It feels like the quarantine weeks are quickly going up in smoke. That’s probably because half of the home bar is Islay Whisky right now. Is that a forced transition? You bet it is.
I thoroughly enjoy heavily peated whisky. I often use Octomore as an example of just how good a Scotch Whisky can be and it doesn’t get any peatier, or more over proof, than that. Yet for all my love of the smoke finishing a bottle of heavily peated whisky rarely shows up on my list of achievements. That’s because drinking an Islay is a state of mind.
Drinking a good Islay transports me to rocky ocean beach in the evening. The campfire has just sputtered out and there’s a hint of rain in the air. But for now I can see the stars and wonder about my place in the universe.
Unlike its Highland brothers the island of Islay firmly embraces the one trait most people claim to hate about Scotch: the peat. Being aggressively peated, Islay Whiskies have an earned reputation of being an acquired taste. Sipping on a truly great peated whisky cause the taste buds to expand, the mind to slow, and an introspective nature to descend on the evening. At least it does for me.
Millions of drinkers across the globe have acquired this taste which have given Islay Scotch a cult like following. They are devoted but it does make it hard to break into the old boys club.
Enter Kilchoman. The first new distillery on Islay in 124 years this distillery, and its whiskies, came out of the barrel swinging. They began production in December of 2005 with their inaugural three year old whisky released in 2009. Since then they have racked up an impressive reputation and managed to take a seat at the clichy Islay table. They are also one of only a handful os Scotch distilleries using traditional floor malting on site as well as growing all of their barley on Islay at local farms.
One of the nice things about being the new kid in the old club is there is no tradition that you must adhere to. This gives Kilchoman a lot of room for experimentation. Like with their Sauterns Cask release. There have been a few different release but this was from their first offering in 2016.
Distilled in 2011 and bottled in 2016 this this 5 year old malt was completely aged in ex-Sauternes wine casks. Now, I clearly have a thing for malts that are finished in wine casks. So, how does a fully wine cask matured malt measure up?
NOSE: Buttery, with a hint of dried oranges and a misting of peat and sea salt
PALETE: Sweet apricot, caramel, honeysuckle, baking spices, and a salinity melding with a wonderfully balanced smoke
FINISH: Lingering, long clean, with a touch of sweet exhaling into a mouthful of smoke
This is a beautiful dram that is again an adventure and an experience. It transports while drinking. The experience also takes me back to when this bottle was purchased.
It was 2016 on my first ever trip to Europe with my brand new partner who has stayed with me all these years. So much has happened since then but as the last drops slide from this bottle after four years I will cherish every experience this dram has given me and every moment between purchase and completion.