This was distilled in 2012 and matured in 43 red wine casks that had been shaved, toasted, and recharred, hence ‘STR.’ The nose offers rich, creamy, medicinal peat, sea salt, vanilla, and loganberries. Sweet berry notes and caramel on the slick palate, then peat gathers momentum, with cinnamon and tangy citrus fruits. The finish features barbecue smoke, chili, and black pepper. (1,920 bottles for the U.S.)
Kilchoman 11 year old ImpEx Cask Evolution 01/2019 Single Cask Bourbon Cask Finished (Cask #302/2007), 56.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $175
Earthy, with charcoal smoke on the nose, sea shells, citrus oil, and a candied note of lemon pastille. A powerful palate offers bonfire smoke, iodine, grilled sausage, and black pepper, with lemon oil, bitter chocolate, and light earthiness. The finish has some salinity, as well as more bonfire smoke and bitter espresso. Assertive but balanced, well-structured and smooth. A dynamic whisky that’s an iron fist in a velvet glove. (230 bottles for U.S.)
Aged 2.5 to 3 years on bourbon casks and then finished in sherry casks for 6 months. Wow, this is quite stunning! Old-fashioned in many respects: oily texture, with rooty, layered peat smoke, coal tar, shoe polish, and hints of wet sheep as the foundation for a complex array of additional flavors: toffee apple, caramel fudge, blackberry jam, golden raisin, grist, bourbon barrel char, and licorice root. Long, smoldering ember, dried herb, light toffee finish. It’s all balanced perfectly, and very mature for its age. If you like smoky whiskies, track one down. (Not available in the U.S.) £37.00
Sweet fruity peat, new leather, cinnamon, and ginger on the nose. Good blend of smoke and sherry on the substantial palate, with peppery red berries, dark chocolate, and peat. The long smoky finish features lively fruit spices. (1,920 bottles in U.S.)
The first edition of Loch Gorm appeared in 2013, and it remains the distillery’s only whisky to be fully matured in sherry casks. The 2018 iteration comprises the contents of nineteen oloroso sherry butts filled in 2007, 2008, and 2011, the oldest of which are some of the first sherry casks filled at Kilchoman. These rich, confident aged whiskies converge in the best Loch Gorm to date, showcasing the expression’s trademark blend of succulent sherry, cooked fruits, and earthy peat, along with flavors of honey, ginger, sultanas, and spice. Number 15 in the 2018 Top 20
The first thing I wrote was, “classic Kilchoman.” Then I paused…because it’s true. Though still young, here’s a distillery that has established its own character. In this expression you get full integration between oak and distillery, a sparkling mix of seashell and the freshness of seaweed, touched with churned butter, driftwood, and fresh-kilned peat. On the tongue, there’s samphire, peat, sweet barley, and an herbal kick. This is Kilchoman coming of age, assured and confident.
Matured in a combination of oloroso sherry butts filled in 2008, and bourbon barrels filled in 2008 and 2009. The nose is initially flinty, with lemongrass, fabric Band-Aids, fudge, and vanilla. Ultimately the lemon is joined by Jaffa orange juice. Supple and sweet on the palate, with developing nutmeg and white pepper. Peppery in the finish, with plain chocolate and aromatic peat smoke. (840 bottles)
This includes whiskies from nineteen oloroso sherry butts filled in 2007, 2008, and 2011. Medium sherry, orange marmalade, cinnamon, and developing sea salt on the nose. The palate yields more sherry, earthy peat, dark chocolate, honey, and ginger. Fruit spice, sultanas, and charcuterie in the medium to long finish. The best Loch Gorm to date. (15,000 bottles)
This expression was distilled from Optic barley grown and malted (to 20ppm) at Kilchoman and matured in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. A whiff of smoke, lemon curd, vanilla, and allspice on the nose. Supple in the mouth, with baked apples, sherry, and fruity peat. Spicy dark chocolate and nutty oak on the finish. Richer and more rounded than previous editions, thanks to sherry cask influence.
This (rather young) Islay distillery’s second release. Like the first, it’s aged for about three years and then finished in sherry casks—this time for a shorter two and a half months. Its flavor is similar to the first release.
Once again, I am quite impressed. It’s very mature for its age, with good viscosity, showing smoldering peat, coal tar, black licorice stick, burnt dark berried fruit, thick-cut marmalade, shoo-fly pie (think molasses), toffee apple, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and a suggestion of wet sheep. Long, peat smoke finish.£47
This is the sixth—and oldest—limited annual release of Loch Gorm, distilled in 2009 and aged in oloroso sherry butts. The nose is earthy, with raisins, dry spices, smoldering peat, and a not unpleasing hint of rubber. The palate is lively with spices, sherry, cherries, and iodine-soaked peats. Aniseed, sweet sherried peat, and tingling spices in the medium-length finish. (13,500 bottles)
A marriage of 3 and 4 year old whisky aged in first-fill bourbon barrels, with the 4 year old portion being finished in oloroso sherry casks. Among the best of the Kilchoman releases to date. The first-fill bourbon packs a flavor punch, while the sherry softens, rounds, and adds complexity. Barrel char, burnt raisin, boat dock, and tarry rope, softened by caramel and enhanced with notes of tropical fruit. Surprisingly mature for its age and very distinctive.
The second Kilchoman to be fully matured in port casks, this expression is a vatting of 30 ruby port casks, filled in 2014. The nose offers milk chocolate sprinkled with white pepper, sweet red wine, and ultimately, smoky citrus fruit. Big red berry notes lead on the palate, followed by ginger and spicy peat. Tangy red currants and bonfire smoke in the relatively long finish. Impressive for its age. (10,000 bottles)
As with previous releases, the 7th Edition of 100% Islay is produced from barley grown and malted at the distillery. Matured in fresh and refill Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels filled in 2010. Smoky ripe pears, wood preservative, vanilla, and apple purée on the nose. Fresh citrus fruit, buttery toffee, and ashy peat on the palate. The lengthy finish features licorice and cigarette ash.
Having previously released bottlings that were fully matured in sauternes casks, Kilchoman has now launched one where initial maturation took place in bourbon barrels, followed by 5 months of finishing in sauternes hogsheads. Unpeeled Jaffa oranges on the initial nose, floral, with a whiff of iodine and earthy peat. Tangerines, milk chocolate, lively spices, and bitumen combine on the palate. The finish is long, smoky, and perpetually spicy.
The Whisky Exchange Elements of Islay Kh1 (distilled at Kilchoman), 59.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $80.00
You’d hardy expect Kilchoman to be able to spare casks for independent bottlings, but somehow TWE’s Sukhinder Singh has persuaded Anthony Wills to part with one of his precious babies. It exhibits classic Kilchoman notes of clove and fresh scallop, backed with subtle peat, chamomile, and lint. With water, a typically young, peaty aroma of rubber develops (so drink it neat). It shows the huge potential of this distillery. £50 (500 ml)
Distilled in 2012, this was aged in casks sourced from the Douro Valley in Portugal. Quite reticent on the early nose, with developing strawberries, vanilla custard, new oak, and subtle smoke. The palate offers smoky red wine notes, with ashy peat, spices, and tingling black pepper becoming more apparent. Sweet cherry fruitiness lingers in the relatively long finish with prickly spices.
A single oloroso cask bottling, so an interesting comparison with the Loch Gorm (see below). The cask has more of an influence here, with plummy fruits, fig rolls, and Medjool dates. The smoke is restrained and foggy, allowing some seashore breezes to come through. The palate reverses this, with the smoke rolling in first, then the soft dark and sweet fruits, treacle, and garam masala. Tannins are very soft. Kilchoman with heft. (637 bottles) £90
Aged in both refill and new bourbon casks. The new bourbon casks are evident, and I think it adds richness, vibrancy, and perceived maturity (which I like) when compared to the previous Summer 2010 release. Very pale in color. Brooding, with licorice root, coal tar, bacon fat, damp peat, bright fruit (citrus and pear), and intriguing botanicals, all on a soothing bed of vanilla malt. Smoky, briny finish. I’m still amazed how this very young whisky can taste so mature. Well done!
The only Islay distillery not on the coast — and the most westerly on the island — Kilchoman is reviving the tradition of farm distilling, and this limited edition release uses locally grown Optic barley malted at the distillery. Very creamy, with some stewed apple, green banana, and (when diluted) sponge cake mix. The smoke develops on the palate, adding an earthy note. Rich, with some clove and licorice on the finish. Well worth a look.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Kilchoman, Batch 1), 55.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $117
Startlingly herbal. Penetrating, lifted, and aromatic with dill, mint, and in time, celery leaf and lovage. Smoke is akin to freshly-laid tarmac with some sweet seaweed behind. Lively and quite different to the official bottling. Water brings unripe pineapple, clove, sugared almond, and horseradish. This has typical Kilchoman sweet creaminess in the center. Water brings out flavors of nettles, and saltiness. £69
Here you have the sweetness of rising bread alongside scallop and wreathes of smoke, all lit by west coast sunshine; the peat isn’t dank, but bright and flaming. The palate is sweetly seductive before the smoke begins to come through, then it sweetens like golden syrup, then the shore comes back, and so it continues. Water ups the impact of each, so be careful, as it can then seem disconnected. Sweet, beachy, smoky. Very Islay.
This strikes me as being the most overtly smoky of Kilchoman’s recent bottlings, and also the sweetest. Intense and very forward, there’s baked apple, humidor notes, honeydew melon, fresh shellfish. Water brings out a putty-like youthfulness, so take it neat. The palate is amazingly sweet (think golden syrup), then the smoke folds itself over. A good—and well-priced—introduction for newcomers.(World of Whiskies UK Travel Retail only) £45
This 2016 release follows similar port and Madeira quarter cask-matured Kilchomans, with sauternes casks being pressed into service this time. The casks in question were sourced from Château d’Yquem and the whisky is 5 years old. Earthy peat, a savory note, vanilla, citrus fruit, and sweet wine on the nose, while the palate offers smoked haddock, tarry rope, and bonfire embers. The finish is relatively long, with fruity peat. (6,000 bottles)
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.
The annual (albeit limited) Loch Gorm release allows you to chart Kilchoman’s development in sherry casks. Here, first-fill and refill sherry casks (oloroso to be precise) were used. The latter seem to have more of a say, as the distillery character is more apparent: sweet fruit, marine smoke, and clementine, before the golden raisin from the cask develops. The palate is smokier and also more overtly sherried. A bolder style, but very well balanced. Limited, so get in there ASAP.
A new, and welcome, permanent member of the core Kilchoman range, this comes from a mix of sherry finished and sherry matured whisky. The nose kicks off with a lovely cigar ash note—a cigar club toward the end of the evening—and while there are some dried fruits from the sherry, Kilchoman’s gentle, light character gives energy and lemony lift—shellfish, grass, and herbs. Lovely balance. Rounded, softly fruity, and highly approachable.
An uncommon exclusive bottling of a 6 year old cask strength malt. Light gold in color, the nose is vegetal, more peat bog than peat smoke, with an undercurrent of pastry cream and rose. It’s an odd combination of aromas. The entry is flavorful and inviting with smoked pineapple, clove, and rose. Peak smoke arrives in full force in the mid-palate, which drops the sweet and becomes spicy. The finish is mostly smoke, but with a pleasant minty coolness. (Wyoming only)
This year’s bottling mixes 4 and 5 year old bourbon casks with the younger element finished in oloroso, though this is hardly sherried. Here is smoke, samphire, and Kilchoman’s fleshy core giving echoes of 80s cuisine: scallops and white peaches anyone? Watering shows sea-washed rock, light flowers, and hot sand. The palate is sweet, sour, and smoky, with a chalky edge and a peppery palate, but water releases blossom and a little gunsmoke: a duel in the dunes? £39
A distillate of Islay-grown barley, made in 2009-10 and aged in bourbon wood. Here’s an intense Kilchoman with a licorice root sweetness mixed with dried seaweed, machair (beach pasture), cereal, and herbal smoke. The palate is slightly oily and hot when neat, with a distinct mineral edge. Water shows its youth but also allows tarragon and wormwood to develop. £64
It often takes time for a new distillery to find its feet, but Kilchoman’s spirit was top quality from the first day. Its limited-edition releases act as markers on a work in progress, but are precociously advanced for their tender years. This, the first 5 year old, leads with a note like wet rushes/wet dog (that’s good!) alongside lightly turfy smoke. The palate is sweet, smoked, and thick with allspice on the finish. A star is born.
Kilchoman Single Cask Sherry Cask (Cask #85), 57.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
Distilled at the start of 2009, this special edition was bottled mid-2014, making it a 5 ½ year old whisky. The nose is ashy paste with a good measure of barnyard funk along with sherry, oak, and clove spice. The entry is all ashtray, a late night of sweet wine and cigarettes. Sherry notes fight the smoke to emerge, but the smoke simply dominates. A smoky, ashy, spicy, and dry finish round out a face-slapper of a whisky. (U.S. only)