Dubai Dream Drams – Kilchoman Sherry Single Cask 59.5%

Started in 2005, Kilchoman was the first new distillery on Islay in nearly 125 years. More importantly, the distillery crafted a distinctive “Islay character” style that challenged assumptions that quality required age.

Recently in Mumbai, I had the pleasure of chatting with Kilchoman’s founder Anthony Willis in the Spirited Stories tent at The Vault Biennale, where he shared with pride their journey into the world of whisky making.

There will be more on that another time, for now let’s focus the whisky! This particular single cask release featured as the 5th whisky sampled early January 2019 in Dubai.

In keeping with our “unique” theme, this bottle was one of only 42 produced to be sold from the Kilchoman distillery shop. It is approximately 5 years of age and according to Whisky Base, last sold for EUR 161.

Here is what my tasting companions found…

Kilchoman Sherry (8 Nov 2007/22 Feb 2013) Cask 447/2007 59.5%

  • Nose: Wet wood, campfire, burnt sugar cane, cinnamon, black pepper
  • Palate: The peat from the fresh bottle was quite pronounced, edgy, taking time to settle down and reveal the sherry dimension
  • Finish: A sweet peat cinnamon
  • Water: Tamed it considerably but for some it still remained a bit brash and unbalanced

I could swear one of the guys called it an “utara” whisky… which in Hindi literally means “descend” or “bring down” but is also slang for what you drink the next morning to take the edge off a bad hangover… like “hair of the dog.”

For a few of my sampling companions, this was simply too powerful and peaty for their palate – which is perfectly fine as half the fun of tasting a range of whiskies is discovering your personal preferences. That said, moving to a fresh pour of a cask strength at nearly 60% after the Longmorn 25 year or Strathclyde 38 year was certainly a shift in approach!

For these gents, perhaps something like the rich fruity Kilchoman Sanaig 46% might have been a more natural progression in our sampling journey. For a strong expression like this, having the right setting, time to ease into its personality, slowing down and settling in, makes all the difference.

Here is what the folks at Kilchoman have to say in their tasting notes:

  • Colour: Rich golden
  • Nose: Nice, combines peat and sherry, typical Kilchoman cloves and cinnamon
  • Palate: Soft peaty aromas with overtones of sherry, slightly dry on the palate. A good example of Kilchoman in sherry wood.
  • Finish: Clean, long and rich

If you are curious about other Kilchoman tasting experiences, check out:

The other Dream drams generously shared by our Dubai host included:

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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
Dessert
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 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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