Kilchoman Distillery Islay
History: The Kilchoman Distillery started production in 2005. Its creator, Anthony Wills, had run a successful independent single cask business and his wife was originally from the island. After a tough job of raising funds, he made his dream a reality to bring back the lost art of farm distilling.
The whisky: Kilchoman is not as smoky as most Islay whiskies. Don’t get me wrong, you still get a whiff of peat smoke but it is more subtle and lighter than the other big-hitters. The character is a clean, fresh, sweet and citrus style of spirit. In September 2009, their first whisky was released to the world. They invest heavily in quality casks here and have an ethos of realising younger matured single malt believing that older age statements don’t mean better whisky. The distillery’s core expression is Machir Bay, named after the local and beautiful beach; it was launched in 2012 to great acclaim. There’s also Sanaig, named after an inlet on Islay’s rugged Atlantic coast, Loch Gorm, named after a famously dark and peaty loch overlooked by the distillery, and 100% Islay in which every bit of liquid in the bottle is created at Kilchoman from growing the barley to bottling the whisky itself.
Favourite dram: As well as the range above, there are some fantastic single cask releases if you can get your hands on them. If I had to choose a favourite, then it would be one that I only recently tasted, The Kilchoman Sauternes cask finish. The whisky inside this bottle has been matured in ex-bourbon casks then finished in Sauternes casks from the Sauternes region in Bordeaux for five months giving it a delightfully fruity and caramel character. It doesn’t break the bank either coming in at about £75.
Why visit? This is a must-see if you are coming to visit distilleries on the island. Its smaller size means a more personal and informative tour with some of the most knowledgeable guides I have met. The basic tour lasts an hour for £10, and you can even hang about in the shop and cafe afterwards. As always I would recommend calling ahead to book your space.
This is not a big distillery, it is tiny compared to some of the island’s powerhouses. Kilchoman makes the same amount of spirit in one year as its Caol Ila Distillery does in one week: approximately 200,000 litres of alcohol.
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Don’t get me wrong, you still get a whiff of peat smoke but Kilchoman is more subtle and lighter than the other big-hitters