A new distillery
Kilchoman (pronounced kil-coe-man) is one of Scotland's newest whisky distilleries. It is located on the western side of the famous whisky island of Islay, which lies off the Scottish west coast. The distillery is named after a local church parish and is brand new - the first spirit was produced in June 2005. Kilchoman is independently owned by the Kilchoman Distillery Company and has an annual production capacity of around 100, 000 litres, making it one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland. It is already building up a cult following of whisky drinkers and attracts over 10,000 people a year to its visitor centre.
The first official single malt whisky from Kilchoman was only released in November 2009, once it had reached the legal age of three years and was allowed to be named as whisky, and has received rave reviews. Prior to this, Kilchoman had released a series of bottlings of their new make spirit that had been aged between one month and two and a half years. This bottling is from a single cask that was specially selected for whisky retailer Royal Mile Whiskies. The whisky was distilled on 22 May 2007 and bottled just over three years later on 4 June 2010. There are only 264 bottles available and its alcoholic strength is 61.7% ABV. The retail price is £59.95. We thank Michael Hopert and Matt Tilbury at Royal Mile's London shop for the chance to sample this exclusive whisky.
Who are Royal Mile?
Royal Mile Whiskies is one of the UK's leading independent whisky and spirits retailers. The company was established in 1991 and has established a worldwide customer base. They currently have two shops - one on Edinburgh's Royal Mile (hence the name!) and one in London's West End - with a third shop in Edinburgh specialising in cigars. Royal Mile Whiskies have one of the best whisky retail websites on the net and in addition to an expansive range of whisky, bourbons and other spirits, the website is also home to in depth distillery profiles, whisky history and staff tasting notes. It is well worth a visit - www.royalmilewhiskies.com.
Our tasting notes
The colour of this whisky is light and golden. The nose has an interesting combination of vibrant freshness and rich smokiness - the aromas coming through include toffee, fresh green fruit (think of pears, apples and greengages), vanilla, citrus (imagine lemon zest), a hint of something spicy (reminiscent of peppercorns) and plenty of woody bonfire smoke. On the palate, this is initially crisp and fresh but feels sweeter and less savoury than the nose suggests. This sweetness has elements of honey, vanilla and icing sugar to it. These combine well with the slightly acrid but pungent peaty smoke (this feels slightly more ashy than on the nose), some distinct cereal grains and the fresh green and citrus fruits - the overall feeling remains clean and refreshing. It ends up being creamier with more vanilla coming to the fore. The finish is long, vibrant and sweet with that vanilla and woody bonfire smoke prominent. The smokiness burns away before fading in your mouth and it becomes dry towards the end.
What's the verdict?
As mentioned, most Kilchoman releases to date have received rave reviews. It is easy to see why as they show much potential and seem a little older than their young age would suggest. This Royal Mile bottling is another example that shows this potential and much quality. Having said that, it is still very youthful and gets you thinking about how good the whisky from this distillery could be in the future. Let's hope that temptation to meet demand isn't fully followed and some whisky survives to prove or show the point. This is by no means the finished product and people need to remember that before getting carried away, but it's a good and promising start!