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Kilchoman Single Bourbon Cask

Don't leave it open too long...

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@hunggarReview by @hunggar

7th Aug 2015

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I’ve sampled from only a few Kilchomans over the years. In all honesty I often find Kilchoman to be of good quality, but often overpriced and rather inconsistent. It's for that reason it's easily the Islay distillery that I've explored the least. Well, it's time to change that. Here's a 5 year old single barrel bourbon-matured Kilchoman that's been released at a hefty 59.3%.

Nose: Grassy, herbal, and sweet. Quite a strong licorice note, grass, sweet herbs, fruity tobacco, vanilla, cloves, white chocolate.

Palate: Sweet and medicinal. Sweet hay, honey, herbs, white chocolate, mocha, earth, grass, ginseng, and campfire smoke.

Finish: Long, malty, and herbal. Grass, barley, peat, campfire smoke, hay, licorice, allspice, leather, tobacco, white chocolate, tar, cloves, ginseng, and malt.

Thoughts: In my limited experience with Kilchoman, it strikes me as the least “maritime” of the Islay distilleries, and this one’s no different. While I love the traditionally briny Islay profiles, this is a cool departure. Of course, being from Islay, it still packs a peaty punch. But it’s also markedly herbal, defined mainly by its herbal/licorice note and peripheral flavours of tobacco, white chocolate, and cloves. It is youngish around the edges, but it comes together well, and the character is distinctive.

If I were to leave the review there, this whisky would have gotten roughly 88 or so. HOWEVER, too much air has really thrown this one off course. The last couple drams of this have been overwhelmed by a musty tobacco note that disrupts the entire balance. Drink this fast and you’ve got a very nice whisky on your hands. Too slow and all bets are off. It’s a pricey and risky buy, but worth trying at least once.

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7 comments

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas commented

I love a review with drinking advice built in.

Kilchoman single casks seem to be pretty popular on blogs and whatnot lately. What's the cask number of this bad boy?

3 years ago 0

@hunggar
hunggar commented

@OlJas, this is cask 198/2009. It was bottled for Sun Favorite Taiwan. I would imagine many of these single cask one-offs are quite different from one another, so they may not be of much use for most people. Still review-worthy just for the sake of reference, though.

3 years ago 0

@Nock
Nock commented

I must agree with your assessment about too much air. My experience with Kilchoman is that after too much air it gets very smoky and ashy. I like your description as "musty tobacco." I have just opened a sherry single cask of Kilchoman that is not as amazing as my last single cask. Again, it has that overly smoky and "musty tobacco" note that really dominates. My hope is that a little time will change things. It was worth the risk, but over priced.

3 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas commented

Cool. When I've found a single cask bottling that I might buy, I always run some Google searches in the small hope that at least one of the other ~350 (or whatever) bottles was bought by someone who's already opened it, tasted it, written a review, AND noted the cask number wherever Google needs it to be to find it. When those stars align, it's so useful.

I wish those stars had aligned for the last bottle of IB Bowmore I bought. Instead I bought it on faith and got burned. It's a sour winey Bowmorey mess.

The next time I can justify a whisky purchase, it might just be one of the Kilchoman single casks from K&L.

3 years ago 0

@hunggar
hunggar commented

@Nock, Glad I'm not alone in that assessment. It really put a damper on my enjoyment of this one.

@OlJas, Sorry to hear your Bowmore didn't work out. Hopefully you'll have better luck with your next Kilchoman if you decide to pull the trigger. IB's and single casks are always a risk, aren't they? They're usually either the most rewarding or disappointing whiskies to be had in my experience.

3 years ago 0

@Frost
Frost commented

@hunggar thank you for reviewing this one. I like this distillery and was curious about this one.

About the oxidization changing the profile too much, I wonder if being a young spirit is the cause of the downfall. It hasn't had enough exposure to oxygen while aging in the cask through contracting with the weather. maybe if aged longer, any oxidization via pour exposure may stabilise this. Maybe.

Still for me, cask strength and single barrel 5 year old is something worth trying.

3 years ago 0

@Ol_Jas
Ol_Jas commented

@Frost, you bring up a question that I've asked before (here on Connosr, I think) and never gotten a satisfactory answer: Why does "oxidation" (or whatever we should technically call the process of whisky deterioration in an opened bottle) degrade* whisky in a bottle but not whisky in a cask?

Casks typically have plenty of headspace in them, especially as a given barrel ages. Definitely comparable to what's in an open bottle.

And casks are said to "breathe" in a way that bottles don't.

So why the difference?

My only theory is that the good stuff happening during barrel maturation outweighs the bad stuff that's happening simultaneously, and in a bottle it's nothing but bad* stuff. Any takers on that theory?

Yeah, I used mostly negative terms for the effects of air on open bottles here. I know that lots of people experience positive changes too. I think the question about the process stands either way.

3 years ago 0

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