Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review - Kilchoman Sanaig

Sanaig is the second continuous bottling from the small Islay distillery of Kilchoman. Named after a small coastal inlet to the north west of the distillery, Sanaig joins the Machir Bay expression to form the distillery's first ever permanent range. Sanaig is matured predominantly in ex-Oloroso sherry hogshead casks with a small percentage of ex-bourbon cask influence.  It compliments the Machir Bay, which is mostly matured in ex-bourbon casks, in the range.  Sanaig is bottled at 46% ABV, is non chill filtered and of natural colour. It will be available globally through specialist whisky retailers and should cost around £50.

Kilchoman 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 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. It has built up a healthy following and attracts over 10,000 people a year to its visitor centre.

“Sanaig represents another significant step forward for Kilchoman, it is important to be able to offer customers consistently available releases, until now Machir Bay has been performing that leading role, Sanaig will now share the spotlight.” 
Anthony Wills - Founder and Managing Director, Kilchoman.

Kilchoman Sanaig is bottled at 46% ABV, is non chill filtered and of natural colour. It will be available globally through specialist whisky retailers and should cost around the £50-55 mark.

Our tasting notes 
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is immediately sweet and peaty.  The peat has an acrid edge, which is reminiscent of coal tar soap and surgical bandages.  The sweetness is driven by tempting aromas of caramel, brown sugar and raisins.  Underneath are hints of fresh green apple, milky coffee, white chocolate and a whiff of cinnamon.

On the palate, the acrid peat smoke is the most prominent characteristic to begin with.  This is again like coal tar soap and makes the mouth water.  As the peat fades other elements are allowed through.  First comes a lovely note of bittersweet malted barley, which seems to increase with time,  and then some much needed sweetness in the form of caramel, toffee and butterscotch.  Then a further sweet note appears, which is most reminiscent of crumbly brown sugar, and is supported by a distinct hit of juicy raisins.  Hints of cinnamon, clove, candied orange and star anise round things off.

The finish is very long, especially thanks to the acrid peaty and smoky aspect.  This grips the taste buds and refuses to let go, even when the other sweet and fruity elements have gone.  The result is slightly hot, peppery and slightly clinging dryness.

What's the verdict?
It is good news that Kilchoman now have sufficient matured stocks to add a second permanent expression to their core range.  Sanaig feels quite light in body for a predominantly ex-sherry cask matured whisky but the extra sweetness added by these casks mean that it contrasts well with Machir Bay, its older sibling.

We found the peatiness a bit punchy and drying, especially on the latter part of the palate and on the finish, and heavier than experienced in previous Kilchoman's that we have reviewed.  Overall it was an interesting whisky to sample and is reasonably priced too for a single malt from a small, independent distillery.

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