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Friday, February 19, 2021

Kilchoman Machir Bay, bottled 2018 (my bottle)

(Kilchoman cluster homepage) 

Well, dear reader, I did try to find a 2020 Machir Bay but the fact that I was able to find anything of Kilchoman's in Ohio was kinda special. As I type, four stores might have Machir Bay in Franklin County, population 1,316,756. Anyway, this whisky was bottled in May of 2018. It's been open for a couple of months so this review pour isn't coming right off the top.

Mathilda's fourth birthday!

Today's notes come from a Taste Off I did between this whisky and yesterday's 2013 Machir Bay, which was 95% three & four year old whiskies + 5% five year old stuff. Kilchoman has become less public about the age of Machir Bay now, though major UK retailers pin the current bottlings at 5-6 years old. On a curious note, this was the lighter-colored of the two MBs.

Region: Islay
Age and Maturation: Components may be 5-6 years old, aged in "bourbon and sherry casks"
Barley: 50ppm, sourced from Port Ellen maltings
Bottled: 15 May 2018
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfilltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from the top half of my bottle)

The nose reads much smokier than the 2013. Anise-infused mezcal spreads through the midground, carrying cardamom and apricots. It gets brinier with time, picking up a slight farmy note. Dropping the abv to 40% turns the nose into an awkward cocktail of mezcal, Hampden rum and lemon juice.

The palate is better than the nose. It's some sort of nut bread loaded with nutmeg and cloves, followed by toasty peat, lots of salt and sweet limes. Hints of candied pecans decorate the background. Reduced to 40%abv, the whisky becomes simpler. Sweet and bitter. Mint and lime and salt.

It finishes with the nut bread note, coastal peatiness and lots of sweet limes. Things get simpler here as well when the whisky is diluted to 40%abv, mostly salt and wood smoke with a hint of lime.

Lots of interesting stuff going on here. As I'd referenced above, the whisky is lighter colored. It also noses younger than the three year old 2013 bottling. Frankly the nose is uninspiring, and worse when diluted. The palate rights the ship. While there are fewer angles and dimensions to it than the 2013 edition, the 2018's palate hits all the right notes for a winter warmer. It also avoids the nose's rougher sides. As with the 2013, the whisky works better at 46%abv than 40%, but it tends to weaken more thoroughly with this 2018 version.

Ostensibly the 2018's contents are older than the 2013's, so I wonder if there were changes to the spirit's or malt's specs. Or are there more refill casks involved? Though Kilchoman Machir Bay remains one of the best of Islay's NAS entry-level malts, it seems to be acting its age now more than it used to.

Availability - At many specialty liquor retailers in North America, Europe and Asia
Pricing - $45-$65
Rating - 84 (when neat)

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