I’m writing this as I’ve discovered the terrible news about Iain Banks’ death, so, perhaps a bit apropos. He was a good man, and Raw Spirit was what got me thinking critically about whisky, in the same way that The Wasp Factory made me want to be a writer.
So, there’s that, and it may colour my thoughts of the whisky. Iain: This Islay’s for you.
Kilchoman is Islay’s newest distillery – established in 1995, the last being 1871. They are a craft whisky, using small stills and growing all their own barley.
The Machir Bay is their flagship whisky, a blend of 4, 5, and 6 (!!!) year old whisky aged in ex-bourbon casks, with the youngest whisky finished in ex-Oloroso sherry casks for just a few weeks. You’ll note that this is, on average, 5 year old whisky. I met the Kilchoman founders at the Whisky Show earlier this year, and they were very coy about their plans for older whiskies – they said “sure, we’ll do older whiskies, but we’re really just about making fabulous whisky”. Which is what they do.
In the glass: pale straw-coloured, almost like thin sunlight breaking through on a winter’s day.
On the nose: sweetness like honey, a hint of anise and sweet herbs.
In the mouth: Brine. Iodine. Seaweed. Peat smoke from a pit fire all layered over sutble sweetness and honey. At 46%, there’s not much in the way of a burn. It’s a little raw, but more a fierce warmth. I’d not water this whisky at all.
The owners say that the whisky is theirs from soup to nuts (or, perhaps, from tiller to barrel?) – they grow their own barley, cut their own peat, and all. They’re not afraid to break with tradition, serving a top quality whisky with no age label. I’d be really interested to taste a barrel of this in another 5-12 years, just as a comparison, but there’s no need to wait. This is a monster of a whisky – there’s a tiny bit of rawness in it, but it’s undeniably drinkable and excellent, and Kilchoman is a distillery to watch, and drink with.
Have with shellfish, sushi, as an apertif, digestif… or anything. It’s Clare’s favourite of all the malts I’ve brought home.