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….

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

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 – 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…

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Kilchoman Trilogy – Bourbon Single Cask 60.5%

The Kilchoman Trilogy from La Maison du Whisky celebrates the impact of maturing in different casks on the whisky – Bourbon, PX and sherry.

As usual, we tasted blind. However, as it was a trilogy, our host kept the identity of all three whiskies secret until after we sampled the last. First up for our tasting pleasure was the bourbon cask…

Kilchoman Bourbon cask

Kilchoman Bourbon cask

Kilchoman Bourbon Single Cask Trilogy 60.5% (LMDW) 

Single Cask #260 (6.5.2010/31.8.2015) Bottle 194 /267

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Nose – When first poured, an unmistakable peat which then settled down to reveal sweet fruit, meat like glazed ham and pineapple, a bit vegetal. The smoke softened in a heavy not sharp way, a little sweet medical camphor, almost detol like, then the freshness of green capsicum, a deeper earthy element. Finally after much airing, a sweet basil and mint emerged with sacred ash on the surface and cinnamon candy peaking beneath… when revisited much later, the nose was spicy sweet with sour curd
  • Palate – Sweet, tingly, peat yet a different smoke that your typical Islay, initially sharp it then mellowed without losing its strength and character, a little ‘life buoy soap’ and ‘big red’ cinnamon chewing gum, pepper spice on the lips, tending towards a Punjabi style ’tikka
  • Finish – Warm and spicy
  • Water – Some thought it was ‘dying’ for water, others not. Those that added found it brought out a bitter chocolate quality, a nice spice to savour. Finally after opening up over time, yeasty baked bread and bacon notes came out!

While clearly cask strength, it was a bit thin and hadn’t yet gathered the oils from the wood, so had the sense of possibly being younger.

As we discussed the possible mood or setting to best enjoy this dram, comments were:

  • Too complex for a bar, more like a special date with someone to test if s/he can appreciate such a whisky. “If you don’t get this whisky, you don’t make the cut for a next date!”
  • Or a more contemplative evening solo, as there is an oddly meditative quality more reminiscent of a temple than night on the town.

Did we appreciate this whisky? Certainly. It was hard not to be captivated by the different elements. This isn’t a friendly neighbourhood whisky. It is a bit more intellectual and requires you to pay attention to understand it.

So what do the folks over at La Maison du Whisky have to say (translated from French) about this Kilchoman whisky?

Particularly sunny, this version aged in bourbon casks perfectly encapsulates the precise and balanced style so characteristic of Kilchoman single malts. While the notes of peat and smoke are omnipresent, they leave their mark with great elegance while setting the tone for things to come. This thoroughly subtle influence enables the whisky to gain in olfactory and gustatory power that is both nuanced and perfectly mastered. A work of art!

Profile: Peat and smoke coated in lemony scents. It becomes increasingly voluptuous (rice pudding, tangerine jam).

Not sure I would describe it as ‘voluptuous’ but it certainly was a good way to kick off our tasting session!

Next up in our Kilchoman Trilogy evening:

From time to time, you can also find other whisky related updates and activities on:

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….

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

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:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on: