Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

The Whisky Odyssey Fèis Ìle 2024 Special

Seeking sanctuary on Kilchoman Day

In the Islay Festival schedule I did not discover (yet) an own day for the brand new Ardnahoe Distillery, but I can imagine that the newest distillery will in the future share a day with … Kilchoman perhaps? This charming farm distillery used to be the newest kid on the block on Islay, but time moved on since 2005/2006 and indeed Ardnahoe has been making liquid long enough to release actual whisky. Check back here on Sunday! To make things more crazy, a number of new distilleries are planned to be operational and/or build quite soon. There is Laggan Bay Distillery, and also Elixer Distillers will be active on Islay, building the brand new Portintruan Distillery. I am quite excited about the last one, because legendary former manager at Lagavulin, Georgie Crawford will be at the helm of it. First distillation should take place this year. Elixer is fast becoming a big player, after also acquiring the Tormore Distillery in Speyside.

So, what future remains for Kilchoman, after loosing that unique selling point of being the newest Islay distillery in a million years? Well, they keep on rolling out bottles and bottles of excellent peated single malt whisky! And we are going to taste two special ones today.

With Comraich, the distillery created a new concept for whisky enthusiasts. Using the Gaelic word for sanctuary, it is a place to relax and enjoy a dram, preferably by Kilchoman. With a global network of bars comes a release of exclusive expressions for these bars.

Kilchoman Comraich, batch # 6 (calvados finish), bottled at 53,8 % abv

Makeup: Vintages from 2011 and 2012 containing cask numbers 177, 179, 505, 506 created 730 bottles that were matured in bourbon barrels before being finished in calvados casks.

General impressions: A rare opportunity to taste a mature Kilchoman, since this a 10 years old, where most expressions appear to be younger. Calvados finishing is relatively new to the scene in whisky. Let’s go searching for some apples! At first sniff you still get a good dose of smoke, but then indeed a more fruity note does blend into the mix of aromas. Very relaxed and subdued, and very interesting to see Kilchoman with the maritime note removed. Hints of sweet butter, pancakes maybe, but also some young wood. Very attractive.

On first sip, you think it starts soft and gentle, and then it goes roughing up the tongue with an alcoholic bite. A bit schizophrenic but absolutely adorable, I’ve got to say. There is a very soft layer covering the raw peaty power of Kilchoman, but there is also a tranquillity from a longer maturation, that I really appreciate here. The only dissonant is a rather bitterish finish. Water reveals even more of the calvados character. Interesting to notice how pronounced that influence is, proving the benefits of allowing this kind of finishing.

Conclusion: This Kilchoman likes to hang on to its security blanket, and that blanket is the calvados. Small batch, interesting experiment, yeah: this is a success. Go find shelter with this one.

Score: 87 points.

Kilchoman Comraich, batch # 5 (port), bottled at 55,5 % abv

Makeup: Seems to be a full maturation in port casks # 460, 479, 480 and 484. Distilled in 2014 and bottled in 2022 in a released of 1007 bottles.

General impressions: Back to a younger Kilchoman (now 7 years old) and a more invasive cask type, we presume. Tasting it will tells us more. The colour is hardly pink, but a nice deep golden brown. But as soon as we stick the nose in the glass, we know where we are. The peat character of Kilchoman seems a good match to the overpowering nature of port influenced maturation. There is smoke in abundance, and a gentle red sourness, making for a weird maritime combination. Some strawberry and blue berry do emerge. On the taste there is a world of difference. Lots of smoke, obviously, turning into a sweetened meaty flavour. Like a raw steak, deep and juicy red on the inside, with a brown crust around it. Barbecue in a glass. The port seems to lift this Kilchoman to a nice combination of attributes. I am not the biggest fan of heavy wines with my whisky, but this one works. Maybe even a notch better than the calvados.

Conclusion: As far as experimentation goes, the Comraich batches that I tasted today are certainly worth going to a bar for.

Score: 88 points.

Disclaimer: taken from a sample share by a whisky friend. With kind regards.

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