Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Artisan Whisky of the Year”: Kilchoman (Summer 2010 Release)
The Artisan Whisky of the Year recognizes small production distillers making hand-crafted whisky, regardless of where they distill. Sometimes, artisan distillers peacefully coexist with larger, higher production distillers. So it is with Kilchoman, located in a rural farmland setting on Scotland’s famous distilling island, Islay.
Operational only since 2005, the owners of Kilchoman began bottling their peat smoke-infused whisky in small batches shortly after the whisky became legal at three years of age. We were blown away by it. The inaugural release (three years old, 46% ABV), occurred in the fall of 2009, but the first whisky exported to the United States was the Summer 2010 release.
Summer 2010 is this young distillery’s fourth release and it’s aged entirely in bourbon barrels. Previous releases that we have tasted and reviewed (the inaugural release and the Autumn 2009 release) were finished in sherry casks. We miss the sherry, to be honest. It softened the whisky, added a new dimension, and perhaps even masked some of its youth. Still, this is a very nice whisky: 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 mezcal.
In addition to the standard Summer 2010 release, there were also two single cask, cask strength bottlings purchased by two specialty retailers. They take everything that is good about the standard release and give it to you “right out of the barrel.”
If you like smoky whiskies, and you like them youthful, vibrant, and bracing, then Kilchoman is the whisky for you.
Be sure to check back tomorrow. The “American Whiskey of the Year” will be announced here!