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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Single Malt Report: Kilchoman 5 year old 2008 cask #74 (K&L exclusive)

Well, I've written plenty of stuff about Kilchoman this week already.  There was the Loch Gorm on Monday, Sanaig on Tuesday, and a murder of whiskies yesterday.  So I'll keep the intro short.  Today, I'm reviewing of one of their single casks.

Cask 74 from 2008 is being sold exclusively through K&L Wines.  It was originally priced at $110.  It did not sell out after a year on the shelf so K&L chose to add it to their sale/clearance section (also known as Insider's Advantage), selling it for $83.  As mentioned yesterday, I enjoyed it when I tried a sample, but due to the price I wasn't so moved to buy a whole bottle on my own.  Luckily I was able to split one with Florin, My Annoying Opinions, and Chemistry of the Cocktail.  MAO and Jordan will be posting their reviews today as well.  I'll post links to them once I am conscious...

And here are their links:
-- MAO, a snippy man who has lost every breakdancing competition he's entered, posted his review here.
-- Jordan, who has won all of those dance-offs, but only because he owns the judges in Portland, posted his review here.

Region: Islay
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Exclusive to: K&L Wines
Age: five years (Feb. 22, 2008 - December 16, 2013)
Maturation: ex-bourbon barrel
Alcohol by Volume: 58.4%
Cask: 74/2008
Colored? No
Chillfiltered? No

Color - Bright amber

Nose - Starts with lemons, brown sugar, vanilla, and barley.  Baked potato, dried thyme, and dried oregano follow.  Then burnt plastic, saline, and vanilla-tinged smoke.  It's a little rooty, and has some Laphroaig-like medicinality (not a word!), which is balanced by a subtle nectarine note.  But it keeps returning to lemons or lemon creme.  After 15 minutes, here comes the cow poo.  And rainbow candy canes, of course.

Palate - The peated malt feels both green and floral, as opposed to smoky.  Lots of lime and fresh yellow stone fruit.  Vanilla bean, white sugar, anise, and a hint of something savoury.  It gets very candied at times.  Picks up some cinnamon candy and cracked pepper notes later on.

Finish - Smoke, salt, Underberg, and lemon gummi worms.  A brief whiff of cow.  Hint of cinnamon gum (Big Red).  It's quite sweet.

WITH WATER (~46%abv, from two tastings)
Nose - It gets leaner with the oak receding and the peat moving forward.  Some pepper, oyster-y salt, and confectioner's sugar.  Burnt hay, anise, and new carpet.  Hint of cinnamon.

Palate - The sweets are still there but it's a little farmier and bitterer.  Sweet basil, mint, and anise.  Tart citrus and lollipops.  More mossy than smoky.  Still pretty rich; more vibrant than Loch Gorm and Sanaig.

Finish - Shorter, but not short, if you follow.  Here the smoke comes totally to the fore.  In the background are smaller notes of sugar, bitterness, farm, and a peppery zip.

As noted, I tried this with water twice.  First when comparing it to Loch Gorm and Sanaig, then again on its own.  Happily my notes were nearly the same.  One thing I realized immediately was that when reduced to around 46%abv, this single cask is more enjoyable than Loch Gorm 2014 and Sanaig, from nose to palate to finish.  And when tried neatly, it's even better.

I found less cinnamon and less oak than David Driscoll notes on K&L's site.  But I'll agree with him that it is very good whisky.  I don't think it's "more flavorful, satisfying, and exciting than anything I've tasted from any Islay distillery over the past year" since, just off the top of my head, I know that I liked K&L's own 2001 Signatory Bowmore, the newer Laphroaig 18yo, and a couple of Kilchoman's single sherry casks better.  BUT I like this cask, and at the ripe old age of 5 years 10 months it might be the oldest Kilchoman single cask I've had so far.

At its current closeout price of $83, it's about a cheap as a Kilchoman single cask bottling gets nowadays.  If you think $83 is cheap for a 5 year old whisky, that's sorta up to you.  But I'm really happy I had a chance to split this with some good fellows.  I hope they liked it too... (Update: I liked it the most, so I guess I win.)

Availability - K&L Wines only
Pricing - $82.99 if you're signed up for their Insider's Advantage
Rating - 88


  1. Great idea with the simul-cast reviews! You did enjoy it the most. Very good whisky, as all of you have recorded. For me, it was unfortunate that I tasted it as part of an exceptionally strong line-up, including your Signatory Bunnahabhain (glad you had some left for the review!), the OHC Bowmore, and several other hits from K&L's lineup. In this company it could not really hold its own and it did taste one-notey and young, to me. And yes, for the $$ I'd rather pick one of those bottles, the current Cairdeas, or the Signatory Bowmore (especially the last one!). But while I won't buy a full bottle, I was very happy to be able to taste it fully - thanks for brokering the deal!

    1. I'm glad you liked it. I do seem to like it the best. Part of the reason it got such a high score is that I just liked it. Not the most complex Kilchoman, but still a very good drink though and through.

    2. Trying multiple whiskies at a time can be dicey. Turning things around, last week I had this Kilchoman followed by the K&L Bunna, which kind of ruined the latter.

    3. That night this one did interest me but it ended up being left in the dust by some of the others we tried. I forgot to write down which of the casks it was.

      Kilchoman is getting to an interesting point. They are past their initial releases and are really starting to develop. They are not fully developed yet, where you can grab a bottle from most casks and be blown away, but there are certainly gems out there. I wish they could find a way to marry that young smoky enthusiasm with some more depth and complexity. The good thing is I really feel like they will. The spirit does have a generally young profile but there are surly hints. Eh?

      Nice roses Michael. What did you do?

    4. They were for my wife's birthday and/or as something to bring her when I brought two whisky bottles back from K&L.

      Though I'm a big Kilchoman fan, I'm not sure how much more depth and complexity their stuff is going to get. As I've chatted with some folks on Twitter, as long as Kilchoman is able to keep selling 5yo single casks for $120+/bottle, and 4-5yo regular range bottlings at $70+, I don't see them aging things for much longer than they already do. Their baby whisky nukes nearly everyone else's at that age, but it's still baby whisky. Unless they go the path of rejuvenated casks and new oak, an unwise path many other distilleries have taken, I don't see anyway their 5 (or maybe 6) year old stuff changing much.

      They, and Octomore, have won that 5-year-old-whisky-as-luxury market. It isn't until people stop paying those prices will we perhaps see some older stuff. Only they know what's sitting in their warehouse, but they have very small stills and very limited production capacity so it's not like they have tons of 7-8 year old casks sitting around because if they did, I'm sure we'd already be seeing $200 7yo single casks.

      But on the other (positive) hand, I received unofficial word that there were some casks being held back for a 8 year old to be released in the future. I think that would super, but I shudder at what the price tag will be.

  2. Interesting how Jordan liked the flavors at 50% dilution but preferred the nose at 46%. Just shows that everyone's sweet spot is going to be different.

    1. Yep, the hope is that with these simul-reviews we can provide a broader look at a whisky via multiple palates.