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Last May I travelled to Scotland with my good friends Igor and Jeff, visiting Islay, Campbeltown and Edinburgh. One of the highlights of Islay (which in itself was a highlight of my life) was Kilchoman, the newest and smallest Islay distillery. Founded in 2005, this is a farm distillery on Rockside Farm. No, really. A real working farm. And not a big one. It's tiny. The malting floor is a garage, and they only produce 100,000 litres of alcohol per year. For reals.
But it is lovely, a picture postcard that is unforgettable. They have a very nice cafe (everyone was raving about the soup) with a surprisingly large gift shop. There are a billion reasons to visit Islay - and this is seriously one of them.
Besides some standard expressions, they also have a number of vintages, and also some very limited single casks. This one is the 2007 Vintage, matured for six years in bourbon casks from Buffalo Trace.
The colour is a pale light gold. On the nose, dry grasses, briny seashells and some distant vanilla. The cigar smoke is as if someone just butted out thirty seconds ago: ashy, dry and a little sour. Unlike many Kilchomans, the peat is a gentle ribbon throughout - but becomes brackish. Fresh clean sea air. This is as Islay as it gets. Liquorice too, especially with water, which also adds seaweed and, oddly, sourdough. Fascinating.
On the palate, we have some caramel to go with that vanilla. The peat shows up quickly and grows in strength, contrasting beautifully with the creamy mouthfeel. Pine needles and cigar box. Savoury dried herbs. Medicinal but not pungent. Water somehow harmonizes the peat with the sweet. Outstanding.
The finish shows more oak, with a lovely prickly aftertaste - sage, rosemary and campfire, with some more liquorice all-sorts. This whisky is right up my alley, a perfect marriage of peaty kick and gently sweet complexity. Does it deserve its award for Best Islay Single Malt of 2013 (from Whisky Advocate)? That I cannot answer - but it is excellent.