Over the course of the last eight months, I've been buying lots and lots of Kilchoman. After my mate Yan send me up a sample of the Loch Gorm, I immediately ran out to snaffle a bottle for myself. After that, I picked up the 100% Islay.
Since then, I've also bought the 2014 edition of the Machir Bay and the Cask Strength release which launched back in October. As if that wasn't enough, my whisky chum Ben Cops from Ben's Whisky Blog very kindly sent me a sample of the PX finish which was exclusive to Abbey Whisky.
So with two reviews already in the bag , I thought it was about time to take a closer look at the Machir Bay, Cask Strength and PX finish.
Kilchoman Machir Bay - 2014 edition - 46%
The smell from the glass was fresh and initially reminded me of Caol Ila. Give it some time and grapefruit and lemon rind come to the fore, along with smoke, brine, seaweed, peat and a touch of chlorine. It's lovely and malty and there's a slight red fruit note trying to come through, together with sweet ash and that green, slight herbal note which Kilchomans seem to share.
It also carries a mineral note with Thornton's special toffee and the inside of a well used wooden pencil case. A drop of water brings a lovely and mellow sweet pipe tobacco note.
Take a sip and sweet and salty notes are unmistakable. There's also slight golden syrup, dusty charcoal, sharp menthol, green twigs, damp embers and the merest hint of apple.
The finish has prickly spices with sweet peat, dry burnt wood, spearmint, toasted liquorice, a hint of vanilla and a slight buttery note along with a wee bit of lemon.
Kilchoman Cask Strength - 59.2%
On the nose there's pungent, farmy peat! But its character is quite unlike other Islay malts. Despite the peat blast, there's a light freshness to the dram with a bundle of delightful golden barley and smouldering twigs in autumn. I also picked up baked lemon and grapefruit rind.
There's also honey covered charcoal bricks and fresh bandages and a hint of liquorice and a whiff of cooked ham. Vanilla and toffee notes are also present along with a light presence of soap, sweet honey and mint. The addition of two teaspoons of water really opens this cask strength beauty right up and immediately, delicious toffee and tobacco leaf scents gentle rise from the glass.
The flavour is dark and rich with treacle and sweet powerful peat smoke. Without water, this is tough to get a handle on. A few drops blow through the smoke to reveal sweet citrus and toffee with a twist of white pepper.
Hints of golden syrup emerge to coat the tongue and orange oil appears after a few good swirls. The peat is always present adding a dark backdrop to the flavours. Magnificent stuff.
The finish carries lots of pungent peat along with a touch of citrus and vanilla. A well-made espresso follows right at the end of the long finish. A herbal note also adds an added dimension and tobacco notes cling to the back of the tongue.
Kilchoman PX sherry cask - 58.3%. Abbey Whisky Exclusive
Distilled on June 11 2009, bottled on July 17 2014. Four and a half years in a fresh bourbon barrel with an extra four months in a Pedro Ximinez sherry cask
This is heaven to sniff! Seriously good. A mass of deep, dark fruits such as sticky dates, juicy prunes, blackberries, blood orange and baked apple rise but the PX cask has given this a glorious gloopy sweetness.
As it settles down, I get a dried tobacco smell - specifically cigarette tobacco. Almost like a ripped open cigarette. The peat lurks in the background but nowhere near the intensity found in other Kilchomans - it's sweet and mellow. In Ben's tasting notes, he mentions travel sweets and I see exactly where he's coming from - those icing sugar dusted tinned sweets come straight through. A teaspoon of water brings even more sweet tobacco to the fore.
The palate is thick, sweet and mouth coating with fruits of the forest jammy notes asserting themselves. It's slightly herbal with fruity toffee and dark runny caramel. There's also apple, liquorice, a slight nuttiness, baked peaches and soft brown sugar. Mouthwatering stuff.
On the finish the tobacco smoke is really prominent but dark molasses and those jammy fruits soon come through. It's thick and chewy with a lovely bitter note. Black coffee and good quality bitter chocolate are also there. I don't smoke these days, but this would be stunning with a cigar.
Three more excellent Kilchomans! My thank again to Ben for the PX sample which I really did appreciate as I want to try as many Kilchomans as possible. And it's a sure thing that throughout 2015, I'll be trying to pick up everything they release as they've fast become a favourite.
If you've yet to sample a Kilchoman, go for the Machir Bay. It's a good price and is a great introduction to the range.