Oloroso casks. For their 2020 release they combined 21 sherry butts from 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.
Kilchoman was the eighth distillery on the isle of Islay, built at a time when few were looking at scotch as the big-money business opportunity it is now. In order to stand out from the rest, Kilchoman was created within some derelict buildings on Rockside Farm with the intention of growing their own barley. Such was the distillery’s success, they ended up buying the farm and have recently expanded their capacity, increasing their pot stills from two to four.
The Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2020 release is bottled at 46% and retailed for £75.
Smell: Raisins, caramel and tobacco leaves. Honey. Orange zest. Thick Islay peat smoke drifts throughout.
Taste: Again the smoke is there on the arrival, in the development and in the finish but there’s a lot more going on in the glass. There’s raisins and cranberry and cherry. Salted caramel and charred oak. Walnut, cinnamon and pepper. Water brings some honey, some apple and lemon. Even some shortbread.
Value for money: At £75 it’s not exactly a bargain dram, but neither are we in the ultra premium category here. Hard to imagine anyone who enjoys peated whisky in sherry casks being too disappointed either.
With a portion of the spirit distilled back in 2007, this is one of the most mature Loch Gorm bottlings we’ve seen. It’s also one of the best. It’s interesting because I’ve often wondered in the past if Kilchoman’s youth had become such an integral part of its character that older expressions would possibly appear to be lacking something. That certainly doesn’t appear to be the case where Loch Gorm is concerned though as the time in sherry butts has given the spirit a great depth of flavour. Crucially however, maturation in those casks hasn’t muted the smoke, meaning you’ll never be under any illusions as to where your dram came from. Christmas Day is all about indulgence, so why not help yourself to sherry and smoke in the same glass?
For more on Kilchoman, visit here.