April 21, 2014
Kilchoman, as a distillery project, has continuously focused on what ‘craft’ really means in the production of whisky. With careful attention to every step of the process and every ingredient in the mix, Kilchoman manages to produce exceptionally high-quality malt at a very young age. It very well may be that attention to detail that permits them to sell (and sell out of) 5 year-old malt for $90 a bottle. For the third time, Kilchoman has released a bottling of whisky made 100% from barley grown, malted, distilled, and bottled on the distillery property. That’s huge! Talk about “farm to table” – this is “farm to bottle”, and it really shines.
Bottled at a hefty 50% ABV (100 proof), the 3rd edition consists of a vatting of four and five year-old malts from ex-bourbon barrels.
Nose: Elegantly smoky, elements of brushfire and straight wood smoke. A hint of roasting meats, but otherwise very clean, lean and smoke-centric. There’s also a stark minerality, like the smell of sparkling mineral water.
Palate: Soft. Even at 100 proof, the tongue burn is only moderate. Delicate strands of oatmeal, sea brine, and fresh, ripe barley. The grain (normally a bad word) element is pure and is only the second time I’ve ever thought of barley in terms of terroir (the other was Bruichladdich Bere Barley).
Finish: Long. A surprisingly sweet wave of barley. Still exceedingly clean and lithe. Finishes with vanilla-tinged woodsmoke, and no bitterness.
With Water: A splash of water gives the nose more sweetness, which pairs well with the woodsmoke. The palate is a little washed out, but the finish is unchanged. I think I prefer this with the water.
Overall: While this lacks some of the depth and roundness of the Machir Bay, the strength of Kilchoman is the pure expression of smoke and barley, without many distractions. The nose is pure wood smoke, and the palate laser-focused barley. Only on the finish does the malt get a little playful and introduce sweetness and vanilla. A study in purity, but not complex enough to warrant heavy contemplation.
For $85, this is a “Recommended”, but with reservations. Kilchoman is still not quite “there” for me yet, at least not $85 “there”. However, the terroir of the grain that comes through here is something truly special, and arguably justifies the price.