SMOKEY AND PEATY
Note: We have assigned every bottle we review to one of five Flavour Camps, based on the most dominant flavours found. The Flavour Camps are : (1) Fragrant and Floral, (2) Fruity and Spicy, (3) Malty and Dry, (4) Rich and Round and (5) Smokey and Peaty. To learn more about each Flavour Camp, please click here.
How’s it going Pandas! Today we have with us a high quality sherry cask expression from Kilchoman Distillery of the Islay region.
What makes this expression special is that it is 100% matured in high-quality genuine sherry casks from a Bodega in Spain. This isn’t any typical sherry-matured whisky- so grab a dram here to try the real stuff!
The bottle we would be having today is from Kilchoman Distillery.
Kilchoman is one of the newest distilleries in Islay, being the first distillery to be built in 120 years. Despite the distillery’s youth- bearing in mind its first whisky was only released in 2005, Kilchoman Distillery has quickly become an important part of Islay’s whisky landscape with a range of critically acclaimed expressions. More on Kilchoman below.
Distributor: Original Bottling (OB)
Classification: Scotch Whisky
Style: Single Malt
Cask: 100% Ex-Fino Sherry
Behind the Label
The new Kilchoman Distillery is Scotland’s most westerly whisky distillery, and is located at Rockside Farm in the west of Islay, where it draws its water from a nearby spring.
Although its first whisky was only made in 2005, Kilchoman is known for its traditional ways of crafting whisky and an implicit commitment to the terroir of its barley. Founded by Anthony Willis who wished to create a small-scale artisan distillery, Kilchoman’s production is entirely self-contained within the locality: barley is grown and sourced from Rochside Farm itself, while malting, distillation, maturation and bottling all take place at Kilchoman Distillery. The resultant whisky will not undergo chill-filtration nor will caramel colouring be added, the standard strength will be at 50% abv, reduced with Islay water.
Their spirit is usually matured in ex-bourbon casks, from Kentucky’s Buffalo Trace Distillery, and in Oloroso sherry butts. Kilchoman’s whisky is also known to be moderately to heavily smokey.
The bottle we have with us today is unusual because of its exclusive maturation in genuine sherry casks. Due to cost constraints, most “sherry casks” used by modern whisky distilleries are not seasoned with real sherry, but rather fortified wines from less renown wine regions such as Huelva or Montilla-Moriles. This particular expression is matured using genuine sherry casks sourced from Miguel Martin, a renowned Spanish winery that makes real sherry in Jerez city, Spain (where genuine sherry is originally made).
Most whiskies are also not wholly matured in sherry casks due to the priciness of sherry casks.
This bottle was also matured in fino sherry, which is supposed to impart sweetness, notes of light fruits, light woodiness and dryness.
So let’s jump right in and find out how a genuine 100% fino sherry-matured whisky tastes! You're free to join us on this journey- grab a sample here and come right back.
In the glass, this whisky is light honey colour.
On the nose, intense smokiness with substantial depth and fruitiness. At first nosing, ashy smoked bacon greet your nose with a layer of salinity and light touch of medicinal notes from F&N Sarsi. Behind the smoke and salinity, there is substantial honeyed maltiness- with cereal, Ritz crackers, vanilla and woody maple syrup. Slight dryness and spice that cuts through the honeyed notes.
On the palate, the first sip surrounds your palate in a pool of ashy smokiness and singed orange peel. Substantial and deep dryness – almost like drinking a Proseco – cuts through and balances the smoke. There is also some spice. Dryness develops into juicy and tart pink grapefruits and green apple candy.
There is a component of honey and maltiness but not particularly sweet – with malt Digestives dipped in semi-sweet dark chocolate and some bitter aromas of ground coffee.
With so much going on, it is easy to miss the slight coastal brininess that remains in the background. Combined with the citrusy note, it is reminiscent of preserved salted lemons or salted lemonade.
The dryness from the fino cask may usually be a cause for concern for some. Yet with the coat of smoke and maltiness, I find the dryness very manageable overall. Some tartness and spice may just lightly zap your back-palate but we’re not looking to drink a Ribena here are we?
The finish is long, ashy, lightly briny, and dry. Reminds me of a fading note of apple cider vinegar.
Smooth and well-integrated triumvirate of ash, salt and acidity.
If you enjoy moderate peat in your drams, this is an interesting expression to check out. While the notes of ashy smoke are quite dominant here, there is just enough room for substantial complexity and depth to play out from the honeyed maltiness and effervescent tartness from the fino cask. Grab a sample here.
This dram is complex, sensible and moderate. "Perfectly balanced as all things should be."
You would really enjoy this smokey dram with a very savoury dish of Moroccan chicken tagine with preserved and smoked lemons. The ash and salt from the Kilchoman accentuates the savouriness of the braised chicken while the acidity from the fino cask and preserved lemons cut beautifully through the oiliness.