Whisky Advocate

Review: Kilchoman (Summer 2010 Release)

January 25th, 2011

Kilchoman (Summer 2010 Release), 46%, $70

This young distillery’s fourth release, aged entirely in bourbon barrels. (This is the first one available in the U.S.) The two previous releases that I tasted and reviewed (the inaugural release and the Autumn 2009 release) were finished in sherry casks. I miss the sherry, to be honest. I think it softened the whisky, added a new dimension, and perhaps even masked some of the youth. Still, this is a very nice effort: brisk, vibrant, and bracing, with plenty of raw peat smoke and tar, along with pear, citrus, vanilla, licorice root, bourbon barrel char, clove, bitter chocolate, and suggestions of olive brine and high-end mescal.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 85

47 Responses to “Review: Kilchoman (Summer 2010 Release)”

  1. B.J. Reed says:

    have not tasted this one but have tasted the earlier versions and suspect the loss of sherry cask influence will be significant change –

  2. Mr Claw says:

    Got a bottle of this.

    It’s pretty good, but I think I should’ve held out for the 2010 Winter release. I tried a cask-strength pre-release of that at Whisky Show London and it was quite a bit better.

    Still, Kilchoman’s good little distillery – reminds me much of young Ardbeg…

  3. Keith Sexton says:

    I have one of these, and I think the score of 85 is about right. I like it, and it obviously represents Islay well. Nothing against Bunnahabhain, but I’d be dissapointed if a new distillery opened on Islay and tasted more like that than the other Islays. I love that we can taste it as it matures along the way, too.

  4. Brian Bradley (Brian 47126) says:

    I very much enjoyed the dram; however, I don’t like the price as it is for such a young bottle.

  5. Fred says:

    I have the Autumn release and the summer release and I have tasted the Spring release.
    I agree with you John, I miss the sherry. There are notes of new make in this one that were masked by the sherry. The others, in a blind tasting, I would probably have gave them at least 10 years old, but this one taste like a young whisky. A good young whisky, but with a lack of maturity. Can’t wait to taste their first 10 years old !!!

  6. lawschooldrunk says:

    This is the first time I have seen what Kill-my-wallet-man will cost in the USA. Looks like another personal boycott until the price becomes more reasonable.

    Anyone know the UK price and if it’s the equivalent after exchange rate?

    • Lawrence says:

      The UK price at Loch Fyne Whiskies is £45.80 Including VAT at 20% and I agree that their prices are too high.

    • mark davis says:

      I feel like boycott might be the wrong term. would you buy it if it came in a oak bottle?

    • E. Meijer says:

      In holland I paid 45 euro for the spring release. And found that real value for money because the whisky is excellente. Bought another bottle
      to be opened in ten years for comparison with the ten or twelve Kilchoman.

      • George Jetson says:

        E. Meijer, I also bought the the first three bottlings in NL and even with the exchange rate to USD I was very happy with my purchases. Did you happen to buy in Amersfoort?

        • E. Meijer says:

          No George, bought it in Leiden at the Druiventuin. You can also order at These guys have the greatest deals.

  7. two-bit cowboy says:

    Tried the Autumn 2009 at the Dell last May. LIked it very much. I like this one better (somebody had to say it). The bourbon cask suits me better. Just ordered the Winter 2010 (another bourbon) and can’t wait.

    For a 3 years old to earn an 85 here is impressive.

  8. Louis says:

    At this price, it is either a bit more, or a bit less than the standard Lagavulin 16, depending on where you shop. So you get a few more proof and the novelty factor, vs a fully aged dram. Has anybody had a chance to compare the two, or with Ardbeg 10 for that matter?

    • Mr Claw says:

      Yep. Although I don’t have any notes.

      But I’m sure I could write some (it’s Burn’s Night after all!)

      Suffice to say the Laga 16 won! But, then again, it wins against most malts!

      That said, if Kilchoman give it another 7 years and do some good cask maintenance then it will be a better competition.

      Like I said before, I find Kilchoman quite Ardbeg-y so hope that with a bit of age it might pick up the complexity of Ardbeg. Which would be nice – might keep them on their toes…

      • two-bit cowboy says:

        If whiskys are like children, comparing a pre-schooler to a high school junior is, well, just wrong.

        As far as 7 years from now, don’t we hope that Lagavulin and Ardbeg (and the rest) will also be better than they are today? But then I have to consider the bloggers that say the whisky of today isn’t as good as they remember from the 70s and 80s. So where does that put us when this youngster graduates from high school?

        And, while I’m at it, I don’t want Kilchoman to be like Ardbeg or Lagavulin. If it were, then what’s the point of opening a new distillery?

        • As Ardbeg is different from Lagavulin, Kilchoman will be different. The hopes are that it will be as good as Ardbeg or Lagavulin.

          • two-bit cowboy says:

            Instead of only “as good as,” how about better than?

            I’m with Red A on the Summer 2010 bettering Lagavulin 16. And the 1994 D.E. too. Close your eyes Diageo; I don’t want you to know what I’m about to say. The 2010 Lagavulin 12 might be the best Islay whisky of the year (I’m not saying for sure; I haven’t tasted Corryvreckan yet.)

          • Mr Claw says:

            Agree with much of that: comparing a 3YO with a 16YO is rather unfair. Personally I think Kichoman should release as a 10YO. I spoke with some people from the distillery and I do know that they are sitting on some stocks and are planning to get up to a ‘standard’ age. Perhaps they should’ve gone down the Daftmill route and said “not until it’s ready”. Then again, they have costs to cover.

            To reply to two-bit cowboy, I find Kilchoman to be Arbeg-a-like (more so than like Laphroaig, Bowmore, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, etc), but not that it’s a *carbon copy*. For instance, although the peat comes through like Ardbeg (not surprising – Kilchoman get Port Ellen maltings to peat to the same specs as Ardbeg) it lacks the mocha and maple syrup on the finish that I associate with Ardbegs.

            Finally, I tried the 2010 Laga 12 @ Whisky Show London, and whilst I thought it was very good, I was drinking it against the new Brora 30, and 10th release Port Ellen (which I thought were absolutely brilliant) – so perhaps not a fair compo. Then again it’s often that way at shows…

            The Corryvreckan is excellent (as if there hasn’t been enough praise heaped upon it yet!).

          • Andre Girard says:

            Mr Claw. Question.

            Do you think Kilchoman guys (as a small farm distillery, with a low production… so not a lot of bottles produced on each batch) really think they should keep their barrel in order to sell a older cask (10yo…) as all their batches are already sold as soon as they come to market ? I think for that moment they need to make money fastly just to be able to expend their business.

            In another way, i would not follow a distillery on a single type of bottling (means a 3yo whisky, sherry or bourob matured…) There’s so much stuff out there, why did i stick to a single bottling ?

            I have great respect for Lagavulin (for exemple) but they didn’t make much expressions… 16yo, DE, 21, 25 etc… I think a good way to keep ur place in the business is to experiment and offer to buyers a portfolio of expressions (like Bruichladdich) even if their products are not of the highest quality, at least you have a choice of various bottlings….

            (sorry, my english is so bad this morning…)

          • two-bit cowboy says:

            Heartily agree with you, Andre. Following a distillery (of any age) that puts out a variety of new releases is much more interesting than only seeing the same old expression year after year.

            Kilchoman has done something on their Web site that, again, sets them apart from most — they’ve listed all their planned new releases for 2011. Most distilleries don’t take this bold step; they’re afraid nobody will buy Release X because they’re going to hold out for Release Y. Kudos to Kilchoman for letting us see into their crystal ball and for planning such a variety for us.

  9. Sarah says:

    I reviewed this up against the Autumn ’09 and Spring ’10 expressions for Guid Scotch Drink and it came out on top (not that you could tell from my notes). Between the Summer 2010 and the New Spirit, I can’t wait to see what Kilchoman does next. I’m relatively new at this, but the New Spirit put Kilchoman on the map for me. And, being a fan of Ardbeg, I hope Kilchoman leans that way. Or flat-out runs.

  10. Morgan Steele says:

    Just picked up a bottle last week ($64) but have yet to open it. Looking forward to comparing notes with you and company, John. Happy Robert Burns Night!

  11. B.J. Reed says:

    The price is high that’s why I got the inaugural release and two more – That is probably it for purchases- The distillery has to make $$ to survive so I am more willing to pay a little extra for places like Kilchoman and Bruichladdich then for the big guys but I also have to limit how much of that I do.

  12. DavidG says:

    Anyone compare this with Binny’s cask strength single barrel version?

    • John Hansell says:

      I have both. They are similar. You just get more whisky in the Binny’s bottle with the higher ABV. Some of you prefer cask strength.

      • George Jetson says:

        +1 with some of you prefer cask strength. My direct h-t-h had the Binny’s c.s. on top even when diluted to similar a.b.v (est.). Have any of you stopped to think how this whisky at barely legal age compares to some of the other drek clogging the shelves in the “Microdistillery” section? I expect great things from Kilchoman and I don’t get into the whole is it more Ardbeg than Ardbeg thing. It is what it is in its own right. This distillery along with Glann ar Mor are the ones to watch in the next few years.

  13. Do you know who imports it to the U.S. or more specifically who distributes it in NY?

  14. Red_Arremer says:

    A fine brie is a more distinguished thing than a good swiss, but I prefer the swiss. Generally I’d prefer the swiss even if it were as expensive as the brie.

    I wouldn’t trade my half full bottle of Sum.2010 for for a full bottle of Laga 16 or what have you. Sure I taste a tad too much youth (John’s mezcal note is right on), but I don’t find it opressive. And I taste a lot of other nice things in a balance that I get from very few other Islay whiskies (some of the things I like about octomore show up). I’d like to see it more mature, but I also think it’s already a product with a lot to recommend it.

    I may well get another bottle when I’m done with it.

    • Pardon me for being ridiculously off topic, but brie is a pretty narrowly defined regional type of cheese. Swiss cheese has such a variety that it can’t be just compared to something like brie. Or did you intend to compare the American generic definitions of “big round soft cheese with white rind” and “sliceable hard cheese with holes” ? For a European like me it’s not always easy to see what is meant 😉

      A comparison like this sounds to me like comparing Remy Martin XO with “whisky”

      • Red_Arremer says:

        That’s ok Oliver– I completely see your point. In fact I may have been implying something like it. I’ve been enjoying Clement VSOP Rum and Siete Legues Anejo Tequila a lot lately and, come to think of it, the way I’ve been appreciating the Sum. 2010 might be as much grounded in my growing appreciation of those drinks as it is my well established appreciation of scotch– If that makes any sense.

        That said, I definitely had the American definitions in mind 🙂

  15. Andre Girard says:

    Tried the last 3 versions and must agree with John, the sherry barrel againg brings something rounder and smoother for such a young whisky. This one is sharper than the previous edition. But this is a must have for any islay fan. Must keep an eye on this new distllery, they are doing pretty impressive stuff.

    For the price, i saw the bottles are sold around 44£ in England… i paid around 90$ in Kensington Wine and Market in Calgary Alberta Canada… but i was also able to buy the summer release for 35$ in LCBO store Ontario Canada…???? What is the deal ? I really dont understand… That’s about half price the already sell it in England ?!….

  16. Nabil says:

    Picked up a bottle of Kilchoman Summer 2010 for 34.95 CDN…take that you undertaxed barbarians! 😉

    The pricing was as a result of what has come to be known as Kilchoman-gate, in Ontario. An incompetent, though welcome, bureaucrat mistakenly priced the bottle at this ridiculously low price. The shelves were empty within two weeks.

    • Andre Girard says:

      We had the same kind of error price in SAQ stores in Quebec…. They sold the Highland Park Earl Magnus for 125$ can… elsewhere, priced from 150 to 185$…

      I tasted the Saint Magnus last week (got a bottle from the Canadian Ambassador) and they will sell it 180$ in Quebec. They learn from previous experience. Ambassador also confirm LCBO stores have bought a couple hundred bottles… not so much. SAQ stores bought 60 bottles only.

      I was also able to buy a bottle of Kilchoman from LCBO at 35$ before it was sold out… I paid the same bottle 90$ in alberta a couple months before…

      • lawschooldrunk says:

        I love store errors like those. I once purchased a talisker 18yo and the talisker 175th anniversary, each at $45. I think their regular price was over $70.

  17. Michael says:

    I am also one of those who prefer Summer 2010 release to Spring 2010. I did pay much less for Kilchoman Summer 2010

  18. Jason R says:

    Met the Master Distiller at Binny’s, great guy and obvious passion for his brand. Agree on price, but seems standard for an ‘artisinal’ distillery. Will the winter release be available in the states?

  19. ps says:

    I just took a small taste as a result of this review. I really like it. It’s like a young Ardbeg (same type of smoke, same type of citrus) except the finish is all green olive to me. More expensive but hey, life is short…

    • B.J. Reed says:

      Then one should compare with the “For Discussion” Committee bottling Ardbeg (although I believe that is 5 years old) and see how they stack up.

  20. Neil Fusillo says:

    I as well miss the sherry. I think it rounded things out rather nicely and took away some of the more… youthful edges. It made the whole thing seem far more mature than the few years old it is. Without the sherry, it seems QUITE young. Vibrant, yes. But a bit more one-note than it was.

  21. lawschooldrunk says:

    Suntory/Morrison-Bowmore should sell their Mclelland’s Islay for $70. Wait, just write on the label “non-chill filtered and no coloring added,” bottle at at least 46%, and they could charge $85.

  22. Ed Kohl says:

    First of all, I want to thank everyone for thier comments and from the sounds of it, support for Kilchoman. I can tell everyone that as the importer (, we have had several discussions with the brand owner regarding pricing. We have worked very hard to keep the price point we have at under $65.00. A few of your comments recognized the need for a new distillery to generate cash flow, especially a small one. The expense of a start up is enormous. With that said, we have the new Winter release coming in at about the same price as the summer. Hope you all enjoy.

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