Kilchoman Trilogy Pairing Quandary

Imagine you are a celebrated curator of special gourmet experiences.

Picture your normal metier as a sommelier is to pair food with wine.

Then someone comes to you with a challenge…

Craft a unique evening pairing dishes with cask strength peated whiskies you have never tried before.

And will not have an opportunity to sample until the evening itself.

Nikhil Agarwal of All Things Nice rose to the challenge, armed with tasting notes… he planned a remarkable six course meal…

However, a true professional, on sampling the whiskies, he suggested reversing the PX with sherry or simply playing around with a sip of each to determine the best pairing. As we discovered, some of the assumptions made based on the tasting notes needed to be adjusted when faced with the reality of our experience with the different expressions.

Kilchoman Bourbon cask

Kilchoman Bourbon cask

Kilchoman Bourbon bottle tasting notes:

  • Colour – Golden hay
  • Nose – Soft fruits, citrus notes with sweet smoky aroma
  • Palate – Vanilla and caramel evident, with a soft full character and ripe fruit notes
  • Finish – Long, clean and sweet with peat smoke and soft citrus notes at the end
Planned to pair with:

Kilchoman pani puri

Bombay’s Street Pani Puri
Crispy unleavened whole wheat pockets filled with mint and coriander spiced chickpea, topped with sweet tamarind sauce

KIlchoman vada pau

Mini Vada Pao
Stuffed potato fritter, garlic seasoning, dry coconut and East Indian bottle masala served within a partially charred Indian pao
What did we find?
  • The pani puri was served with the warm chickpea sabra a surprise inside its crunchy pocket. It was hot and spicy with a sweet tangy tamarind. With the bourbon it ‘popped’ into a crazy tasty combination that left you craving more! Which we shameless requested, to then contrast trying a delicious morsel with each whisky. What we found is the bourbon brought out the spice more, the sherry the sweet side and the PX was juuuust right!
  • And the vada pau? The dry coconut and home made bottle masala made this completely distinctive, standing out as much more than just the savoury snack so loved by Mumbaikars. While all sampled it first with the bourbon, it was when we crossed over to the PX that we discovered a spontaneous combustion of flavours in an absolutely fabulous pairing!
Kilchoman PX

Kilchoman PX

Kilchoman PX bottle tasting notes:

  • Colour – Golden amber
  • Nose – Strong vanilla with citrus fruits, caramelised brown sugar and sultanas
  • Palate – Sweet toffee up front with a hint of marmalade, dryness and a long peaty finish
  • Finish – The finish is long and clean with rich smoke and dried fruit
Planned to pair with:
Kilchoman main course
Mutton Curry or Baingan Bharta and Bhaja, Mixed Dal and Bhindi Fry  
Slow cooked mutton chops in gravy or smoked aubergine served on an aubergine fritter, spiced lentils and super delicious crispy okra, served with Indian bread ‘naan’
Kilchoman Biryani
Matka Biryani and Raita
Mushroom biryani cooked with whole spices served with cold yoghurt salad
What did we find?
  • I can’t speak for the carnivores, but the baingan bharta and bhajan was was a complete treat! To then have bhindi (bitter gourd) prepared my favourite way and a rich comforting home style mixed lentil? And hot buttered naan… Let’s just say my taste buds were doing a happy dance long before whisky was introduced….
  • What I found was different elements paired best with different whiskies. For the mixed dal? Definitely the sherry. For the bhindi? The PX. And the baingan, even the bourbon worked however it was back to the PX for most.
  • The delight with the next course was the contrast between the hot biryani and the cold raita. Again we tried different combinations with the whisky. For some, it went best with the bourbon, others the sherry. Interestingly none would chose to pair this dish with the PX.
Kilchoman Sherry

Kilchoman Sherry

Kilchoman Sherry bottle tasting notes:
  • Colour – Dark burnished copper
  • Nose – Deep sherry, smoke and leather notes
  • Palate – Rich, luxurious sherry flavours. Viscous almost syrupy, lots of cooked fruits and citrus peel
  • Finish – Excellent, for a young whisky this has all the characteristics of great age
Planned to pair with:
 Kilchoman Regiano
Say Cheese
36 month aged Parmigiana Reggiani dressed with organic honey from the forests of Orissa
 Kilchoman Chocolate Ganache
60% dark chocolate & coffee ganache

What did we find?

  • In both cases, zero doubt on the whisky pairing choice – the PX. The salty sweet combination of the honey drizzled parmigiana paired beautifully with it. As it did with the sinful chocolate too!

Clearly the PX was the most versatile and the whisky that worked best paired with various dishes. What we found when we sampled it before the dinner was a whisky that was more accessible and easier to simply enjoy than the bourbon or sherry. While each of the trilogy is a unique and worthy whisky,

We’ve had the pleasure of sampling several Kilchomans….

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Kilchoman Trilogy – Sherry Single Cask 60.6%

Back in 2015 as a tasting group, we had only explored Machir Bay and 100% Islay. Middle of last year, I acquired from Heathrow duty-free the Coull Point which quickly embraced it as my ‘go to’ daily dram whisky.

So when browsing around La Maison du Whisky in Singapore in December 2015, the idea of introducing a cask strength Kilchoman trilogy that explored the effect of maturing in different casks (bourbon, PX and sherry) was most appealing. Another member had requested I pick up three whiskies on his behalf, and this seemed just perfect!

Picture then our April hosts face fall when our March 2016 session focused on a Kilchoman trio with Machir Bay, Sanaig and… the very Kilchoman Trilogy Sherry Single Cask he planned for his session!

Undeterred, our host crafted a remarkable unique evening where we appreciated, anew, this single cask whisky. It was a completely different experience and well worth revisiting.

Kilchoman Sherry

Here is what we found:

Kilchoman Sherry Single Cask Trilogy 60.6% (LMDW) 

Single Cask #199 (8.4.2010/31.8.2015), Bottle 173 /643
  • Colour – Much much darker, unmistakable sherry
  • Nose – Tamarind sour, peat, spice, that distinctive imli ka pani (a tart spicy tamarind water), which opened to sweet vanilla, apple pie and caramel
  • Palate – All the peppers – every last one! From sweet crisp green capsicum to black peppercorn and even a spicy red chilly. Very balanced and pronounced “gorgeous!”
  • Finish – Long, bitter, spice at first that smooths into sweet
  • Water – Think we forgot to add in the main tasting but later in the evening, did to help with the pairing
  • Speculation – Same distillery as earlier? Peat theme? All Scottish whiskies… but not typical Islay.
  • Mood / setting – While not an easy whisky, could hold its own in a more sociable setting just as it could be savoured solo
  • Comments – “I’m stealing it!” (til the speaker later discovered he already had a bottle at home!)
So what do the folks over at La Maison du Whisky have to say (translated from French) about this Kilchoman? 

Although the sherry just about gains the upper hand over the peat and smoke in the finish, it is only with a view to prolonging the intense pleasure experienced in tasting this Kilchoman aged in sherry casks. Whether in the nose or on the palate, the notes inherent to sherry and those accumulated through smoked malted barley are so deeply embedded here it is impossible to tell them apart. This beautiful weaving of scents and tastes creates a complex, deep, sparkling and remarkably well-balanced single malt.

Profile: Dominated by peat, but this does not exclude the presence of ripe (Mirabelle plum, quince) and exotic (pineapple, kiwi) fruit.

Others in our Kilchoman Trilogy evening:

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Kilchoman Trilogy – Sherry, PX and Bourbon

Patience is a virtue… and I’ve been rather impatient!

Back in December 2015 I picked this Kilchoman Trilogy up for another member of our Whisky tasting group… And I have been waiting, waiting, waiting ever since to sample!!

Kilchoman Trilogy

It was made teasingly even more excruciating when one of the trilogy (Sherry) made an appearance at last month’s fabulous peat and smoke pairing experience.

All three bottles are a La Maison du Whisky world exclusive and were picked up from their Singapore store.

As usual, we tasted blind. As I was the ‘purveyor’ of these cask strength lovelies from Singapore, I knew overall what I was ‘in’ for, however only our host knew which expression we tasted.

Naturally our host didn’t do something so simple as merely share the whiskies for our sampling pleasure…. Nope! He planned a marvellous 6 course meal at the home of a Mumbai culinary celebrity and sommelier!

What whiskies made up this Kilchoman Trilogy?

Plus a post with drool worthy descriptions of our delectable pairing delights!

We’ve had the pleasure of sampling a few other Kilchomans….

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Kilchoman peat pairing dinner!

To say it was a special evening was an understatement! We began with three whiskies from Kilchoman having exactly the same peat level (50 ppm) yet each remarkably different.

Then after the initial blind sampling, the whiskies were revealed then move on to the real fun – whisky & food pairing!


1st course – Machir Bay

Machir Bay with salad:  A delightful salad with smoked cheese, smoked olive oil, smoked almond, smoked salt, light greens offset with bursts of cherry tomatoes.

Pairing experience? 

Whisky was very smooth, softened all the peat, some speculated that the salad surprisingly conquered the whisky making it delicate and dainty which was a complete contrast to the character we found sampling alone. Like gelding a stallion.

 Kilchoman Smoked Salad

2nd course – Sanaig

Sanaig with main:  Choice between a smoked winter vegetable ratatouille & smoked applewood chicken with an almond mash potato.

Pairing experience? 

Brilliant match with both veg & non-veg options! The food brought out the sherry elements in the whisky with the nose taking on a gorgeous sweet raisin, plum almost port like quality that balanced the smoked flavours beautifully. The cracked black pepper in the potato mash added just the right heat. An excellent combination! Some attempted with the 3rd whisky but that simply did not work.

 Kilchoman Sherry Cask Chocolate Ganache

3rd course – Sherry Cask Strength

Sherry cask strength with desert:  A lovely chocolate cake with a Sherry Cask Strength whisky ganache.

Pairing experience? 

While sherry with such a chocolate desert is a perfect combination, cask strength with peat is a tough combination to pull off. Suggestion of a Glendronach or something with a little less ‘kick’ may have been a better compliment. In this pairing, the whisky spice dominated however the whisky spiked sauce? A fabulous luscious indulgence!

How did the whisky-food pairing fare overall?

  • Machir Bay and salad pairing was absolutely on the right track, though curious how the smokey salad flavours conquered the whisky
  • Sanaig and main course pairing was perfection. Absolute balance between the elements, complimenting beautifully
  • Sherry Cask Strength and chocolate pairing was a gamble…. In this case, the whisky spice was more pronounced than the delicious chocolate however no one was really complaining 🙂

Overall a marvellous evening – three unique expressions from Kilchoman paired with delightful dishes.

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Kilchoman Sherry Single Cask 60.6%

Last in our Kilchoman peat explorations was the Kilchoman Sherry Single Cask matured completely in a sherry butt and bottled at cask strength.

Kilchoman Machir Bay, Sanaig, Sherry Cask

Kilchoman Machir Bay, Sanaig, Sherry Cask

  • Colour: Deep copper
  • Nose: Again such a contrast from the previous whiskies! Initial punch of blue stilton cheese, curd, then a hint of peat, some spice, buttery leather… as it opened a tight ball of citrus gradually opened
  • Taste: Spice, strength, boot leather, sits on the tongue
  • Finish: Waves of beautiful sherry peat
  • Water: Hmm… kicked up the spice even more when that was already a powerful element
Speculation: All thought it must be cask strength however none could imagine over 60%.
Reveal: This time, the Kilchoman was matured 100% in Oloroso Sherry butts. A powerful whisky and part of a special La Maison du Whisky “Trilogy” series. We sampled the:
Cask # 199/2010. Distilled 8 April 2010 & Bottled 31 August 2015. Bottle #204 of 642.

For those tuning in now, our Kilchoman evening featured:

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Kilchoman Peat Pairing Evening

Our original Mumbai based whisky tasting group consistently pushes the bar when conceptualising evenings.
We rotate hosts with each responsible to curate the experience – both whiskies and food to follow.
Over the years, we’ve had whisky and food pairings before.

Some of us even enjoyed a delightful dinner years ago with Anthony and Kathy Willis featuring Kilchoman Machir Bay and 100% Islay paired with a multi-course north Indian meal at Neel, Mahalaxmi Race Course in Mumbai.

None of this could prepare us for the unique experience in store for our March 2016 whisky tasting evening.

Our host began with a fabulous concept to explore the nuances of peat. Three different expressions from Kilchoman at identical 50 ppm which demonstrated the effect of the casks on the character with increasing percentage of sherry.

To then take this a step further, she then wanted us to explore how the peaty whiskies paired with three courses weaving in elements of smoke.

We first sampled in rapid succession the trio of whiskies blind. Then they were revealed to re-visit each paired with  carefully planned, beautifully presented courses.

Here is what we enjoyed from Kilchoman:

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