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.
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.
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.
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.
- [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).