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 – Pedro Ximenez Single Cask 58.4%

Next up in our Kilchoman trilogy was a cask strength whisky matured exclusively in a Pedro Ximenez cask. Unlike the depth of red sherry, this white Spanish grape is dried under the sun to create a thick, dark liquid with raisins and molasses which then is fortified and aged using a solera process.

For whiskies, using either a PX or Oloroso sherry butt produces a distinctive ‘Christmasy’ sweetness with subtle differences. Some suggest a PX cask tends to imbue a whisky more strongly with raisins, gaining  an almost syrupy quality. Whereas Oloroso tends to be rich, spicier plum pudding sweetness. Read on to see what we found with this Kilchoman PX before comparing it with the Oloroso Sherry cask.

Kilchoman PX

Kilchoman Pedro Ximenez Single Cask Trilogy 58.4% (LMDW) 
Single Cask #374 (19.7.2010/31.8.2015), Bottle No 141/261
  • Colour – Much darker than the 1st, clear indication of entering sherry territory
  • Nose – One immediate comment was “It’s like that red hair oil!” (Navratan kesh tel), salty sweet, smoked sweet bacon, stewed fruits, coconut? Cinnamon sweet without the extra spicy zing we sometimes find, lots of sea salt, then caramel popcorn and finally seaweed
  • Palate – Less complex and much more accessible than the 1st whisky. Peat is mild… the sense that you need to ‘pull it out’ rather than being ‘hello! I’m here!’ However better body and much better balanced than the 1st whisky. Think aged balsamic, much more oil and substance, almost chewy or syrupy
  • Finish – Sits there with spice, caramel toffee and an inner curl of peat
  • Water – Doesn’t require it. Some found it killed it.
  • Speculation – Sense of it being more matured than the 1st, sherry elements without being overpowering
  • Mood / setting – This one you could welcome in a bar, not so demanding of careful attention. A lot easier to get acquainted and simply enjoy. One tasters clear favourite!
  • Comments – “Sweet and yummy with some spice!” “A balance of sweet and spice – perfect!”
Here’s what the folks at La Maison du Whisky have to say (translated from French) about this Kilchoman:

The nose opens in a particularly heady whirlwind in which peat and sherry match each other note for note in intensity. A spectacular change of olfactory scene overflowing with fruity and floral aromas. An attack on the palate in which peat takes its leave for a few moments before making a triumphant return. The end of the palate is characterised by the sumptuous influence of the sherry. Peat and smoke join forces in a grand finale that emphasizes the great purity of this distillate. Just a few highlights in experiencing this Kilchoman aged in Pedro Ximenez casks.

Profile: the peat gives way to a note of agave here, grapefruit there, and even mustard seed.

Also in  our Kilchoman Trilogy evening:

We’ve had the pleasure of sampling a few other Kilchoman’s in the past too…

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