Origin: Isle of Islay (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing casks: Ex-Bourbon
Additional coloring: No
Average price: € 89.00
Official website: kilchomandistillery.com
Discussing Kilchoman’s other bottlings, we have already talked about their focus on terroir, provenance and treatment of raw materials.
In particular, the 100% Islay range, released every year since 2011, uses barley sourced exclusively from Islay and grown by a single farm in the fields surrounding the distillery, with the subsequent process (malting, distillation, ageing and bottling) carried out entirely on site: from barley to bottle, in their words.
Each edition differs from the previous one not only in the most obvious part (length of ageing) but also in the casks used to age the whisky.
Compared to its predecessor, which was aged around half in ex-Sherry Oloroso casks and half in ex-Bourbon casks, this 2019 edition (born from the 2007 and 2009 harvests) is the result of combining 43 ex-Bourbon casks.
The reason, we let Anthony Wills, Kilchoman’s founder and Master Distiller, explain directly:
“Our 100% Islay distillate is a perfect match for the ex-Bourbon casks. Lower peat values (20ppm) allow the distillate’s natural floral sweetness to shine through, while a higher ageing profile adds layers of very ripe tropical fruit and cooked plums, with the high alcohol content maintaining its depth.”
Light gold with copper veins in the glass.
The peatiness is very evident on the nose, even if not very high, enlivened by the sweet notes of ripe apricots, vanilla, a splash of lemon and a distinct salinity. If you let it breathe, the peat grows and becomes more fleshy, the alcohol well integrated and not at all intrusive.
The smoke floods the palate, more ashy than barbecue, much more intense and full-bodied than on the nose, dragging along plums, lemon, a touch of herbaceousness, all resting on an ocean of saltiness. The flavors actually struggle to emerge, the peat and salinity are so pungent that they eat away at almost everything, underpinned by the alcohol content. On the length, a hint of ginger.
The finish is long, of used ashtray, salt and spices.
Peat lovers will be tickled, even though the parts per million are relatively low, it’s pretty tough, even too tough: the dram isn’t very layered and tends to be one-dimensional, which is a shame.