I like Abbey Whisky. I like Kilchoman. We should all know how this post is going to go then. But the more I like a distillery or retailer, the more scrutiny I tend to apply when writing about them. I tend to have higher expectations before I even fill my glass, which already contains a measure of excitement. So for now I’ll proceed with caution.
Kilchoman is Islay’s youngest operational distillery (at the moment) and it’s been chugging along for almost ten years. It’s a charming farm operation, which does things on a small-scale. It’s also a lovely place to visit. A lot of the distillery’s whisky is made the traditional way (a lot of distilleries say that in an effort to filch an extra tenner from your wallet, but with Kilchoman I can believe their honesty). They have their own floor maltings, and on that theme of tradition, it’s not often you see their whisky outside of ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks. They play things with a straight bat, for the most part. Little, traditional Kilchoman.
Which brings me to this bruiser of a whisky.
The Kilchoman 2009 PX Finish Single Cask is an exclusive Abbey Whisky release. It is cask number 285/09, which has lived for over four and a half years in a fresh bourbon barrel before being evicted into a Pedro Ximénez (Spanish wine grape) cask for another four months of maturation. After which it was then bottled at 58.3% – and only 270 bottles of this are available at £78.95 a go.
Colour: tawny, auburn. 5 years old you say? *blinks repeatedly*. On the nose: first, I should say that being a young peated whisky it retains a heck of a lot of potency. So much so that I the glass is an arm’s length away from me and I can smell what I assume to be monstrous peat. And yet… when you bring the glass to the nose, it’s a much more surprising affair. Chinese five spice. Hickory spices. Barbecue sauce. Syrup. Smokey, rather than peaty. Woodburning stoves. Ash trays.
In the mouth: Oomph, this is a real brawler of a dram. Intense combinations of sweetness and smokiness are fighting it out for attention, but the sweetness wins by a whisker. That peat is restrained by the PX finish, like a Rottweiler tugging at its chain. Young liquid this, of course, and that’s the point – because youth can be brilliant when deployed properly, especially on peated whiskies. Be proud of the youth – as Abbey Whisky are, by putting the number ‘5’ on the label. Anyway, during my digression comes layers of muscovado sugar, tomato ketchup, autumn chutney – dried fruits and all that jazz, mixing with a little red wine vinegar. Some exciting wood notes. Sandalwood and ginger. Really bright black pepper.
Monstrous, and certainly not for those of a delicate disposition, but it’s actually the best Kilchoman I’ve tasted to date. For those of you who are up for the challenge, it’s definitely worth the price. Kilchoman fans in particular have no excuse not to get this.
This whisky shows all the advantage of youth with respect to the potency of that peat. And there’s some clever wood finishing that puts a soothing arm around the lively young fellow inside, and has a quiet word in his shell-like.
Note: Sample provided by Abbey Whisky, but my thoughts are as honest as always. Problem is that Abbey Whisky keep putting out really good releases.