Monday, June 18, 2018

Review - Kilchoman Port Cask Matured

The Port Cask Matured is a recent limited edition release from the small farm distillery of Kilchoman, which is located on the isle of Islay. It has only been released once previously and that was in 2014. The 2018 Edition combines 30 ex-Ruby Port hogheads, which were filled in 2014, and these have yielded 10,000 bottles. The Port Cask Matured 2018 Edition is bottled at 50% ABV and is available through selected specialist whisky retailers worldwide. It costs £85 per bottle and has already sold out in a number of locations.

Kilchoman is one of Scotland's youngest and smallest whisky distilleries, named after the local church parish. It 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, although this is increasing annually.

Kilchoman is also one of only seven distilleries to do some traditional floor malting, which takes place in a new building that was completed earlier this year.  It has built up a healthy following of whisky drinkers and attracts over 10,000 people a year to its visitor centre, despite being in a remote location.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep golden yellow with a a pinkish red tint. The nose is has a wonderful aroma - think of a combination of caramel, toffee and earthy peat smoke that is backed up with a robust sweet maltiness (this is reminiscent of damp malt on a malting floor). There are also some dried fruits and hints of yeast, plasticine and delicate wood spices.

On the palate this whisky has a viscous texture and it is the malty and earthy peat smoke notes from the nose that hit first. This creates an initial bittersweet feel that is then joined by the sweeter and richer elements - in comes some delicious caramel and golden syrup, along with dried fruits (think of raisins and cranberries especially) and something biscuit-like (the immediate thought was cookie dough). There is also a growing power to the delicate wood spices from the nose - think of cinnamon, all-spice and a pinch of ginger, clove and Szechuan pepper.

With water, and quite a lot of it at that, the smoke and spices are softened. This allows the sweetness of the dried fruit and caramel-like notes to shine through. They are joined by a distinct floral characteristic, which has a hint of rose petal and Turkish delight.

The finish is long and warming with the smoke and spices dominating. This creates some peppery heat and a pleasant dryness, particularly towards the end. The sweet, malty and fruity notes linger and then fade.

What's the verdict?
Peated whisky in ex-Port casks seems to be a growing phenomenon and this Kilchoman is the latest example. It offers a lovely combination of sweetness, richness and a decent hit of smoke. It is young at four years of age and is a bit hot and feisty as a result, but we quite like that. The addition of water softens it and balances the whisky, with the resulting rose-like note an interesting twist. This is another nice whisky from Islay's smallest distillery and one that shows good experimentation.