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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Kilchoman Machir Bay, bottled 2013

 (Kilchoman cluster homepage)

Per my palate, Kilchoman hit the ground running with their first standard bottling, Machir Bay. Named for the West Coast beach near the distillery, the whisky was mostly 3 and 4 year old whiskies with a smidgen of 5 year old stuff when it first showed up in 2012, yet it met and bested some of Islay's regular 10-12 year olds. I went through a couple bottles in the first few years and recommended it to anyone who wanted some "really smoky scotch". Samples were never kept because it was an everyday bottle, and it was a year or two before my interest began regarding the quality progression of standard bottlings. Luckily I was able to purchase a sample a few years ago. And don't worry, this wee one had a sparring partner.

Region: Islay
Age and Maturation60% 3-year-old matured in former Buffalo Trace barrels + 35% 4-year-old matured in former Buffalo Trace barrels and finished for two months in ex-Sherry casks + 5% 5-year-old matured in former Buffalo Trace barrels
Barley: 50ppm, sourced from Port Ellen maltings
Bottled: 2013
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfilltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from a purchased sample)

The neat nose begins with freshly baked cookies and peat smoke laced with mint and anise. Notes of wet tree bark, horseradish and shoe polish develop over twenty minutes. Reducing it to 40%abv brings out farmy and leafy notes. The mint and anise remain, while the cookies become pastry dough and confectioner's sugar.

Lemon cookies and moderate wood smoke, with a whiff of pine, takes palate's foreground. Butterscotch chips, peanut brittle and a salty mineral note fill the midground. Hints of charred beef and York peppermint patties roll around in the back. Reducing the whisky to 40%abv rolls the smoke back and brings the salt and minerals forward. A tarter lemon note lingers in the background.

Smoke highlighted with lemon and bitter herbs fills the surprisingly long finish. Smaller notes of mint leaf and minerals appear later. Diluting to 40%abv pushes the sooty smoke even further forward. All the other elements are replaced by a mild sweetness.

Yeah, this still rocks. It's young, but neither rough nor raw, and it still seems older than its age. No mezcal nor ethanol, but plenty of lemon, mint and minerals. And though the peat is ever-present, it doesn't hammer the tastebuds like 3-5yo Port Charlotte, Ardbeg or Talisker can. At least I knew back in 2013 that Machir Bay was a good thing.

I'll review a more recent bottling tomorrow. But for now...

Availability - In 2013, North America and Europe
Pricing - In 2013, $50-$60
Rating - 87 (when neat)