Kilchoman Distillery


So, we came here after Bruichladdich, so we were toasted and it was already getting late. The battery was low on our phones and we lost wifi halfway to the distillery, so we had to just mirror the location on the previously mapped out directions and see where the blue dot was of our location traveling on the map was. Luckily we made it before they closed. The secluded location and gusto of the master distiller were very impressive.

It is one of only six Scottish distilleries still doing traditional floor-maltings and will be unique in having all parts of the process – growing barley, malting, distilling, maturing and bottling – carried out on Islay.

One of the first new distilleries to open on Isay in over 100 years when it first opened back in 2005. He is still going up against corporate competition like Diageo. Bravo Anthony Wills. It’s almost like a one-man show.

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It’s a very small place, but they are producing artisan, small batch liquid gold here.

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Tasting room and the store is about the size of a small Total Wine retail shop inside.

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Here is Anthony Wills himself. He seemed like a very mild-mannered, kind, yet determine man. His place was like a total mom and pop shop. He was like stocking the shelves, cleaning the bathroom, working the register, wtf? Old-school work ethic, not kicking back giving tours, etc. Family run distillery. Talk about farm to table. They grow their own barley in the farm outside, and his sons do the book-keeping.

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Here is the map of all the Islay distilleries, and where Kilchoman is.

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So I was gifted a bottle of Kilchoman by Jerry back on his first Scotland trip in 2014, and I bought a bottle myself on this trip, so I wanted to taste and compare the two.

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Here is the Kilchoman 2011 Inaugural Feis Ile release at 50%. I was gifted this by Jerry on his first Scotland trip when I asked him to bring me back a bottle. Not bad, Jerry, this is like $350 now:

Upon first nosing, like I was smelling a Sharpie marker pen. Then I got a familiar scent, like a young white mezcal, lots of peat. Then a sweet nose came through like pineapple upside down cake, maybe some mangos. The sweet notes separate distinctly from the peat. It’s as if there is underlying peat, and there is a tower of tropical fruit that rises above it. Dare I say I get a little chlorine scent. Nice spice, it was a low-grade tingling burn, that would bubble over to a sharp sting every now and then, but not overbearing, manageable. Even more peat and mezcal notes on the palate, oily on the side of my cheeks, not so much on the tongue, mildly bitter, none of the tropical fruit on the palate, just peat, and spice. The finish was medium.

With some water, the nose did not change much at first, but I later got more alcohol vapors and at the end of the nose finally, the malt started coming out. Wow, the water really separated the oil out of this whisky, second taste had an extreme oily mouth coating and mellowed the spice a little. I never thought about the physics of this. When you add water to oil, the oil coagulates together and separates out.

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Here is the 2010 Kilchoman Single Cask Release Madeira at 56.2%. This was what I bought personally on this trip at the Distillery Shop, which is only for sale there. It was an 8-year-old:

Here are the tasting notes on the back of the bottle: cooked fruits and caramelized coffee.

Here is my impression on the nose. Very balanced nose with sherry and peat taking equal measure, one does not overpower the other. Though I get the sherry notes, I get more red apple and cherry notes to the sherry compared to animal funk and raisin notes that I get from earthier sherries like PX for e.g.

Here is my palate feel: very dry, I feel the side of my mouth puckering possibly from tannins from Madeira cask, not a lot of spice up front, but then a lingering burn on the tip of the tongue and side of the mouth that goes away quickly, almost like a flash in the pan. Long finish, slightly more bitter though. Don’t get any sweetness on the palate. After bitter taste goes away, I get the malt, but not yeast, like dry nutty malt. I wonder if this is the unique characteristic I am getting from the barley that they actually grow on their farm.

After a few drops of water. Intensely sweeter nose. This was my favorite part of this tasting, the nose after a few drops of water, chemical reaction was magical. It could also be that it was too hot at 56% and that the alcohol was getting in the way of allowing me to smell the subtler caramel and toffee notes. When I took a deep inhale, I could feel the air that I was sucking in on the back of my tongue and I got a sweet flavor from just inhaling deeply, it was odd. Charcoal peat just escaped from the mix, like a party crasher. I was thinking to myself, where the hell was this guy before I watered it down? Spice was concentrated at side and tips of the tongue or it went away completely, sweeter on the palate at first, but then the peat rudely crashed the party at the end. It almost turned this into two different whiskys, not very well integrated, but the last sip was more harmonious, maybe I caught some volatile chemicals initially before the dilution could mellow it out and integrate it. I can now see where that chocolatey taste was coming from that people were talking about. Strange spice concentration on the tip and side of the tongue, is that like a thing or was my palate charred and desensitized already from the first peat monster? Hard to tell.

So, the winner was the first one, Jerry’s gifted Feis Ile bottle. The smell of this weirdly sweet tropical fruit, hard to put your finger on it characteristics with low lying peat made it weird enough for me to find very intriguing. I can’t say I’m a big fan of Madeira finishes, but the jury is out.






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