Kilchoman have just started a “tour of Britain” with the first night in Elgin; so, I popped along for a wee nose (and taste). It was a decent turnout for the event, we were fairly packed in upstairs at the Drouthy Cobbler, and I settled down at the back with a couple of other whisky worthies. It was a really fun night, but that was due to the company and not the whisky.
The chap doing the tasting was from the family that planned, built and now runs the distillery. He was proficient and passionate about the product, with all six expressions that we tasted having superb packaging and marketing. In the box and in the bottle it looked lovely.
But the product inside was a real disappointment. Now, I do appreciate peaty whisky so that was not my problem; my favourite expressions of this whisky genre come from Talisker and Caol Ila and I really do enjoy them.
They provided a wide range of their malts for nosing and tasting, from their core expression the Machir Bay to the sherry cask matured Loch Gorm and through some special bottlings for the tour and also for sale solely at the distillery.
They all had one thing in common however; for me they were too young (each product tonight was 5 years old). The different expressions hadn’t had enough time in the casks to make much of a difference and I couldn’t get the underlying Kilchoman character that the presenter kept going on about. For me it was harsh, young and still reminiscent of new make spirit. Yes it had peat and smoke, but not much else; it lacked any real body or substance, and that can only come with time.
And adding water, as he suggested, just removed any flavour that was there leaving it bland and flat. Water had to be added to the cask strength expressions, but this just killed any little flavour that was there.
I do appreciate what they are trying to do at Kilchoman and give them respect for actually getting products to market, and don’t want to completely hammer them, but these whiskies are not for me. They seem to be between a rock and a hard place at the moment, trying to satisfy the demand for all things new and different from Islay that the market is driving currently (and the need to get some cash in to the business after such a large investment) while trying to build up aged stock for the future.
We were told that they would never put an age statement on their product, I find this hard to believe once they get some 10, 12 or 15 year old stock. The young lad asked us to go on a journey with Kilchoman as it aged and changed over the years, I think I’ll do my travelling with peaty whiskies via Talisker and Caol Ila and maybe come back and see how Kilchoman is doing in 7 or 8 years time.