Thursday, April 8, 2021

Review / Kilchoman Loch Gorm (2021 Edition)

This whisky is the latest in a line of annual Loch Gorm bottlings from the family-owned Islay distillery of Kilchoman. The whisky is named after a freshwater loch that is situated very close to the distillery, between it and the Atlantic Ocean, and was first released in 2012. The Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2021 Edition follows the same formula as previous expressions by using only whiskies matured in ex-sherry casks. For the 2021 Edition 24 Oloroso sherry butts have been hand-selected and then vatted together by Anthony Wills, the Founder and Master Distiller at Kilchoman. These were filled with spirit in either 2011 or 2012 and has resulted in 17,000 bottles.

Kilchoman is one of Scotland's smaller single malt distilleries and is named after the local church parish. It is located on Rockside Farm on the remote west coast of the famous whisky island of Islay, close to the sweeping Machir Bay The first spirit was only produced in June 2005 and the first single malt was released in November 2009. Kilchoman is independently owned and now has a production capacity of just over 350,000 litres a year, following a recent ambitious expansion of the facilities. 

"The Loch Gorm releases show how well our peated spirit can combine with sherry casks, something that is not always an easy task. This 2021 edition is packed with rich bold flavours and has a breadth, depth and balance of character." 
Anthony Wills.

The Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2021 Edition is bottled at 46% ABV and is both non chill-filtered and of natural colour. It will be available through selected specialist whisky retailers in worldwide markets until sold out. A bottle will cost £70/ $97 US. 

Our tasting notes

The colour is golden yellow with a tint of amber and the nose is elegantly peaty and sweet. Aromas of sea spray and damp embers mingle with heather honey, raisins and sultana. Underneath are further aromas of bittersweet cereals, damp moss, a twist of bitter orange peel and a good pinch of warming spices - think of cinnamon, ginger and white pepper.

On the palate this whisky feels luscious and juicy to begin with. The sweet heather honey and sultanas are evident immediately. However, the smoky and peaty elements are not far behind at all. This appears in a wave of notes - damp earth, charred oat cookies, dying embers and a hint of charcoal ash. The mix of sweet versus drying and savoury is very enjoyable.

Underneath are further notes that develop with time, especially once the peatiness begins to mellow. The bittersweet malty cereals offer a robustness and grip the tastebuds. Then comes those warming spices from the nose, which are a mix of traditional baking spices (cinnamon and all-spice especially) and woody spices (think of toasted oak and a hint of sandalwood). Extra warmth is added by a late note of gingerbread, which is joined by a hint of milk chocolate and golden syrup.

The finish is long and warming. The sweet notes continue their luscious journey for a decent time before fading slowly. This leaves the robust cereals and drying ash-like smoke to linger and wrap around the tastebuds. Delicious.

What's the verdict?

This is a wonderful new expression in the Loch Gorm series and one that shows the continued development of the Islay distillery. The excellent combination of ex-Oloroso sherry casks along with Kilchoman's peated spirit is a joy and presents great balance. The nose is enticing and the palate is even better, delivering flavour in abundance. It will be interesting to see how Kilchoman grows now that they have expanded. We will be following their progress closely.

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