The sun doesn’t always shine on Islay. In fact, the recent Islay Festival was nearly blown off the island by some lusty gales – that’s when it wasn’t in danger of being washed off by the torrents of rain. But everyone seemed to have fun.
However, the weather was on its best behaviour for Kilchoman’s launch last week of their 100% Islay release. As you probably know, Kilchoman is a farm distillery established as recently as 2005 and the first to be built on Islay for 124 years.
The Kilchoman Team
Though you wouldn’t know it now, it’s been something of a struggle for founder Anthony Wills (and his long-suffering family) so he could be forgiven a few tears and a slight choke in his voice when he proudly announced the release on 16th June of the first true 100% Islay whisky – produced entirely from barley grown, malted, distilled, matured and bottled at the distillery.
He told us "I set this project up because I wanted to do things slightly differently, and show the world we could produce a single malt where all the ingredients were produced locally" describing raising the funds and setting up the distillery as a "monumental journey".
While local pipers serenaded its arrival, writer Charlie Maclean led guests in a tasting of this 50% abv dram, which has spent a little over 3 years in a combination of refill and fresh Bourbon barrels. The official tasting notes talk of “soft peaty aromas and a blend of citrus, lemon and pear drops” on the nose followed by “sweetness, more soft peat and mixed fruits” in the taste and finish.
The colour is a delightful pale straw. In my own tasting, I detected all the influences noted by the distillery plus some saltiness; a delightfully teasing light oily character in the mouth and a granity, mineralic taste that I would associate with a great Muscadet or other steely white wine. There’s also a playful note of lemon cheesecake (a descriptor I preferred to one guest’s association with ‘Lemon Vim’ – a British product used to scour and clean sinks!).
Kilchoman 100% Islay is available now from the distillery and independent whisky stores, priced at £69.00. A special edition of just 1,060 bottles presented in a hand crafted American white oak presentation box, at cask strength of 61.3%, is available from the distillery only for £149.00 plus shipping.