Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New release - Kilchoman Loch Gorm

Islay's newest distillery has announced its latest limited edition single malt release - the Kilchoman Loch Gorm.  The new bottling is named after the loch which is located close to the distillery and is known for its dark, peaty waters.  At five years of age, it is the oldest single malt from Kilchoman to date - it was distilled in 2007 and bottled earlier this year. Loch Gorm is also the only Kilchoman single malt to date which has been wholly matured in ex-Oloroso sherry casks (a combination of both hogsheads and butts).

Kilchoman (pronounced kil-coe-man) is one of Scotland's youngest whisky distilleries and is located on the western side of the famous whisky island of Islay. It is named after a local church parish and is very new in whisky terms - the first spirit was produced in June 2005 and the first single malt was released in November 2009. Kilchoman is independently owned by the Kilchoman Distillery Company and has a production capacity of 100,000 litres a year, making it also one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland.

Kilchoman is building up a cult following and attracts over 10,000 people a year to its visitor centre.  It is also starting to rake in awards from around the world, most recently for their Machir Bay expression in the International Whisky Competition (IWC) where it won the prestigious 'Whisky of the Year' accolade. The initial release of Loch Gorm will see 10,000 bottles worldwide and further batches will appear when stocks reach the correct maturation times and criteria. It is bottled at 46% ABV and should cost £56-60.  It is available now in selected specialist whisky retailers.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow with an amber tint and the nose offers an instant hit of feisty peat smoke.  This smoke is reminiscent of coal tar soap and creosote (that stuff that you paint on fences), and it softens with time to become more earthy/mossy and let other aromas through.  These include sweet malted barley, toffee, sultanas, bitter orange and toasted nuts.  With time in the glass, these evolve into an aroma of baked oat cookies.

On the palate it is again the feisty peat smoke that hits first, along with a spicy, peppery heat.  As on the nose it has an acrid and savoury edge that is reminiscent of coal tar soap.  This time it has more of a 'medicinal' note, which made us think of surgical bandages.  The smokiness softens to reveal plenty of malty barley notes, which add a sugary sweetness and softness.  As with the nose, this note again moves towards baked oat cookies as it develops.  Underneath are further notes of honey, juicy sultanas, candied orange peel and caramelised almonds.  Hints of menthol, ginger powder and icing sugar finish things off.

The finish sees the sweet notes and the persistent malted barley fade quite quickly, leaving the acrid and tangy peat smoke to play with your taste buds.  This gives a powerful and drying mouth watering quality, backed up by hot chili-like heat.

What's the verdict?
The Loch Gorm is another good offering from Kilchoman and one that shows another string to its bow thanks to the 100% maturation in ex-sherry casks.  It offers plenty of interest for a youthful whisky, but you are going to have to like your smoky whiskies to fully appreciate and enjoy it as your mouth gets filled with lively and feisty notes.

As others continue to wax lyrical about Kilchoman, we reserve our judgement.  Their whiskies are certainly very good considering the young age and we cannot wait to see how further time rounds off some of the spikier edges.  We believe it should continue to get better and build on the huge promise that these initial releases have shown.  In the meantime, we will continue to enjoy lovely whiskies such as Loch Gorm.

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