Kilchoman (Pronounced: kil-HO-man)
Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila
Allt Gleann Osamail burn
1 Wash still , 1 Spirit still
110,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Kilchoman Distillery Co. Ltd.
Rockside Farm, Bruichladdich, Isle of Islay PA49 7UT
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2005 - Kilchoman becomes the first new distillery to be built on Islay in more than a century.
The first spirit is distilled at Kilchoman distillery in November 2005.
2007 - Two additional washbacks are installed at the Kilchoman distillery.
2009 - After a few different bottlings of Kilchoman spirit, the first bottling of mature Kilchoman whisky is released. The 'Inaugural Release' consists of 8450 bottles without an age statement and with an ABV of 46%.
2010 - A total of 50,000 bottles of Kilchoman are sold. I imagine both spirit and whisky were still counted for this number, but more and more stocks are now passing the age of three years - so they can be sold as whisky.
2013 - The Kilchoman Loch Gorm is released, named after the peat bog near the distillery.
The whisky was matured in Oloroso sherry butts and finished in Oloroso sherry hogshead casks for six weeks.
The bottling is around five years old. Exactly 10,000 bottles were produced; priced at £56 in the UK. A few years ago I would have been outraged by such a price for a five years old whisky, but things have changed. Also available, the 2007 Vintage (£51.60), which (at that time) was the oldest release of Kilchoman ever.
However, it remains to be seen how many of these good intentions
Anthony will be able to keep.
All the ideas I just mentioned were part of the ambitious business plans that were laid out before
the Kilchoman distillery was actually built. As it turns out, sometimes practical problems and new
insights have a way of gradually eating away at the best laid plans. For example, before Kilchoman
got started Anthony Willis intended to reduce all Kilchoman whisky to a standard bottling strength
of 50% using Islay water. However, this is one of the plans that wasn't realised - most bottlings
on the Malt Maniacs Monitor were bottled at either 46% or at cask strength.
They are directly heated. The first spirit was scheduled
to flow on June 2, 2005 during the Islay festival but
they didn't make that date. Anthony DID manage to
give some of the maniacs a tour of the facilities though.
Olivier Humbrecht's passionate arguments against
the use of industrial yeast at a young distillery may
have helped convince Anthony to avoid those.
Kilchoman was the first new distillery to be
built on the remote island of Islay for well
over a century. The driving force behind the
Kilchoman malt whisky distillery is Anthony
Wills. He dreamt of building the smallest
and most traditional distillery in Scotland,
or at least on Islay.
Kilchoman would be one of only a handful
of distilleries that may be able to claim that
every step of the production process is
carried out on site. Barley (Optic & Chalice)
is grown at Rockside Farm and malted on
Kilchoman's malt floor. Fresh spirit would
be produced, matured and bottled on site.
Everything that is produced at Kilchoman
was intended to be bottled as single malt
whisky, unchillfiltered and uncoloured.
Anyway, you can read all about the adventures of a bunch of
malt maniacs at Kilchoman in entry #240 in my Liquid Log.
The picture above features a picturesque abandoned church
not far from the Kilchoman distillery - and the infamous red
Volkswagen 'Drambulance' that we used to get around.
The picture at the left shows five maniacs in the Kilchoman
tasting room; from left to right Serge Valentin, yours truly,
Charlie MacLean, Olivier Humbrecht & Davin De Kergommeaux.
The very first Kilchoman spirit finally flowed from the stills in
November 2005. Kilchoman was initially in production for 28
weeks of the year. Fresh bourbon and refill barrels form the
base of the maturation programme, but other casks (sherry,
port, rum and wine) may be used as well. Well, that's a break
with 'tradition' I could certainly live with...
1) In the past many distilleries had charming stories about a distillery cat that would hunt for mice.
Instead of employing the traditional distillery cat, Kilchoman went for a distillery pig - Lucy. Anthony Willis seems confident in Lucy's pest control abilities ;-)
2) The visitor centre at Kilchoman was already finished when most distillery equipment wasn't installed yet.
It tells the story of farm distilling on Islay in the 18th and 19th century from its illicit beginnings to legislation. The shop sells a range of Kilchoman merchandise, including miniature bottles of Kilchoman as well as a range of fresh and smoked venison and beef from the Islay Fine Food Co. The café serves fabulous home made soups...
3) The peating specifications for the barley which is malted at Kilchoman is somewhere between 20 and 25 PPM.
However, Kilchoman has deviated from the original plans to become completely self sustaining. Part of Kilchoman's malted barley is obtained from the Port Ellen maltings; the peating level of this barley is around 50 PPM.
Kilchoman 'Spring 2011 Release' (46%, OB, 1st Fill & Refill Bourbon)
Nose: Ah, fresh and peaty - just as you'd expect. The peat is much more obvious than in earlier bottlings.
And it grows stronger over time; nice 'organic' peat in the Southern Islay style. Some farm & cow stable notes.
After 15 minutes there are even some faint sweet fruity notes; amazing complexity for such a young malt.
Taste: A very decent dose of peat as well. Good mouth feel at 46% as well, and a medium long finish.
The smoothness is surprising though - after all, this whisky can't be older than six years.
Score: 83 points - this young, crisp Islay whisky is my favourite Kilchoman so far. Very promising!
The increasing peat over time surprises me though; more of the 'Port Ellen' malt at 50PPM in the vatting?
Kilchoman NAS 'Summer 2010 Release' (46%, OB)
Nose: A very clean, quiet spirit. Not many distinguishing traits though. Opens up a little over time.
Taste: Very drinkable - but there's little more I can say about it. A peaty undercurrent?
Score: 51 points - an utterly neutral score; hard to say if I like it or dislike it.
Kilchoman 2007/2010 'Single Cask Release' (61.5%, OB, Fresh Bourbon cask #211/07)
Nose: Wow! Austere; dry and peaty but some mild sweetness in the background. A hint of lemon perhaps?
Oddly enough, it seems to become drier after I added water. It awakens again after a few more minutes.
Taste: Sweet, smooth and peaty start. Smokier in the centre. The finish is dry and surprisingly tannic.
Score: 80 points - this whisky must be young, but it has just enough personality to reach the 80's.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Kilchoman Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Kilchoman page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Kilchoman expressions that were released. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
During the summer of 2004
the traditional farm buildings
at Rockside Farm (near Machir
Bay) were being converted into
a visitor centre and the first
few buildings of the distillery.
Two stainless steel washbacks
arived in February 2005 and
the stills (a 2,000 litre spirit
still with a narrow neck and
a 3,000 liter wash still) were
installed in February 2005.
The first mature Kilchoman malt whisky was released in 2009. It was the first of quite a few 'first' and 'special'
releases (like a '100% Islay Inaugural Release' which was produced in the way all releases were originally
intended to be produced) that seem to be aimed largely at the market of whisky collectors.
Is the distillery or