Kilchoman is the youngest distillery on Islay (by around 120 years!), having started production in 2005, and it already has a huge cult following. They're currently producing young whiskies, for obvious reasons, but the whisky is of excellent quality regardless.
They grow and malt their own barley, used to produce around a third of their annual spirit production, with the remainder coming from Port Ellen Malting's on Islay. Their own malted barley is peated to around 20-25ppm, while the sourced barley is thought to be around 40-50ppm. Kilchoman also mature and bottle their whisky on site, at Rockside farm, on the western coast of Islay. They also do not chill filter or add colouring. Outstanding!
The 'small batch' releases are generally bottled at cask strength, and are matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks. They also state clearly when they were distilled, and when they were bottled. The 2008 release we're looking at here is no exception, having been bottled in 2013 at 5 years of age.
Kilchoman Small Batch 2008, 5yo, 58.2% cask strength, Islay, Scotland.
Distilled 2008, bottled 2013, matured in first fill bourbon casks, finished in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks. Non-chill filtered, no added colouring.
Colour: Yellow gold
Nose: Salty, peaty, medicinal and coastal. Initially big, bold notes of medicinal peat, drying seaweed and sea spray, then some salted caramel, charcoal BBQ'd meats, lightly charred banana's add sweetness. Comparable to a big Ardbeg with a bit of a steroid problem! But distinctly different and complex.
Texture: Oily, mouth-coating, viscous.
Taste: Sweet, warming peat, some light smoke then builds to a crescendo. So drinkable for 58.2% and only 5 years old! Shows the quality of the spirit, and the quality of the casks. Hints of smoked raisins, salt and oak. Lovely.
Finish: Big smoke playing around with toasted nuts and sweetness. Drying and mouth-watering, herbaceous peat.
Score: 4 out of 5.
Notes: Kilchoman might be the 'new kid on the block' on Islay, but they really know how to handle themselves! I would line this up against Octomore's and Supernova's without hesitation. I missed out on a bottle of this while passing through Dubai thanks to the transiting / carry-on rules, now I'm kicking myself for not trying harder! It really is excellent.
I've also tried Kilchoman's standard expression, 'Machir Bay', and it is also of excellent quality at such a young age. I'm looking forward to trying their 'Loch Gorm' bottling as well, which is fully matured in ex-Sherry casks at a higher peating level. With plans to release older expressions as stock becomes available, this distillery is certainly one to watch. If you haven't tried their whisky yet, get your hands on some, and do it quickly! Click here to see a few of their bottling's.