Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New releases > Kilchoman 100% Islay

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, off the Scottish west coast. The distillery 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 is already building up a cult following of drinkers and attracts over 10,000 people a year to its visitor centre.

This new whisky from Kilchoman is a three year old that has been matured in ex-bourbon casks. It has been made in a lightly peated style with a phenol level of roughly 15-20 phenol parts per million (known as PPM - for more information and the definition of this term, click here) and is bottled at a strength of 50% ABV. The name of 100% Islay is given as it is the first known single malt to have all aspects of its production carried out on the island. The barley has been grown and malted on Islay, then dried using its famous peat, before being distilled, matured and bottled at the distillery. There are 11,300 bottles in the release, each retailing for £69. There is also a special version which is being sold only at the distillery shop – there are 1,060 bottles of this, which is 61.3% ABV, presented in a hand crafted oak box and will cost £149.

Our tasting notes
The colour of the 100% Islay is a pale golden yellow and the nose is hot, lively and a little aggressive, before it calms down to reveal some more subtle notes.  There are plenty of initial coal smoke, ash and surgical spirit aromas, which are backed up by some damp, earthy peat.  With time in the glass these aromas dominate less and allow other aromas to appear - some sweet honey and vanilla, lemon zest (this increases with time), oatcake biscuits and an abundance of fresh, crisp green fruit (think of pears and apples).  On the palate, the initial earthy peat smoke continues unabated and has a bitter iodine-like edge, before again softening to revealed some delicious notes underneath. It quickly becomes very oaty (imagine oatcake biscuits again) and very zesty (especially lemons, which give the whisky a lovely sherbet-like zing.  Much needed softness and sweetness are given by good notes of vanilla, honey, icing sugar, toffee and juicy green pears and apples.  In the end, the palate is much sweeter and better than the nose suggested and takes on an almost oily/soapy nature on your taste buds. The finish is long lasting with plenty of damp peat and acrid coal smoke notes being joined by some vibrant youthful spiciness (think of hot chillies) and a good dollop of honey.

What's the verdict?
This is a whisky of two halves - we (plus a couple of people that we shared our sample with) found that the nose was a bit too aggressive and left a slight negative impression.  However, the whisky pulls it back on the palate, which combines some lovely notes and good complexity with its evident youthful vigour and plenty of smoky, peaty flavours.  Well worth a try if you get the chance, especially if you appreciate the smoky, style of whisky.  It is always good to try whiskies from new distilleries, but only you can decide if it is worth £69 a pop for this one.

No comments: