Booze Review

A Review of Two New Kilchoman Expressions


What you see up above are photos of Islay’s very own Kilchoman Distillery that were taken by the West Coast Office (WCO) during his Single Cask Nation tour of Scotland in 2015. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Scotland (Islay in particular) is a Top 5 vacation destination for me (I’ll get there one of these years if it kills me! It probably will), so to say that my envy over the WCO’s trip was as green as the grass at the Kilchoman Distillery would be a massive understatement. To add insult to injury (which is making me Incredible Hulk green with envy!), there’s a rumor milling about that the WCO has a return visit to Islay on the slate for this upcoming spring. If this rumor is true, I may officially hate him. I guess we’ll know soon enough.

Ok ok! That’s enough envy for one blog post. Here’s what this post is really all about…

In late December, the good people at Impex Beverages were kind enough to send us samples of Kilchoman’s latest releases. One is called their Red Wine Release while the other is called their 2009 Vintage. We’re far from new to Kilchoman and have had the good fortune of reviewing many of their expressions over the years. Here’s hoping that these two whiskies are as good as what we’ve had in the past from this distillery.

Let’s get on with our reviews…

Kilchoman Red Wine Release

What THEY say…

Distilled in 2012, the Kilchoman Red Wine Cask Matured has spent its full maturation term in the single cask type rather than being a ‘finish’, where the whisky only spends a few months in such casks prior to bottling.  The casks, from the Douro Valley in Portugal, were personally selected by Kilchoman Founder Anthony Wills. The Red Wine Cask Matured follows Port, Madeira and Sauternes matured expressions released annually by the distillery since 2014.

As with all of the Kilchoman range, the Red Wine Cask Matured is peated, non chill filtered and has a natural coppery red colour as a result of extraction from the oak casks. This particular expression has been bottled at 50% ABV, slightly stronger than their typical 46% ABV, the higher bottling strength adding structure and intensity to the dram.

What WE say…

  • Appearance: Pale rose gold color.
  • ABV: 50%
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: Some peat smoke. Wax crayons. Menthol. Oaky barrel notes.
    • G-LO: The Islayness that Kilchoman usually brings to the table is slightly toned down thanks to the red wine cask aging. I’m getting subtle peatiness, licorice, menthol, dried fruit, and some musty grapes.
  • Taste
    • Limpd: Muted smokiness (where’s that earth shattering, smoky kaboom that I usually get from an Islay?). Very very well rounded flavors of stone fruit, leather, honey, and peat which ends with a hot, yet somewhat short finish.
    • G-LO: The mouthfeel is noticeably oilier than the 2009 Vintage. Starts off peppery and smoky. Good bit of fruit shows up in the middle with dried fruit and mildly winey flavors. The finish is quite dry with more peppery heat and some lingering grapey notes.

The Verdict

  • Limpd: Thanks to its subtle smokiness and complex flavors, the Kilchoman Red Wine Release was very much to my liking. This was a very nice whisky.
  • G-LO: While I definitely enjoyed this whisky, I preferred the 2009 Vintage as I found that the wine cask aging diminished the Islayness a little too much.

Kilchoman 2009 Vintage

What THEY say…

An eight year old single malt and one of the oldest expressions to be bottled since the distillery was founded in 2005. The Vintage range is released by-annually from Kilchoman, with these whiskies spearheading the distilleries releases in terms of maturation. This will be the fourth release since the 2006 Vintage was bottled back in 2011. All three previous releases have been exclusively matured in ex bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace distillery, whereas the 2009 Vintage is a combination of carefully selected Oloroso Sherry butts distilled in 2008 and Bourbon barrels distilled in both 2008 and 2009.

What WE say…

  • Appearance:Pale golden color.
  • ABV: 46%
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: Peat smoke with some wet straw, candied fruit, and brine.
    • G-LO: Quite a heady mix of scents! Getting iodine, eucalyptus, dark chocolate, licorice, and mesquite.
  • Taste
    • Limpd: Without water, KABOOM! What a serious punch of ash and cinders! With water, there is a slightly muted boom (think silencer or muzzle), yet still quite peaty with notes of fuel, roasted meat, leather, and a bit of pipe tobacco. The finish is very nice with really good flavors and lingering heat.
    • G-LO: Whoa! Quite hot and peppery from the word go. Lots of herbal notes to go with the heat. In the middle, some dark chocolate and vanilla show up, but it’s still mostly peppery heat. Mellows a bit at the finish, or at least I thought it did, but then WHAM!, some more peppery heat shows up. The aftertaste is herbally and peppery.

The Verdict

  • Limpd: Overall, a very nice whisky, but with maybe a bit too much smokiness for my taste. If I had to pick a winner, I’d say that the Red Wine Cask was more my speed.
  • G-LO: Very similar to other Kilchoman Vintage releases with lots of delicious Islay-ness. Hot. Smoky. Lightly sweet. This whisky has it all going on. Me likey!

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Many thanks to Impex Beverages for supplying us with these very generous samples!

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