Monday, May 4, 2020

Whisky Review: Kilchoman 100% Islay 5th Edition

Kilchoman is one of the very few distilleries releasing these kinds of hyper-local whiskies. In their case it really does mean what it says - all of the barley is grown on Islay, they malt it themselves with Islay peat, and the distillation, maturation, and bottling all happen on Islay.

I tried the 3rd Release while I was at the distillery and wasn't particularly impressed, though I was also dealing with food poisoning that day so I doubt my palate was in the best shape. The reviews I read were similarly negative, so I more or less gave the lineup a miss until I was able to find them as samples.

This whisky was distilled in 2009 from 20 PPM floor malt, filled into ex-bourbon casks, then bottled in 2015 at 50% ABV without coloring or chill filtration.

I purchased this sample from Dramtime, who still have full bottles if not samples.

Kilchoman 100% Islay 5th Edition

Nose: a very pleasant level of smoke - more on the tarry/woody end of the spectrum but also some fresh/rotting vegetation, candied malt and maize, orange creamsicle, rather floral (roses, violets), earthy/chocolate/coffee. After adding a few drops of water the peat become softer and smokier, the flowers are on fire, some caramel comes out, and the malt is fresher and drier.

Taste: fairly hot throughout, malt and maize sweetness up front, quickly joined by robust peat smoke, berry top notes and an oily/oak-y thickness in the middle that fades towards the back, lightly floral, and then a dash of oak tannins at the back to give it a bittersweet lead up to the finish. After dilution the sweetness and smoke spread out to give a more consistent profile across the sip, some caramel comes out, and there's also a bigger floral bump at the back.

Finish: fresh malt, pleasant tarry peat smoke, a nice level of oak, berry compote residue

This is honestly a rather Bowmore-ish Kilchoman. It feels like they finally managed to tame the youthfulness of their earlier releases, so the lower PPM shifts it away from the comparisons with south coast Islay distilleries of their Port Ellen malt whiskies.

In keeping with that analogy, this reminds me a lot of Bowmore Tempest. Kind of hot, not the most complex, but what's there is quite good. The price point seems justified if only because there is so much more labor going into these releases, but I would still hesitate a bit. They're fairly reasonable within the context of the Kilchoman lineup, especially compared to their single casks, but I don't know if I could pull the trigger. However, if you're a more serious Kilchoman fan than I am, I don't think you'll be disappointed by this.

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