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Archive for the ‘Kilchoman’ Category

Introduction

Hey, this is pretty cool. Anthony Wills from Kilchoman [kill-HOE-man] will be visiting the U.S. in November, and doing bottle signings. The Kilchoman Summer 2010 release will be the first Kilchoman bottling officially imported to the U.S. (by ImpEx beverages). ImpEx just sent out information about Mr. Wills’ visit and I’ve included his schedule below. You can see my thoughts (and links to other reviews) on previous Kilchoman releases here.

Special bottlings

The Whisky Shop in San Francisco, and Binny’s in Chicago have each selected a single cask from the Summer 2010 release, and will have these available bottled at cask strength! If you live in San Francisco or Chicago…get your butts over to these stores and get your signed single-barrel bottling. The Whisky Shop signing event will be on November 6th. Binny’s, November 8th.

Anthony Wills U.S. visit schedule

Nov 6: The Whisky Shop 360 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA  415-989-1030
Bottle Signing
Nov 7: Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel, 170 Railroad Street, Santa Rosa, CA
Sponsored by:  Traverso’s  707-542-2530
5:00 to 7:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting
Nov 8: Binny’s  1720 N. Marcey Street, Chicago, IL 60614  312-664-4394
6:30 to 8:00 Bottle Signing
Nov 10: Gary’s Beer & Liquor 9555 S. Howell Ave, Oak Creek, WI  414-762-3010
10:45 to 11:00 Bottle Signing
Nov 10: County Clare Irish Inn & Pub  1234 N. Astor, Milwaukee, WI  414-272-5220
12:30 to 2:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting
Nov 10: Waterford Wine C0mpany  1327 E. Brady Street, Milwaukee, WI  414-289-9463
3:00 to 5:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting
Nov 10: Union House S42 W31320 Hwy 83, Genesse Depot, WI  262-968-4281
6:30 to 8:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting

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Introduction

Kilchoman, the 8th distillery on Islay, does not have any expressions available in the United States yet, but if you act fast upon a new release, you can place orders and have them shipped from the UK. By “act fast,” I mean make sure you either have one reserved ahead of time, or place an order the day of release. It’s looking like they plan to do 3 or 4 limited (8,500 to 10,000 bottles) releases per year. The next release will be coming out in March. I’ve already written a few blog posts about Kilchoman, including a review if the Inaugural release. In November, Kilchoman came out with their second official wide-release bottling, called the “Autumn 2009 Release.”

In this blog post, I’ll compare these two releases (thanks to Jason at WHISKYhost for the Autumn 2009 sample). I actually have a bottle of this release now, but haven’t decided if/when to open it yet [I know...don't become an evil collector :-)]. The Inaugural was matured for approximately 3 years and then finished for 5 months in Oloroso sherry casks. The Autumn 2009 release was also matured for 3 years, then finished for 3 months in Oloroso sherry casks. Additionally, there is one refill bourbon cask mixed into the Autumn vatting.

Kilchoman Inaugural vs Kilchoman Autumn 2009

Tasting Notes

Kilchoman Inaugural Release: See notes in this previous post.

Kilchoman Autumn 2009 Release; OB; 46%; Approximately $60

Nose: A significant helping of cinnamon and apples to go with the earthy peat and ashy smoke. Also some additional spiciness (nutmeg). Seems more mature than the Inaugural release.
Palate: Sweet peat, still some light spices, but not as peppery as the Inaugural.
Finish: Peat and ashy smoke coming up into the nostrils, accompanied by a slightly eggy component…the missing youth from the nose. There’s still some sweetness and cinnamon hanging around, and the peat smoke lasts for a long time.

Comments:

This is really good, and the sherry finish provides some very obvious added complexity. The spiciness that’s added to this release reminds me of how the Madeira finish impacts the latest Balvenie 17 year. The palate seemed a little more tame than I expected…I guess that came with some of the smoothing on the nose. However, the finish is lengthy, with plenty of smoke for the peat lover. As always, I won’t provide a number score when I’m only tasting a sample, but looking through my scoring spreadsheet, it’s probably in the 84/85 range relative to the other whiskies I’ve had. A solid B in my book, and amazing for a three year!

Note: I gave the Inaugural Release 84 points in my previous review. I had commented that it felt like an 81 pointer, but gave it 3 bonus points for the long, peaty finish. In hindsight, given that I’m not inclined to go higher with the Autumn Release score, I would probably subtract one or two of those bonus points for the Inaugural.

Comparing to the Inaugural Release

I had already read other Kilchoman reviews, and people seemed to be liking the Autumn release better than the Inaugural. Still, I was surprised at how much the nose had changed. Maybe I should have suspected as much when I put the bottles next to each other and saw how much darker the Autumn release is. Given that the Autumn release actually spent two months LESS in sherry casks at the end, they surely did something different with regards to first-fill vs refill?

Two things stand out immediately when comparing the Autumn release to the Inaugural. First is the lack of “egginess” that I was picking up on the Inaugural. It didn’t really bother me much when trying the Inaugural alone, but head-to-head, I really appreciate the perceived maturity of the Autumn release. Second, the extra spices in the Autumn release make it much less of a one trick pony. I mean, this is still a whisky for peat lovers, but that’s not all it has to offer. The one area that the Inaugural beats out the Autumn release is in the impact on the tongue. It’s more drying and has more pepper, giving a very enjoyable boost that I wish was still there in the Autumn release. Two steps forward, one step back, I suppose.

I did discover something new about the Inaugural release when doing the head-to-head…a very slight farminess on the nose and finish that I had never picked up before.

Other Opinions

  • WHISKYhost – Jason at WHISKYhost did a comparison right after the Autumn 2009 release came out. He also liked this release better than the Inaugural.
  • WhiskyNotes – Ruben likes the Autumn release better, mentioning a lack of “new make” notes. He also finds something soapy on the palate, which I did not pick up. His notes pretty much nailed it. I find myself agreeing with his notes more than any other reviewer.
  • Whisky Israel – Gal, over at Whisky Israel REALLY likes this release. But then, he’s a total peat freak. ;-)
  • Master of Malt – Some nice tasting notes on the Master of Malt web site. I bought didn’t get my bottle from them, but I heard that their buying experience is fantastic.

Back of Kilchoman Autumn 2009 release box

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Introduction

Kilchoman Inaugural Release

Kilchoman Inaugural Release

Well, it’s official. Kilchoman is the 8th distillery currently producing whisky on Islay, and the first new distillery to do so since the 19th century. On September 9th, they had a release party for the Kilchoman Inaugural Release 3 year expression, and it hit the stores on the 10th. The UK online retail portion of the approximately 8500 bottles released was sold out within a day. Fortunately, I managed to get an order placed first thing. The 3 year is bottled at 46% after spending 2.5 to 3 years in bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace, followed by 5 months in oloroso sherry butts. The barley is peated to 50 ppm using the same spec as Ardbeg.

Tasting notes

A pour of Kilchoman 3 yr

A pour of Kilchoman 3 yr

Upon first opening the bottle, I held the cork up to my nose and got a wonderful pure peat blast that quickly faded as the spirit evaporated away. Mmm…peat.

On the nose, there’s no doubt about the use of heavily peated barley. There is a combination of peat and smoke that stands out above anything else. It’s a pure, earthy peat and ashy smoke. No tar or iodine to speak of like Ardbeg or Lagavulin respectively. There is a fair amount of vanilla on the nose as well. When I opened the bottle two days ago, I thought there was an eggy or rubber component. That has calmed down, with maybe some cereal notes remaining.

With a few drops of water, fresh pine and a little citrus come out, reminding me a little of Bruichladdich.

The palate seems pretty simple, with sweet peat and a little pepper after I chew on it for a few seconds. It’s a little hot, but I wouldn’t call it rough.

On the finish, the pepper remains and builds on the tongue. The ashy smoke and peat come back in full force, with the smoke hanging in the back of the nostrils for a long time. Again, no tar or iodine, just peat smoked barley in liquid form. BIG peat finish for the peat lovers.

Comparisons

The notes on the back of the bottle talk about rich dark fruits and citrus. After comparing this to Longrow CV, Caol Ila, and Benriach Arumaticus Fumosus, I just can’t call the Kilchoman “fruity.” It also took water and time to bring out a little citrus, whereas I felt there was much more noticeable lemon on the Kilchoman 2 year New Spirit. I wonder if the 5 months in sherry butts actually killed off a little of that fresh citrus scent.

As for the peat and smoke, I would liken that part of the profile more to Bruichladdich 3d3 or Bunnahabhain ‘Moine’ than Lagavulin, Ardbeg or Laphroaig.

Conclusion

It’s officially “whisky” now, but the 3 yr. is not a huge leap from the Kilchoman New Spirit that I had previously tried. It’s clear right from the start of the nose that this is a “big peat” whisky, and it doesn’t really offer anything surprising from that point on. However, the peat smoke is very “clean”, with no real sour notes to detract from the experience. The big, peaty, smoky finish is very enjoyable and lasts for a long while.

Heading into the finish, this seems like a “nice” 81 point whisky, but then the pepper hits, the peat builds, and the smoke lasts and lasts. By the time it’s all over, and the bonus points are tallied, I’ve got a big smile and an 84/100 point rating to hand out. This finish really speaks to me, but I can’t rate the whisky up with the likes if Caol Ila 12 or Ardbeg 10. With more maturity and complexity, I can imagine some pretty high scoring Kilchoman releases in the future.

Other opinions

  • [Update] I see Whisky Intelligence just did a post on this release as well. 86 points there, and I like the notes because they don’t appear to be at odds with mine. :-)
  • Ralfy has already posted a video review of this expression. He really liked it and gave an 89/100 point rating.

Hmm…two ratings a bit higher than mine. I wonder if I’m being a little stingy just based on the theory of this being a 3 year. Oh well…doesn’t matter. I think we’re all sending similar messages. Plus, Ralfy is right that this is a one-trick pony. If that trick doesn’t float your boat, you’re going to really wonder what all of the fuss is about.

  • [Update 2] Finally, a dissenting vote. Ruben just posted his notes on WhiskyNotes.be, and awarded a mere 79/100 points. Actually, I don’t find his notes all that different. I just happen to personally get a lot of pleasure out of the one-note finish and awarded points for that. I suspect there will be a lot of people out there who agree with Ruben (if they can get their hands on a bottle).

Quick Take

Kilch 3 Quick Take

More pictures

Back of Kilchoman box

Back of Kilchoman box

Kilchoman Label

Kilchoman Label

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Overview

On Wednesday, I received my Kilchoman Connoisseurs Pack, containing three 50ml samples of new spirit from the Kilchoman [Kil-HOH-man] distillery, established in 2005 on the island of Islay.  Their first official whisky, a 3 year expression, will be out later this year, but this sample pack should give a good idea of the Kilchoman profile.  In my Wednesday Nightly dram post, I shared some pictures and provided an initial reaction to my small taste of the 2 year old.  Tonight, I’m comparing all three samples of Kilchoman new spirit, and sharing some additional information I’ve learned about the Kilchoman distillery and their approach to single malts.

Back of Connoisseurs Pack box

Back of Connoisseurs Pack box

The Connoisseurs Pack contains the following samples:

  • One Month New Spirit – 63.5% ABV
  • One Year New Spirit – 63% ABV
  • Two Years New Spirit – 62% ABV

All three of them are matured in fresh bourbon casks, and are made from Optic barley peated to 50ppm.  While Kilchoman does have their own malting floor, they also use malt from Port Ellen.  I believe these samples are of the Port Ellen variety, based on the 50ppm peating (more on that below).

Tasting Notes

On Wednesday, when I tried a very small sample of the 2 years, I tasted it at full proof.  Tonight, I’m going to try each of them with water added so as not to kill my taste buds with the first dram.  I’m starting by nosing them neat, then adding 1 teaspoon of water to 1/2 oz of whisky.

Kilchoman Tasting

Kilchoman Tasting (pre-water)

  • One Month: Medicinal, something plasticy or rubbery, and ashy peat on the nose.  There’s a little sweetness, but I have to hunt for it.  More ashy peat on the palate and finish, with a hot tingly sensation on the tongue.  At the end…take a deep breath in and out and enjoy the lingering peat coming up through the nostrils.  Very nice!
  • One Year: Medicinal and ashy peat, but also some noticeable vanilla.  The plastic/rubber scent has subsided, but is still there a little.  Very similar on the palate and finish to the one month, including the tingling.  I expected it to mellow out a bit, but still very “hot”.
  • Two Years: The peat is coming out more over some of the medicinal notes, and there’s a woodiness with the smoke.  The vanilla is there, but I have to hunt for it.  It’s more prominent on the 1 year [what's up with that?]. Really not getting that rubbery scent at all now.  That bodes well for future releases.  Similar taste profile on the palate as the others, but not as tingly on the tongue, and I get more sweetness.  It’s starting to mellow a bit.  That lasting peat in the back of the nose is still there.  I love that! [Update Second time around, I'm getting a distinct lemon scent on the nose along withthe smoky peat and vanilla.]

Summary:

If you like peat, especially dry ashy peat, you should like this.  The distillery notes talk about fruitiness, but I’m not really getting that yet, and the sweetness and vanilla is very subdued [Update As noted above, I'm definitely getting citrus/lemon on the 2 year nose now].  In fact, at the end of my tasting session I poured a wee dram of Ardbeg 10, and the nose was like caramel apples relative to the Kilchomans.  Much more so than I’ve ever noticed when just drinking Ardbeg on its own.  An interesting note about my samples…the 1 year was slightly darker in color than the 2 year.  I wonder if this is related to my noticing more vanilla on the 1 year.  At this time, while there is lots of peat, I’m not getting any of the tar/oil notes that I recognize somewhat with Ardbeg, and significantly in Laphroaig.

My enthusiasm for this young Kilchoman spirit is a little lower today than it was on Wednesday, but I still really like the peat, and feel that the future is very promising.  I’m not expecting to favor this over Ardbeg or Lagavulin any time soon, as this is much more one-dimensional [for now].  However, as a complimentary whisky in my collection, I’ll have no problem buying a bottle of the young Kilchoman each year and following their progress.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an aha! moment a few years from now where the Kilchoman suddenly seems crazy good.

I’m glad I tried this spirit, and I’ve ordered another Connoisseurs Pack to store away for future use (or just to collect for when Kilchoman is hugely popular).  I’ll definitely try to get my hands on a full size bottle of the 3 year Kilchoman whisky when it’s released later this year.

Distillery Info

Here are some interesting notes about the Kilchoman distillery from the SingleMalt.tv interview with Anthony Wills, Managing Director at the distillery [Interview video links -  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]:

  • While they have their own peating floors at Kilchoman distillery, a significant percentage of their malt comes from Port Ellen:
    • The Port Ellen malt is peated to 50 ppm, and uses the same spec as Ardbeg.
    • The Kilchoman malt is peated to 20-30 ppm.
    • They’re keeping the malts separate, and will market the home-malted expression as “100% Islay”.
    • Based on this peating info, it appears that the samples I tried are using the Port Ellen malt.
  • The stills have a tall, narrow neck in an effort to get a light, floral, fruity spirit that matures quickly.
    • They also use a ball neck base in case you’re interested.
    • Contrast this still shape to the short, stumpy stills at Ardbeg.
  • Cask types
    • They’re using a 1:1 ratio of fresh and refill bourbon casks from Buffalo Trace.
    • They’re maturing a small quantity of spirit in oloroso sherry butts, but have not yet determined what they will do with this.
  • As of this 2006 interview, they were planning to bottle their first whisky at 4-5 years.
    • This has obviously changed, with their 3 year expression coming out this year.
    • They must have been encouraged by the positive early reviews of their spirit, combined with the industry acceptance of younger single malts these days (especially from Islay).  It looks like people will pay for a 3 year from Kilchoman, so why not put it out there.

Notes from the distillery web site:

  • The in-house floor maltings use barley grown right on the distillery land, and will be bottled on the island for their “100% Islay” expression.
  • Annual production of 630 bourbon barrels and 40 sherry butts
  • 30% of annual production to use home-grown and floor malted barley
  • Link to Tasting Notes by Jim Murray (of their New Spirit)

[Update] Additional links

  • Additional Kilchoman-related links have been posted by some helpful members of the Whisky Magazine forums in this thread.
  • Tasting notes in the Spirit of Islay Forums (Warehouse No.4). [Thanks Mr. Fox!]
  • Distillery page on the Spirit of Islay web site.  Check out the Spirit of Islay site in general for great info on Islay whisky!
  • Here’s a blog post on the Islay Weblog [another great resource!] with a link to a video showing the preparation of the first bottle of Kilchoman Single Malt, which is being auctioned off for charity.
  • Auction press release:  Here is a press release with more details about the auction, taking place May 28th, the distillery’s “open day” during the Feis Ile festival.
  • Here’s a direct embed of the video mentioned above.  Thanks for the Tweet, @hansemalt!

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Kilchoman preview

Next on my tasting list was going to be a comparison of Bowmore 12 and 18, but then my Kilchoman Connoisseurs Pack arrived:

Kilchoman connoisseurs Pack

Kilchoman Connoisseurs Pack

This pack consists of three ages of Kilchoman New Spirit in 50ml bottles, all with a peating level of 50ppm:

One month – 63.5% ABV
One year – 63% ABV
Two years – 62% ABV

Kilchoman will be releasing their first official scotch whisky (3 years) later this year.

The Kilchoman [Kil-HOH-man] Distillery had slipped under my radar until I saw it mentioned as the 8th Islay distillery in the Black Bottle blog.  As an Islay fan, this immediately piqued my interest, and I started looking around for more information.  I checked out their distillery web site, discovered that there had actually been some mention of it in the Whisky Magazine forums that I frequent, and found an interview with the Kilchoman managing director on Singlemalt.tv.  This definitely looked like something I wanted to keep my eye on.

When I discovered that you can get samples of the New Spirit (and even a full size bottle of the 2 years), I had to order some, as I’m too impatient to wait for the official whisky release.  I ended up busy with other things tonight, and was too tired to do a full comparison of the three makes, but I couldn’t resist sneaking a wee dram of the 2 years (yes, I’ve jumped to the back of the book before to see how it ends).

Quick tasting notes: Of the other distilleries that I’ve tried, the first one that jumped to my mind upon nosing the Kilchoman spirit was not another Islay, but rather, Springbank (Longrow CV).  There is certainly a strong peat smell.  There’s also a sweetness that reminds me of burnt sugar (top of a creme brulee).  [Edit - Hmm...I just realized that Kilchoman uses "creme brulee" in their description of the 2 year nose.  They're talking about a vanilla scent, while I'm just talking about the torched sugar on top...still, I wonder if I read that on their web site and subconsciously recalled it as I wrote this.]  I think there’s a slight sulpher influence that lends kind of a coal smoke smell as well.  I really enjoyed the nose.  I can’t believe how inoffensive it was for such a young spirit.  Not feinty at all.  The peat carries on through to the finish, and the sweetness remains on the palate.

I tasted a very small dram tonight, and will revisit this (and the other two) within the next couple of days and post my results.  My first impression is VERY favorable, though.

More Info…

[Update] My follow-up post, Cuckoo for Kilchoman, contains full tasting notes of the three spirits, as well as additional info and links about Kilchoman.

Kilchoman New Spirit bottles

Kilchoman New Spirit bottles

Kilchoman Connoisseurs Pack box

Kilchoman Connoisseurs Pack box

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