Kilchoman Summer 2010 46% OB (10/9437 215) bought 12-6-2011 opened 4-4-2-12
Some bottles are consistent – they change, but in a predictable way. Other bottles go through radical changes seemingly overnight. And then occasionally change again! The hard question you have to ask your self, “Is this just me? Am I changing? Or is it just the bottle?” It is a difficult question to answer honestly. This is why I believe in trying to taste new whiskies against a standard (a bottle that is known). And least you have some form of reference. But the problem is that these bottles also change. And in the end I feel like I am trying to hit a target on a bouncing ball while riding in stage coach going down a rugged mountain side.
Here is a case with a very strange bottle of Kilchoman 2010 Summer release. I have tasted it making notes on six occasions. Usually, I taste it next to Laphroaig 10yo (it is one of my trusted standards for reference). Here is what happened over the course of a year. The scores are from 0 (water) - 6.5 (for perfect).
Nose: 4/4/2012: As I crack the bottle I am getting almost no smell at all . . . I’ll come back to it . . . Wow there it is! Peat – deep rich dirty dark black cakey earth. It isn’t wet earth like Ardbeg or Laphroaig can be. This is just good old farm earth from Grandpa’s farm. There are hints of animals, hay in the barn, and animal feed. With time sweeter notes come out: candied lemon drops, strawberries and dried bananas. There might be a little citrus, but it is really hard to tune in to it. = 5
4/6/12: Super smoky. Peaty smoke. Ashtray smoke – not cigar. More time reveals more kinds of smoke. It isn’t just peat smoke, or hickory smoke, but also cedar, dry twigs, and spruce smoke. There is a bit of citrus in the background – oranges and lime juice; possibly pineapple. Now a bit of leather chair comes through. This is just a wonderful study in smoke. = 5.5
5/16/12 Very subdued and dusty. It has a dirty and dusty quality to the peat. It is like walking into an old oak house where no one has lived for several years. This is the peat of an old farm house filled with books, wooden furniture, and cobwebs. The wood is old and rotting, but the smoke is amazing. It just sits there about 4 inches off the ground and curls around your legs. Something seems off about this particular dram . . . maybe a tainted glass? There is just so much cigarette ashtray. = 3.5
5/30/12 Yup, I am getting that dirty, dusty, dry peat thing again. Funny, I don’t remember it when I first opened the bottle. However, now it is all I am getting. I am transported back to that dry, dusty, dirty farm house in Kansas. I can feel the caked on dust lingering on the few books in the library. Perhaps a bit of malt and hay in the background? = 3.5
5/25/13 Smoke, smoke and more smoke! Like licking an ashtray. Here the smoke is first followed by lighter fruit notes (guava? lime? Pineapple?) followed by peat in the far background. Now I am getting that antiseptic thing like Laphroaig but at a much higher register (several octaves up). Also very sweet. = 5 Side note: I thought this had gone flat and dull; the smoke had taken over. However, I think it just needed a bigger glass to release all the aromas.
6/1/13: There is that old bitter burnt wood thing again . . . I thought it disappeared. My guess is that it is that dark gunk at the bottom of the bottle. It got all stirred up today with me trying to rebottle it. The result is a bitter charred wood thing; not pleasant. = 3
So the Nose is what constantly kept changing. Everything else remained fairly consistent in score (maybe a half a point deviation from one tasting to the next). Here is a basic summary of the rest of the bottle:
Taste: Sweet malt, sweet vanilla, sweet peat, and sweet honey. Wow! Mostly smoke, wood and peat, but not quite as big the “big three.” Now some smoke starts to take over . . . and here comes the ocean salt . . . not a bitter or off note! Tastes like smoking hay cooking tropical fruit. This is extremely lovely. = 5.5
Finish: Huge smoky finish. Total peat smoke all the way. Spicy, salty, peaty finish with white peppercorns, smoke, and a huge blast of peat smoke. It is a billowing cloud of sweet peat smoke. That is it – the big three (Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig) all seem to hit you like a wave from the ocean. This young guy hits you like a concussive explosion from a peat grenade. It is peat smoke from the bbq with sweet pig fat drippings. There is some lovely sweetness that reminds you both of bbq and splenda. Still, as big as it started it is only a medium to medium long finish. = 5
Balance, Complexity: I think this is only three years old – flabbergasting! Already you are seeing the development of the peat and the sweet. I have to give it points for balance because the peat, smoke and sweetness all work really well together. But points off for complexity – but not much because it is only around 3 year old. = 4.5
Aesthetic experience: Pale straw (like the bottle tells me ;). Medium bodied. I love the name, the stylized “h” and the blue color. I even love the Celtic swirl on the cork! I love the idea behind the company (small, local barley, ncf, natural color, etc.), and I love the strength (but I won’t be disappointed if they go up a bit). The only thing I dislike is the size of the bottle. It is like a bad Bruichladdich bottle combined with a Diageo bottle to form something . . . unappealing. Luckily it looks like the next bottles have a different size spout and cork stopper that look more proportionally appealing.
Conclusion: This was a very odd bottle. I’m very glad to have tasted it: Kilchoman at 3 years old has a GREAT deal of promise for the future. I really can’t explain the differences I detected from the 6 different nose scores. Basically I would get a dusty ashtray smoke and rotted wood, or I would get a wonderful blend of peat, smoke and fruit. My working theory is some of the dark gunk that accumulated at the very center of the bottle might have had something to do with the off nose. But it is very hard to say.
When the nose was lovely the final score was 86 When the nose was bad it scored an 84
I am splitting the difference with this inclusive score = 85