Wow, these big peaty bottles don’t usually come this early in the Calendar, but here we are on day three and we are already having a cask strength Kilchoman. Brace yourselves!
We are big fans of this Islay distillery at Kensington Wine Market. Kilchoman is relatively young by Scottish standards, as they have only been distilling since 2005. Even though much of their single malt releases would still be considered young, Kilchoman produces a robust, rich, and moderate to heavily peated spirit that shows tremendous complexity even at well under 10 years of age.
So how does Kilchoman manage to make such a richly flavoured and approachable dram even in its relative youth? What did they figure out? I think there are a few reasons for this.
- Keep tight control over your spirit cut, focusing on the sweeter side of things. Another distillery that in my opinion has very easy to drink whisky at a young age is Arran. Arran’s Lochranza distillery has been around for nearly a decade more than Kilchoman, but both seem to favour that rich, oily, yet soft and flavour forward style of spirit. New BenRiachs have a lot of this style to them as well.
- Peated whisky is more forgiving than unpeated whisky at a young age. Most bottlings of Kilchoman are peated to a 50PPM peat spec, the same as Ardbeg uses. Only their 100% Islay releases which utilize their farm’s own barley and floor maltings have a lighter peat level at around 20PPM. That peat and smoke actually makes the young whisky more approachable in my opinion. This isn’t just Kilchoman that it happens with either, either. We have seen many young peated Caol Ila’s, peated Bunnahabhain’s, peated Loch Lomonds and more that were very, very drinkable. Peat can cover a lot of rough edges, partially by being a rough edge itself. Unpeated whisky for me shows a lot more flaws imbalances in its youth. Without the smoke and peat to mask these, the spirit itself has no place to hide.
- Kilchoman distillery consulted from the get-go with the late, great spirit and oak guru Dr. Jim Swan. Before his death in 2017, Jim Swan was integral in getting many distilleries on the right track. The list of who he contracted with includes Kavalan, Penderyn, Amrut, Cotswolds, Milk and Honey, and many more.
- One of the many things that Dr. Jim Swan pushed was having a good wood policy. It pays to be picky about the casks that you put your whisky into, and being discerning means that you won’t have as many off or bad casks in the future. Wasting resources in this way could drain money from a young distillery especially.
There are more reasons that Kilchoman is as good as it is, but to me, those four points are crucial. It is why Kensington Wine Market has been able to select and sell now eight single casks from the distillery – even though only two of those casks were even ten years old. The rest were typically between three and five years of age.
So how does are new 7 year old Kilchoman single cask stack up? Crack open door number three, then crack open the mini, and let’s find out!
Our 8th exclusive single cask of Kilchoman is a 7-year-old matured in a single Ex-Bourbon Cask, No. 770, bottled at 56.8%.
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: Milk Chocolate, saw dust, olive brine, fatty bacon, salt, lemongrass, mint tea, tea tree oil, olive oil, lime zest, green bananas, fresh scallops, vanilla custard, and a touch of pear drops.
Palate: Smokey, salty, and creamy on the tongue. icing sugar, peanut brittle, almond paste, green apples, lime zest again, and the peppery notes you get from and arugula salad.
Finish: Creamy, salty and smokey again on the fade. It warms you up – but hey – it is a 56.8% peated malt so it should!
Comment: I talked about smoke and peat a lot in the buildup to this, but for all of that there is still a ton of flavour to be found. THAT is what makes Kilchoman so good at a young age. Sure, the smoke and peat is there. It isn’t JUST smoke and peat though.
Three mini bottles in and we have covered a lot of range so far. What will the Calendar offer us tomorrow? See you on day four!
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*The Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar is produced under license from Secret Spirits, Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar™