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KWM 2022 Whisky Calendar Day 10: Kilchoman Sanaig

Posted on December 10, 2022

BONUS CONTENT: Read Andrew's write-up on two of our many Arran KWM Casks here! 

by Evan

We have eschewed more established brands and styles for the past few days in the 2022 KWM Whisky Calendar. If you have purchased any of our calendars in years past, Door Number 10 may have a more familiar distillery for you to return to. Today’s whisky is the Kilchoman Sanaig.

Kilchoman Distillery has to be one of our most featured whisky producers through the nine iterations of the KWM Whisky Calendar.

Enough with the wild and possibly inaccurate numbers. Want to know a little more about Kilchoman Distillery? Well then, I am happy to accommodate!

Kilchoman Distillery was founded waaaaay back in... 2005. It is currently the youngest distillery on Islay to produce Whisky - and will remain that way until the younger Ardnahoe Distillery (which started producing its first spirit in October of 2018) has its first whisky release. Kilchoman was founded by Anthony Wills and resides on Rockside Farm on Islay. It is the only farm distillery on Islay, and one of the only Islay that is not located right on the shores of the island. Kilchoman's nearest distillery neighbours are Bruichladdich, which is a 15-minute drive to the east and Bowmore, which is a 25-minute drive to the east. 

Like a majority of the nine operating distilleries on Islay, Kilchoman focuses on mashing and distilling peated malt. Much of the distillery's malted barley needs are sourced from the Port Ellen Maltings plant which is about a 40-minute drive to the east and south along the A846 road. Kilchoman sources malted barley peated to the same specification as Ardbeg, which is around 50 ppm.

The distillery also operates its own floor maltings which account for a small portion of its spirit production. The barley used for the floor maltings comes from their own Rockside Farm, making Kilchoman one of the only Scottish Distilleries capable of doing batches that are entirely grain to glass. These releases are often bottled under the 100% Islay moniker and their own floor maltings are peated to 'only' 20 ppm or so.

So: onto the elephant in the room. The Kilchoman Sanaig, which takes its name from an inlet on Islay's Atlantic Coast side, was featured in a previous KWM Whisky Calendar. That was six years ago, way back on Day Two of our 2016 KWM Whisky Calendar. You can read Andrew’s take on the whisky in his notes there.

Will his notes hold up? As a younger and relatively small distillery, Kilchoman may be prone to batch variation. The whisky staff at KWM were surprised by this near the beginning of Covid when we noticed a rather large change in the colour of the whisky in full-sized bottles of the Kilchoman Sanaig – all of a sudden the liquid was a lot darker than previous releases. Since the bottles themselves all say NO COLOURING ADDED, we assumed there were either more sherry casks or more first-fill casks being put into this single malt, which is typically a vatting of about 20% ex-Bourbon and 80% ex-Sherry (mostly ex-Oloroso Sherry casks).

So: what, if anything has changed in the intervening six years? Not much in the world itself, of course! We are living pretty much the same way as we did in 2016. Right? Anybody?

I wonder if the Sanaig has evolved as much as life itself has. Let’s give it a taste!

Kilchoman Sanaig – 46%

Also available in full-size bottles

Evan’s Tasting Note

Nose: Ocean waves crash against a rock-strewn shore with a driftwood-fueled bonfire crackling in the background. Salty licorice, stewed plums, unpasteurized apple juice, bounce dryer sheets, and a jar of green olives in brine.

Palate: Smoky and salty with peaches and cream, more unfiltered apple juice, hazelnuts in chocolate, dates, raisins, salted toffee, grilled pineapple, and fresh mint leaves.

Finish: Salty, smoky and smooth with dark fruit, hazelnut, and licorice notes sticking around.

Comment: It could be just my imagination, but I feel this and other recent batches are showing a more sherry-driven nature in both the whisky colour and style compared to earlier releases. It used to be much more Machir Bay than Loch Gorm in style – now it is far enough from those releases to be its own thing.

As with all things Kilchoman, I find this to be one hell of a dram. No surprise there since I have yet to meet a Kilchoman I don’t like. The streak continues! See you tomorrow.

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This entry was posted in Whisky, Whisky Calendars, KWM Whisky Calendar 2022



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