Kilchoman Machir Bay 46% – Peat pairing evening

This was not the 1st time our merry Mumbai malt group sampled Machir Bay. I suspect it will not be the last either.

As usual, we sampled blind. However this time, after revealing the whiskies, we re-sampled as part of a proper sit-down three course meal with whisky pairing.
Kilchoman Machir Bay, Sanaig, Sherry Cask

Kilchoman Machir Bay, Sanaig, Sherry Cask

  • Colour: Light
  • Nose: Peat and sweet in waves – initially a very strong peat, rolls of smoke, then mellowed into sweet fruit, aroma of pineapple on a grill, pomelo, then soot came back with an edge of temple ash
  • Taste: Just like the nose – strong peat then sweet, cigar, a bit oily and viscous, sea salt, dry fruits, hazelnuts
  • Finish: Like puffing pipe tobacco, extremely dry, ash
  • Water: On the nose cinnamon bark and palate a spice explosion with a strong paprika spice burn. Let’s just say that when water was added, we all unconsciously grabbed a cucumber stick to help cut the spice.

Speculation: Sense of being in the 46% range, tough to pinpoint age however considered older simply as it managed to achieve a palate that lived up to the nose.

Reveal: Vatting of 5-6 year single malts with 80% ex-bourbon & 20% Oloroso Sherry butts. The palate phenomenally follows the nose, including the vacillation between smoke and sweet.

Typically we’ve found that those whiskies where the palate fulfils the promise of the nose tend to be older… Somehow the folks at Kilchoman have pulled that off in a NAS younger whisky. Superb!

This now makes four opportunities for a focused sampling of Machir Bay!

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Kilchoman Machir Bay 46%

Kilchoman is one of those distilleries to watch… years ago they effectively pushed the boundaries of complexity for a YOUNG Islay whisky. And just keep getting better and better. The travel retail exclusive Coull Point is a current ‘everyday dram’ favourite. I’m eagerly awaiting an opportunity to try their 10 year anniversary whisky.

At the 2015 IWSC Awards, Machir Bay won gold, it also won best Islay under 12 year at the 2015 Scotch Whisky masters and boasts of many other recognitions.

My sampling journey with Machir Bay is:

  • First sampled blind as part of our regular monthly tastings in Sept 2013
  • Part of a delightful food – whisky pairing with Kilchoman Distillery owner and master distiller – Anthony Willis and his wife in 2014
  • During a convivial evening in Singapore in Dec 2015

The Singapore evening prompted me to pull out from our archives the 2013 tasting notes… which was sampled together with the Glenturret 10 year and Auchentoshan 14 year Cooper’s Reserve.

Glenturret, Auchentoshan Cooper's Reserve, Kilchoman Machir Bay

Here is what we found then…

Kilchoman Machir Bay 46%

  • Colour – Light gold in colour
  • Nose – Such a contrast from the earlier whiskies (Glenturret & Auchentoshan), bold, rubber, smoky, burnt wood and ash on nose
  • Taste – Carried through on palate with a woodsy strength tempered by a sweeter undertone, a difficult to identify element like soft over-ripe dried fruit
  • Finish – A lingering rich charcoal finish which prompted some debate on its age – some qualities of a younger whisky yet refreshingly complex as one would more typically find in an older whisky
  • Water – Add a little water and it bloomed further – bringing out both the sweet and spice with the warmth of burnt wood remaining

There was a challenge in pinpointing this offering – the peat was too subtle for a Laphroaig and didn’t quite fit the qualities of other Islay mainstays – however the region was guessed spot on!

Also aged in ex-bourbon casks and finished in sherry butts like the Cooper’s Reserve, it is far more robust. Machir Bay captures the senses and was the clear favourite – even paired post dinner with chocolate. To learn it is available in India and not ridiculously expensive – my oh my we lucky folks!

Each sample was a contrast and unique. Interestingly, all improved with a few drops of water whether lowland (Auchentoshan), highland (Glenturret) or islay (Kilchoman)! Slainthe!

For those curious, here’s what the folks over at The Vault Fine Spirits (based in Mumbai) have to say about Kilchoman Machir Bay:

Machir Bay, a heavily peated (50 PPM) whisky, is a vatting of 4 and 5 year old ex-bourbon casks, with the 4 year being finished in oloroso sherry butts for 4 weeks prior to bottling. Machir Bay was named ‘Whisky of the Year 2013’ at the International Whisky Competition.

Tasting Notes: The Machir Bay starts with a nose of soft cooked fruits with strong peaty aromas which in turn leads to a palate of mixed fruits and vanilla with an intense sweetness before a long lingering finish.

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