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Monday, March 15, 2021

Kilchoman Loch Gorm, 2020 Edition

(Kilchoman cluster homepage)

This cluster has included an extensive look at Kilchoman's Machir Bays, as well as a few Vintage releases and one standard 100% Islay edition. Now it's time for their other annual release, the all-sherry-cask Loch Gorm.

In 2015 I reviewed the 2013 and 2014 editions, liked them both, then never tried another edition. Those two batches were 5-6 years old. Years have passed, and now Loch Gorm is older. The 2020 edition is 9 years old but also has 11-13 year old casks in the mix. The cynical of us would say, "Meh, there's probably one cask of each at most in the mix." Even so, there are only 21 casks in the vatting, so that older content is not insignificant. And I am thankful the Willses did not choose turn those 3+ casks into $300+ single sherry butt releases.

To gain some perspective, I tried this whisky alongside Friday's single sherry hogshead.

Region: Islay
Age: Nine years (2011 - 2020), with 2009, 2008 and 2007 stuff added to the mix
Maturation21 Oloroso Sherry butts
Barley: 50ppm, sourced from Port Ellen maltings
Outturn: 15,500 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfilltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from a purchased sample)

Right from the nose reads older than any of the previous fourteen Kilchoman's from this cluster. The sherry merges with the peat very well. One can find walnuts, dried cherries, orange peel and just a touch of meatiness. Farmy peat and coastal peat meet and mix. Hints of dark chocolate, moss and golden raisins float through the background. The nose remains vibrant once the whisky is diluted to 40%abv. There are peated dried apricots and peated almond cookies. Briny shellfish. Very dark chocolate and toasted nuts.

The steady rumble of sooty peat doesn't smother the rest of the palate's characteristics. There are lots of roasted pecans and almonds. A balance of salt, pepper, sweetness and a bright coastal quality reads like the best batches of Talisker Distillers Edition, but louder. The palate maintains a good texture after it's reduced to 40%abv. Cloves, cardamom, molasses and dried apricots on top. Smoky residue in the middle. Minerals and oranges on the bottom.

Salt, soot and sweet are in balance again in the finish, with hints of limes, moss and dried cherries in the background. Reduced to 40%abv, the whisky's finish keeps the soot and sweet, while adding minerals and subtle bitterness.

I know I mentioned Talisker DE above, but what this really reminds me of are the better Ardbeg Uigeadail batches from recent years, once the Oogie lost its super-old-cask ingredients. It might even be better, though I would obviously require many full bottles to make a wise decision. Loch Gorm 2020 tops Friday's 100% Islay sherry hoggie because this whisky has the big spirit to stand up to the big casks. In fact, the bigger size of the butts (versus a smaller hogshead) may have helped ease any sherry violence. This is also the first of this cluster's PE malt Kilchomans that didn't fall apart with dilution.

This very very good whisky costs nearly twice as much as Uigeadail in the US. It's probably older than current Oog batches, and it has a limited outturn, and it has the benefit of not being owned by LVMH. Yet I still pause at spending $110+ for a 9 year old non-single-cask. We can't blame The Tariff for the pricing because the 2014 edition was already nearing $100. This pause will probably mean I'll miss out on a bottle. But I think about these things.

Availability - It's available in the US and Europe, but less so every week
Pricing - $100-$130 in the US, about $10 cheaper in Europe (for 50mL less booze)
Rating - 89