Kilchoman Madeira Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 50%
Nose: 5.8 | Palate: 5.8 | Finish: 5.8 | Overall Score: 5.8

I seem to writing only about Islay whiskies of late. Thing is I have a pocket book full of tasting notes after my trip to the Feis Ile that I have to commit to the site. So you’re going to have to bear with me for a while.

We managed to spend a fun few hours at the distillery indulging in, not only some whiskies but, chocolate desserts too. The Machir Bay brownie, I must admit, is better than any whisky produced there. Sure, that might be a slight exaggeration but every time I think of Kilchoman I think of that brownie. So draw your own conclusion.

Kilchoman have been quite busy of late adding experimental expressions to both their core and special range and the one I was most excited about getting my hands on was the young ‘un matured fully in Madeira Casks.

Back in 2011 the distillery filled 17 casks which had previously held Madeira wine and set them to rest. Then in 2015 they managed to extract 6,100 bottles from those casks and put together what is, in my opinion, one of the more average Kilchomans’ I have ever tasted.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at 50% ABV

Nose: Nope. Don’t like it. Really spirity. Feinty spirits. Quite sharp. I’m missing the delicate robustness that I’m accustomed to with Kilchomans. Quite woody. There is some vanilla and toffee sweetness. Touch of garam masala. For some reason this one screams young. And it really shouldn’t given how pristine Kilchoman are with their spirit and casks. 5.8

Palate: Equally spirity. Equally upsetting. Muddle of sharp pin pricks with an almost apologetic fruitiness. Sorry, nothing to see here. 5.8

Finish: Medium to who care anymore? 5.8

Overall Comments: Well, what can I say? I’ve decided I don’t like these wine maturations. Especially Madeira. Laphroaig struggled with it with 2016’s Cairdeas. It was not a total disaster like this but still nothing spectacular. I don’t know if a few more years will do the trick or only make it worse. Honestly, I don’t know if there’s any stock left over to even know. And, frankly, I couldn’t care less.

Overall Score: 5.8


Kilchoman 2008 Vintage

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 46% | Colour: Gold
Nose: 8.0 | Palate: 8.0 | Finish: 8.0 | Overall Score: 8.0

It’s been a really long day. Nothing that would kill me, mind you. Just that the sometimes the rigors of daily life can eventually catch up with you. And that’s when you need the escape. That one happy place you can go to and pretend nothing around you really matters.

And for me that place is Islay.

Especially now given how fresh my memories are of that wonderful place. The clean air, the calming green and simply the thought of being surrounded by so many amazing whiskies.

On our second day on the island I convinced the others to head on down to Kilchoman for, not just their whiskies, but their sinfully delicious Machir Bay soaked chocolate brownie. If there is one thing you must do before you die is try that dessert in the distillery cafe. It is just absolutely divine.

After stuffing my face with a tasty roast beef sandwich and the famed brownie I sat down with something else that was equally divine and also made at Kilchoman. The seven year old 2008 Vintage.

This is the first time Kilchoman have released a whisky this old for the general public. Though, I’m not counting the one-off 10 year old released a few months ago for a cancer charity auction in support of, then distillery manager, John MacLellan. He sadly lost his battle against the same disease three months ago. RIP good man.

The Limited Edition 2008 Vintage is a vatting of fresh ex American bourbon barrels filled in July 2008 and bottled in August 2015. Seems like older Kilchomans are just as tasty as their younger siblings.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at 46%

Nose: That signature Kilchoman toasted barley. And the equally familiar smoke. Then there’s that typical Islay grist. Cereal-y with a soft layer of peat. A hint of green lime. Melon. Touch of oak. Green berries. Another classic Kilchoman nose. Still seems quite young and sprightly even though it’s a good 18 months or so older than the oldest Kilchoman on the market. 8.0

Palate: Crisp barley. Nice solid oak. That Islay smoke. Vanilla. Dries mid-palate. Now a little sweeter. More chocolate. More fruit. Very creamy mouthfeel. It’s not overly complex but I didn’t expect it to be. Just the classic Kilchoman flavours coming through nicely. 8.0

Finish: Long. Drying. Touch of oak. Black pepper. 8.0

Overall Comments: I love this distillery. Love everything about it. And so I’m probably a little biased. But then again I’m a sucker for good old-fashioned bourbon barrels done right. Clean crisp flavours where I can taste the distillery. And this one ticks all those boxes for me.

Overall Score: 8.0

Kilchoman Single Cask Bourbon

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 60% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

I’ve been on a bit of a Kilchoman run of late. Nothing intentional. Just a series of coincidences that’s all. Came back from Islay after tasting a bunch. Organized a tasting which featured a couple. Got invited to a tasting which had four expressions on the menu.

So, really, not my fault.


It was at this very Kilchoman tasting that I had the pleasure of sitting down with Peter Wills, son of owner Anthony, who is incharge of marketing for the distillery. A very standup young man who was extremely passionate about his whisky. We went out for a few more afterwards which turned out to be quite a brilliant evening.

The glass in my hand holds spirit from a single cask matured exclusively in a first-fill bourbon barrel from Buffalo Trace. Distilled on 26th August, 2010 and bottled almost five years later on 11th May, 2015 this is bottle number 435 of 2010 and served at a very high cask strength of 60%

Nose: Sweet smoke. Peat. Cardboard. Citrus. Pineapple. So much citrus in this. That nice gristy barley that I’ve come to associate with Kilchoman. A bit of malt. Fresh fruits. Apricots. White wine chardonay. Digestives. Vanilla. Quite drying. Lemon tart. LIme zest. White pepper. Lots of aromas here. I like it. 22/25

Palate: Lemon. Lime. Custard. That sweet smoke again. Char. Oak. Cinnamon. Hint of chocolate. Burnt toast. Quite savory. The spicy arrival is quite massive and needs a touch of water to mellow it down. With water the barley comes through nicely along with that Islay grist. Honey. Very creamy now. Much smoother. With water I would give it an additional point. 23/25

Finish: Very long. Massive spices. Very dry. Cinnamon. With water the finish is nicer. Much smoother. 22/25

Overall Comments: At 60% there is no option but to have this with a touch of water. Normally I would mark it neat but I’ll make an exception this time around. A good powerful whisky with a lot of flavors.

Rating: 89

Kilchoman 10th Anniversary Release

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 58.2% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 18 | Finish: 18 | Balance: 19 | Rating: 78

Kilchoman is a quaint little distillery that has defied the odds and is fast becoming a name to reckon with.

Good quality whisky making that is leading the way in making people realize that age is but a number. And by that I don’t mean they’re churning out NAS statements like everyone else out there.

Quite the contrary.

They take pride in telling people the exact age of their whiskies. From the time of distillation to the exact day of bottling. They don’t hide behind fancy marketing jargon and instead let the whisky do the talking.

And for that they have my respect.

Their whiskies remind me of old school Ardbegs with their Islay grist and barley smokiness beautifully balanced with a woody sweetness. After an initial run-in with a couple of less than stellar bottlings I am now a fan.

I picked up a mini of the 10th Anniversary bottling when I visited the distillery during my Islay visit last month for the Festival. And since I’ve already made it clear that I’m a big fan this particular bottling comes as a bit of a disappointment.

To mark 10 years since it opened it’s doors the distillery, along with it’s official single cask Feis Ile bottling, released a special expression with whiskies from each year starting from 2005 until 2012 from both bourbon and sherry barrels.

My sample is from a 50ml mini purchased at the distillery and bottled at 58.2%

Nose: Sugarcane. Quite tart. White wine chardonnay. White pepper. Hint of fruit. Dried apricots. Green limes. That lovely Islay peat. Fine grist. Lots of barley. So close to the old school Ardbegs. Brine. Hint of cottage cheese. Whiff of grass. I quite like the nose. (23/25)

Palate: Good weight. Initially the mouthfeel is great. But then you get this wave of bitterness. I have never tasted a whisky this bitter ever. I try and get some fruits but, my word, there is something wrong here. (18/25)

Finish: Bitter. Spicy. Bitter. (18/25)

Overall Comments: Such a shame about this expression. There is definitely a bad cask in here somewhere and there’s lots of it, too. A great idea marred by a miscreant. But that’s not going to stop me from being a fan. In fact it tells me the guys over at Kilchoman are human.

Rating: 78

Kilchoman Feis Ile 2015 Release

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Distillery/Brand: | Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 58.2% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Kilchoman was pretty much on top of my must-visit-distillery list the moment I stepped off the plane on Islay. And luckily for me it was literally a 5 minutes drive from where I was staying.
Which meant I was able to visit it twice during my week long stay for the Islay Festival.

The first visit I managed a small tasting (Loch Gorm 2015, Original Cask Strength and a Single Cask PX) followed by an insanely delicious chocolate brownie soaked in Machir Bay. We actually ordered two more after devouring the first.

My next visit was for a quick distillery tour. Cute. Interesting. I enjoyed my self.

Kilchoman released two whiskies this year. One was the 10th Anniversary bottling and the other the 2015 Feis Ile expression. This is their oldest whisky yet – seven years to the day – and comprises of a vatting of three fresh bourbon barrels.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at 58.2%

Nose: That all too familiar Kilchoman grist. A fine balance between peaty smoke and sweetness. Vanilla. Melons. It’s quite potent when you first get in there. But mellows out to a nice green apple sweet tartness. Hint of sea salt. Milk chocolate. Oak. This is such a typically good Kilchoman nose. Just good old fashioned whisky making.

Palate: Ooooh! Spicy! Lots of it. But let it simmer on your palate and the other flavors come out to play. Milk chocolate. Toasted barley. So much toasted barley. The green apples are back. Hint of mint. Oak. Coffee beans. A very creamy whisky if there was one. Quite a nice layer of flavors to play with.

Finish: Long. Oily. The spicy oak is back. So is the hint of mint.

Overall Comments: Quite liked this release. I, unfortunately did not like the 10th Anniversary one, though. But this one is just peachy. Well done Kilchoman.

Rating: 92

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2014

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

I have mentioned this in my previous reviews that after sipping my first Kilchoman I vowed never to touch it again. I can’t say which one it was because I’ve genuinely forgotten. Let’s just say my brain decided to erase that experience from my memory.

What I do remember is wishing I could tell Anthony Wills, the founder of Kilchoman and who was presenting the whiskies to us that night, how I felt exactly. Out of politeness I did not.

But now I would like to tell him that his little Islay farm distillery is fast becoming my top rated whisky. Maybe of all time. Yes, you heard that right Ardbeg & Laphroaig.

Every time I review a good Kilchoman I offer Anthony an apology in the hope that he reads it and sends me something fantastic. As a sign of his acceptance.

Looks like he’s due another one.

The Loch Gorm that I am reviewing has been distilled in 2009 and bottled in the spring 2014 making it around five years old. It has spent it’s entire length of maturation in Oloroso sherry casks making it the only Kilchoman to be completely matured in ex-sherry.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%

Nose: So fresh. So crisp. There’s the Islay grist. Honey. Clean peat. Oloroso. Nuts. Green tobacco leaf. Orange blossoms. Coffee beans. Faint smoke. Faint tar. Sweet and salty coastal sea air. White melons. An essay in fine tuning the perfect balance.

Palate: Smoke. Honey. Grated ginger. Peat. Cinnamon. Coffee beans. All spice. Cardboard. Delicate flavors that are on point. All the savory Islay goodness with a controlled Oloroso sweetness.

Finish: Smoke. Peat. Honey.

I don’t know what the whole hue and cry about dwindling stocks and NAS whiskies is when you can turn around a successful product like this in 5 years and be completely transparent about it.

Must be the inability to charge a bomb for young spirits. So everyone hides behind NAS.

Thank you Anthony for being honest about your craft. #RESPECT

Rating: 93

Kilchoman Machir Bay

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90

I’ve just got back from a very interesting Japanese whisky tasting event. Some good classic Japanese whiskies (Nikka from the Barrel, Hakushu 12, Yamazaki 18, to name a few) coupled with some delicious food made for an extremely satisfying evening.

But I decided to leave early and come back home to the Kilchoman Machir Bay as my last expression of the evening.

Kilchoman and I have a history. Three years ago I tasted a couple of young releases in the presence of Anthony Wills (founder of said distillery) and it was all I could do to prevent my self from spitting the liquid back out in the glass.

This was followed by a three year program on Kilchoman abstinence which was eventually broken by the Kilchoman 2013 Small Batch Release finished in Oloroso sherry casks.

I was floored. What an absolutely amazing whisky.

Anthony Wills here is another apology from me for writing you off.

This got me interested in other, newer, Kilchoman releases and when I heard good things about the Machir Bay I just had to get my self one of their dumpy bottles.

Machir Bay 2014 is a vatting of 5 and 6 year old ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry butts and is bottled at 46% ABV

Nose: Very sweet peat. Sugar cane. White wine. Chardonay. Very tart. Crisp. Fresh white oak. Fennel. Lime. Raspberry. Cumin. Cedar plank. Vanilla. Let it breathe and white dough comes wafting through. Finally pineapples. White grapes. A very fresh and lovely nose.

Palate: Very smooth. Extremely smooth to drink. Coffee. Apricots. Pears. Peat. White grape. Black peppers. Macaroon cake. Cumin seeds. Very palatable.

Finish: Smooth. Peat. Mint. Oily. Cumin. White melon lozenge.

This is another extremely accomplished spirit from Kilchoman. Wonderfully smooth and completely thought through.

Rating: 90

Kilchoman 2013 Small Batch Release

Kilchoman Small Batch Release 2013 Sherry
Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 58.2% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

So this is what happened. Around three years ago (in 2011) our local distributor organized an evening with a certain Anthony Wills of Kilchoman.

Having read interesting things about the distillery (it being 100% Islay – from growing it’s own barley, malting it, distilling it and maturing it on the tiny island) I decided to pick up two expressions before even attending the evening – a sherry finish and a bourbon single cask both 2011 and both around 5 years of age. As yet unopened.

The two that I tasted that evening with Anthony were, frankly, not to my liking at all. In fact they were quite less than ordinary. One was a Summer 2010 Release and the other introduced only as a special bottling for the Dubai Duty Free which I think was also a 2010 release.

Anyway both were quite terrible and I decided to write off the distillery scoffing at their plans to market such young whiskies. I just assumed that it was the lack of maturation that was responsible for the quality or lack thereof.

How wrong I was.

My curiosity was aroused recently when the Loch Gorm and Machir Bay started receiving rave reviews and so when I spotted this 2013 Small Batch Release sherry finish sitting on a friends’ shelf I decided to pull it out for a swig.

Distilled in October 2008 and bottled on 30th November 2013 this five year old spirit is served at a cool 58.2%. After 4 years in first fill bourbon casks it’s finished in Oloroso and is bottle no 87 of 1000.

Nose: Peat. Cinnamon. Orange marmalade. Nutty peppers. Sherry. Hint of iodine. Bay leaf. Wood shavings. Mild fennel. Feels perfectly balanced with the just the right amount of sweet and spice with a nice bay leaf twist.

Palate: Simply stunning. Oily with lots of sherry and peppers. Red spices. Cumin. Clove. Mid-palate it turns sweet. Orange citrus. Fudge. Dark plum. And that crisp betel leaf and acacia mix.

Finish: Long. Minty with a hint of pepper and green tobacco leaf.

A stingy splash of water will make the delivery juicier and brings out the citrus even more so.

A beautiful young whisky. Kilchoman, I owe you an apology for writing you off.

Rating: 93