Monday, May 15, 2023

Review / Kilchoman Loch Gorm (2023 Edition)

This whisky is the latest in the annual Loch Gorm limited edition bottling from the family-owned Islay farm distillery of Kilchoman. As with each of the previous editions of Loch Gorm, the 2023 Edition is matured entirely in ex-Oloroso sherry casks and remains the only such bottling by Kilchoman. The 2023 Edition is a vatting of just 22 casks - these were originally sourced from Spain and then hand selected by Anthony Wills, the founder of Kilchoman. Eight of these were distilled and filled in 2013, six in 2014 and the other eight in 2015. The combination of casks has created a batch of 18,000 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 island of Islay. The first spirit was 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. It is one of the few distilleries in Scotland to grow some of their own barley and to have a traditional floor malting in operation.

The Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2023 Edition is bottled at 46% ABV and is both non chill-filtered and of natural colour. The whisky will initially be available in the UK and then via specialist retailers in selected world markets shortly. A bottle will cost £80. 

"Rather than dominating, Loch Gorm’s oloroso maturation works in harmony with the natural character of Kilchoman. The 2023 Edition has a fantastic spectrum of flavour." 
Anthony Wills.
Our tasting notes
The colour is deep gold and the nose is big, bold and sweet. Aromas of honey, vanilla and golden syrup work in harmony with those of barbequed brisket, bonfire ash and smoked ham. There is also plenty of freshness and this is most reminiscent of sea spray and damp seaweed. Interesting aromas of marshmallow and old leather furniture also come through later.

On the palate this whisky is as big and bold as the nose suggested. The confected sweetness remains, especially the honey and golden syrup, but it is also more drying and acrid than expected. The initial sweetness fades and becomes more caramelised - this is now reminiscent of grilled peach and apricot jam or compote.

The result of this fading sweetness is that the drying peat smoke becomes more prominent. This also elevates the distinct maltiness - this has a biscuity and almost burnt or charred toast note. It also becomes more bready and yeasty with time. The peat smoke is distinctly ashy and medicinal with a hint of dried seaweed.

The finish is on the surprisingly short side and becomes quite peppery and hot quite quickly. The ashy and charred smokiness and bread-like malty and yeasty notes combine to give a slightly chalky and dirty mouth feel. The sweetness has all but disappeared, which does not help either.

What's the verdict?
The Kilchoman Loch Gorm has become one of the annual releases that we look forward to each year. The 2023 Edition promises much with a wonderfully expressive nose. The early to mid-palate are also good, but then it seems to lose its way a little. The key to this drop off is the sweeter characteristics fading away. This leaves the savoury and smoky elements to express themselves. The finish is disappointingly short and hot. 
If only it had carried on the promise of the nose, then this would have been a stunner. As it is we were left somewhat underwhelmed, especially by the finish. That said, we could happily sniff this whisky in the glass all day long and think of Islay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree. This years Loch Gorm was very dissapointing. They used much younger casks this year, and it shows. I suspect they also used a lot more second fill casks. The price went up, and the age and quality of the whisky went down compared to lasr t years release