1257 Kensington Road NW
1 (403) 283-8000 / [email protected]
The Kilchoman Machir Bay is matured in a combination of ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks, but much heavier on the ex-Bourbon side of things. The peat level of the malt is around 50 PPM and sourced from Port Ellen Maltings. This is the same spec that Ardbeg Distillery uses. Thanks to its peaty profile and mostly ex-Bourbon cask makeup, Kilchoman’s website states that the main traits of this bottling include “Citrus fruit, layered vanilla and butterscotch”.50ml ml
Nose: Salty and coastal with, vanilla yogurt, grapefruit peels, green apples, and mezcal-like spirit notes.
Palate: Dark chocolate and sea salt plus creamy oatmeal with apples and cinnamon, shortbread, and chamomile tea.
Finish: Fresh and coastal with light malt notes.
Comment: So well put together. More salty and coastal than I remember, but it has been a while since I have revisited the Machir Bay. Kilchoman is at its best when it has this creamy style.
The following was written by Andrew Ferguson for Celtic Life Magazine in 2017. Since then the distillery has doubled the number of stills, increasing its production considerably--albeit modestly by the standards of the industry. It is still the smallest distillery on Islay, and one of the smallest in Scotland.
On a cold, windy, and rainy evening in late May of this year, I made my way to a new maturation warehouse built on a low hill overlooking Loch Indaal. I was on the island of Islay for Feis Isle, the Islay Whisky Festival, the holiest of events in the whisky pilgrim’s calendar. This year’s festival was extra special, as two of Scotland’s most iconic distilleries, Lagavulin and Laphroaig, were marking their 200th anniversaries. While these two industry giants were the unofficial special focus of this year’s festivities, they weren’t the only distillery marking a significant milestone. 2015 is also the 10th anniversary of the founding of Kilchoman, Islay’s first new distillery in 124 years. So with the wind howling outside and sheets of rain violently rolling across the building’s roof, I made my way into a dunnage warehouse with 60 other pilgrims for a very special tasting.
The tasting was a look back at Kilchoman’s first decade and what a decade it has been. We sampled a cask from 2006, its first full year of production, and other barrel samples from 2007, 2009, and a number from 2010. It was a rare opportunity to see the whisky’s evolution. The tasting was hosted by the distillery’s founder and managing director, Anthony Wills. Anthony’s vision was to build a small farm distillery, effectively taking Scotch whisky back to its roots. Most of Scotland’s distilleries, even giants like Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and Macallan all started out as farm distilleries.
In just 10 short years the distillery has nurtured a cult following for its whisky and built a well-earned reputation for quality. Founding a distillery, even a small-scale farm distillery like Kilchoman is no easy feat. Kilchoman’s advisors knew the distillery couldn’t wait 10 years to bottle their spirit, so it had to be flawless right off the bat. They also knew that they would need top-quality casks for maturation. To survive Kilchoman would have to start selling its whisky at a young age, and it would have to be good. There was a lot of anticipation surrounding the release of the “Kilchoman Inaugural Release” in 2009. Interest in Scotch whisky was at a fever pitch, and Islay whiskies were hotter still. The first release didn’t disappoint, and neither have the subsequent ones.
Kilchoman is entering its second decade with confidence, momentum, and a loyal following. The distillery is still bottling young, very peaty Islay whiskies, and it is still turning heads. The distillery’s success has encouraged other small-scale and farm distilleries to pop up all over Scotland. So many that I’ve frankly lost track of.
For a period after its launch, Kilchoman primarily released periodic vintage expressions, but in 2012 the brand coalesced around a core of three whiskies. Kilchoman’s production is small, and so is its footprint. You won’t find these whiskies in every liquor store, but no self-respecting whisky specialist would be caught dead without them.
Photos are all courtesy Kilchoman Distillery!