Because we had limited time, we initially planned to go to 6 of the 8 working distilleries on our Islay travel. Especially because we had planned tours on all of them. But we managed to squeeze in Kilchoman and Bruichladdich in our tight schedule.
From Bunnahabhain we drove further into the lands of Islay and came past Loch Gorm. For those who are familiar with Kilchoman, you immediately recognize the name from their sherry expressions. And there it was, tucked between the grain fields. Our hearts skipped a beat. Being the first distillery to be built on Islay in this ‘new era’, we’ve always kept a close eye. I personally have owned 11 different expressions, so you can call me a bit of a fan.
My first Kilchoman was the 100% Islay edition. I owned the first four editions as a kind of experiment: how is Kilchoman progressing throughout their early years? I immediately fell in love with the distinct character: pears, flowers, butter and sweet peat smoke. It was also my first realization that age doesn’t matter for whiskies to be complex. In fact, we like the younger Kilchomans A LOT. Kilchoman is now 13 years old, their character hasn’t changed that much, which is great. We like the fact that they’re experimenting with different casks and types of barley. The 100% Islay editions are 100% made on Islay, from barley to bottle, so it’s great to see this in real life. Its basically a farm and distillery in one, with their own malting floor. Throughout our trip we realized how much all this, brings a new dimension to tasting the whiskies. Close your eyes, and you’ll see, smell, taste and kind of experience the distilleries, instead of just the flavours of the whisky itself. So we really recommend visiting distilleries as a part of your whisky journey.
Kilchoman has a nice restaurant and shop. I just recently picked up a bottle of the 2015 Madeira Cask Matured, so I didn’t feel the need to buy a bottle of their 2010-2018 distillery exclusive Madeira Cask, instead I bought a sample to review at home. Also, my suitcase was already on the edge of being too heavy, and we still had Bruichladdich to go. The Distillery Exclusive is 8yo, bottled at 56,2% and has matured on Madeira Casks. How would it compare to my 4yo Madeira at 50%?
Red fruits, it’s less present than the 4yo, vague hints of soil, barley and wood
Dry, very perfume-like and medicinal, pear, very fresh, with refined sulphury notes and plastic gloves
The finish is a totally different experience and rather incredible, it’s long and full, with a sweet whiff of grilled marinated meat, a nice interplay of sulphur, iodine and sweet fruits, cranberry, aniseed, soil and peated barley.
While the nose isn’t great and the palate is very strange, the finish definitely makes this whisky. The 2015 Madeira is different (check out our May 7th post) but also a good competitor. Because of the finish, the dist. excl. gets a slightly higher score, although it only differs one point.