Search This Blog

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Kilchoman Loch Gorm Whisky Review!

I'm a big fan of Kilchoman's Machir Bay & Sanaig releases, and they offer great value for money to boot. So far though, the Loch Gorm has lost out to those. It's released yearly though, so each bottling is different. So let's see how this one goes!

Islay's only farm distillery is now well past it's 10th birthday, but we've yet to see a general release of a 10 year old bottling. There have been a couple of very exclusive 10-year old single casks, but word around the traps is that we won't see a more widely available 10-year old expression for quite some time, if at all. But then, when Kilchoman's young 4-6 year old bottlings are of such high quality and are clearly so well matured, why would you bother!?! A great example is the excellent Port Cask bottling, which was only aged for 3 years, the minimum maturation period for a Scotch whisky. But you'd never have guessed it was that young, despite being bottled at 55% ABV, and it's now attained almost legendary status despite being a relatively recent release. A combination of careful un-hurried production, sourcing excellent casks & expert cask management seem to be the main culprits for this success if you ask me; but whatever they're doing over there it's certainly working!

Kilchoman have four 'core' expressions in their range, the mostly ex-bourbon cask 'Machir Bay', the mostly ex-sherry cask 'Sanaig', the yearly '100% Islay' bottlings which are made only from the distillery's own floor-malted & farm-grown barley, and the ex-sherry cask only 'Loch Gorm', which is also released in yearly batches. I've tasted the 2014 and 2015 bottlings previously (the 2015 was the better of the two), and while they're certainly good whiskies they haven't offered quite the same value for money as the Machir Bay and Sanaig expressions. For those playing from overseas, those two are generally available for around $100 and $120 AUD respectively, while the Loch Gorm starts at around $150. I can understand why, sherry casks are very expensive after all, but the releases I had tried just didn't offer the same 'bang-for-buck' as their brethren. The distillery also gives us an annual special release, usually matured in an exotic cask such as Madeira or Sauternes wine, and a cask strength bottling usually matured in ex-bourbon casks, and they also release a huge range of single cask bottlings, often for exclusively for bottle shops around the world, and often finished or fully matured in an unusual cask.

That said, the 2016 release I'm looking at is slightly different. While it's still fully matured in ex-sherry casks, it's a mix of both first-fill and re-fill casks, and it's also the first 6-year old bottling of Loch Gorm. As an aside, the recent 2017 release is actually 7 years of age, and I'm really hoping we see some of those bottles in Australia sometime soon! Both the 2016 and 2017 bottlings were comprised of just 17 casks each, so these are getting to be quite limited releases. This 2016 release is bottled at 46%, and like all Kilchomans it's non-chill filtered and naturally coloured. Sample purchased from an online retailer.

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2016, 6 years old, 46%. Islay, Scotland.
Matured in both first-fill & refill ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Distilled 2010, bottled 2016, 17 casks total. Non-chill filtered, natural colour. 

Colour: Dark gold. Doesn't really match the above photo. 

Nose: Fruity, light and sweet. Mild dusty, earthy peat, golden raisins in syrup, some orange zest, cheap lemonade soft drink that has started to go flat. A little rubber and cocoa powder. 

Texture: Light weight, youthful but no heat at all. Surprisingly soft actually. 

Taste: Peatier than the nose suggested. A nice warm earthy peat, citrus zest again, a little mild spice. Some sweet rubbery notes again, bitter cocoa, and some stewed fruits. 

Finish: Quite short, with more assertive spice, more earthy peat & rubbery or waxy fruit, subtle grapefruit rind note as well, and mild spicy & dusty peat 'til the end. 

Score: 2.5 out of 5. But see below. 

Notes: To be honest, I suspect this sample, or more likely the bottle it came from, is actually quite oxidised. I don't have a frame of reference for this exact whisky, so it's hard to know for sure, but it has the suspiciously light, dusty, subdued profile that I associate with a whisky that has lost it's mojo. There's also very little sherry influence here, which also makes me lean that way. Either that, or this is by far my least favourite Loch Gorm bottling so far. Or maybe that's the case as well. So why review a whisky that I think may be oxidised? Well that's just the risk I take by posting these weekly reviews! It also keeps things honest though, you're most often getting an un-edited, very-nearly'live' report on the whisky I've just tasted. So there are good and bad points!

Regardless, I'm still not blown away with Kilchoman Loch Gorm. So far the 2015 bottling is by far my pick of the three that I've tried, although as mentioned above I'm yet to get my hands on the most recent 2017 version. Although still reasonably enjoyable, this 2016 bottling also has the least overt sherry influence that I've found in the bottlings I've tasted. So I'd suggest trying before buying if possible, or otherwise in my opinion you're better off going for the excellent value and dependable Machir Bay or Sanaig expressions. Or just splurge and go for a cask strength bottling.