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?
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.
- Would I accept a glass if offered? Yes
- 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.
- 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.