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Kilchoman Single Bourbon Cask 11 Year Old

A Sisyphean Undertaking

3 691

@OdysseusUnboundReview by @OdysseusUnbound

25th Nov 2019

1

  • Nose
    23
  • Taste
    23
  • Finish
    23
  • Balance
    22
  • Overall
    91

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

The subject of this review is a whisky most of you will never taste. It's a private bottling from a single cask that I got from a friend. Ergo, writing this review, and reading it, is a somewhat Sisyphean undertaking. I've often been critical of other writers for focusing on unfindable or unobtainable bottles, and yet here I am doing the same thing. How does that saying go? Either you die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I think someone in Batman said that, so it must be true. Anyway, Kilchoman is the youngest operational distillery on Islay. They started distilling in 2005 and brand themselves Islay's Farm Distillery. But is their whisky any good?

Tasting notes

This Kilchoman Private Cask Release was aged in an ex-bourbon Cask. It was distilled in August 2007 and bottled in January 2019, making it 11 Years Old. It's bottled at 55.9 % abv.

  • Nose (undiluted): ashy, smoky peat, bright lemons, salt, vanilla, some minerality and only slightly medicinal. It’s a bit reminiscent of Talisker or Kilkerran on the nose.
  • Palate (undiluted): softer than expected for 55.9%, medium bodied, very ashy, medicinal, a touch of toffee, some vanilla crème brulée, a bit earthy, with some minty eucalyptus flavours
  • Finish: fairly long, smoke, eucalyptus, a touch of cardamom, burning leaves, ash lingering

With water bright lemons and brine really pop out of the glass. The sweet vanilla aromas also waft out ahead of the smoke. The palate shows more sweet barley notes and brown sugar when diluted. Lovely either way.

This one has gotten a little sweeter with time, but hasn’t changed as much as many whiskies do over time. I wish more distilleries would release 100% first fill ex-bourbon matured whiskies. The mix of peat, malt, and oak is wonderful here. I’d say that this whisky has more sweet, slightly vegetal peat than it does actual smoke. It reminds me of a hypothetical lovechild Caol Ila and Talisker might have.

While you may never taste this particular bottle of Kilchoman, I hope this review can still be useful. I think the intrinsic quality of Kilchoman's spirit shines through beautifully and I wouldn't hesitate to purchase more of their whisky, especially if it was predominantly ex-bourbon cask matured. Wine casks, especially sherry casks, can be tricky and can still be contaminated by sulphur which ruins the whisky for someone as sulphur sensitive as I am. Kilchoman founder Antony Wills has said on more than one occasion that he prefers bourbon cask maturation, so here's hoping we see more of that from Kilchoman. This bottle was a brilliant example of what well-made spirit, aged properly in a good cask can become. Highly recommended.

  1. Would I accept a glass if offered? Yes
  2. Would I order this in a bar or pub? Absolutely. I'd take a chance on any Kilchoman Private Cask or on any of their standard bottlings.
  3. Would I buy a bottle? If another one of these was available, I would not hesitate for a second. I would buy it for sure.

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6 comments

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@OdysseusUnbound So, you like it then? laughing I am a huge fan of Kilchoman and (almost) everything I have purchased or tasted from them I have liked, usually a lot. These guys seem to be doing everything right. Excellent in depth review and not all that Sisyphean Thanks.

20 days ago 2Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@BlueNote I was a bit hesitant to buy anything from them because of the lack of age statements, but this one was a great entry point. On one hand, eleven years isn't as young as some of their standard releases (I've heard that Machir Bay is 5-7 years old), but the 100% ex-bourbon cask hides nothing and the spirit quality is terrific. I've got a Sanaig I'll probably open up sooner rather than later, so we'll see if Wills and his team were successful in their attempts to avoid sulphur contamination.

20 days ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

@OdysseusUnbound "age" is relative not only for comparisons to other beverage products, but also to historical evaluations of the Kilchoman Distillery products themselves.

11 years old would have been a distant fantasy of old age for a bottle of their whisky when Kilchoman first became much discussed on Connosr. In those days people were getting excited about their 3 year olds. NAS at 5 to 7 years old would have been "double aged" by that standard.

20 days ago 2Who liked this?

@BlueNote
BlueNote commented

@OdysseusUnbound The youthful Machir Bay is a favourite of mine. I'll be interested in your thoughts on Sanaig. It is the one, so far, that I did not particularly like. Should try it again some time. My current faves are 100% Islay (just ordered the 9th edition) and the STR.

20 days ago 2Who liked this?

@cricklewood
cricklewood commented

I was waiting to see how your review of this would turn out, to see if you were still enjoying it as much as you did upon opening. While we often see a lot of sherry/wine cask finished or matured Kilchoman around we don't get as many bourbon single casks. The SAQ has received some in the past, the last one was a young, trashy peat bomb, the price was ludicrous though.

I've has a soft spot for Sanaig, I liked how it balanced both the sherry and bourbon influence and it wasn't as muted on the nose as many of the Loch Gorms, I'll be curious to see how you like that one. I haven't yet had a heavily sulfured Kilchoman, I think they pay for good casks and are very picky about what they obtain.

On the more nerdy side of things I am curious how Kilchoman will age beyoung the 11-12 year mark, what I mean to say is that I remember reading or hearing an interview with Jim Swan who commented that the cuts and distillation was done in a such a way as to obtain a very good whisky at a young age, kind of doing the opposite of what you would want if you were intent on aging the whisky for a long time.My curiosity is how this would affect the whisky once it ages past 15-20 years, will it become perhaps a bit less interesting with age?

I guess it doesn't matter as when they do release a 18-20 yr old whisky it will probably be priced beyond my budget. laughing

19 days ago 2Who liked this?

@OdysseusUnbound
OdysseusUnbound commented

@cricklewood Most 18-20 year old whiskies are beyond my budget as well. I’m hoping Antony Wills’ comments about the difficulties associated with finding good sherry casks translates to a lack of sulphur in Sanaig and other Kilchoman expressions.

19 days ago 1Who liked this?

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