Kilchoman Summer 2010 Release – Review

*Thanks to the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.

I know I’ve touched on this before, but those of us who live in the Bay Area are exceedingly lucky and also exceedingly smug (to the point of obnoxiousness) about our access to excellent, local, organic food. For my part, I am boundlessly grateful that it’s actually easier for us to eat foods grown very locally and grown safely than it is to eat pre-packaged, processed, chemicalized pseudo-foods. The giant, corporate food machine is an unhealthy juggernaut hell-bent on destroying small farmers and sustainable, healthy sustenance. The public’s perception and understanding of the food that it eats needs to change, as a species, we need to realize that crap made in a factory is not food…it’s crap made in a factory. Real, healthy food is grown close to you and prepared carefully and reverentially.

Ok, enough ranting, I had to go eat a Hot Pocket just to calm down. The rant, short as it was, (you don’t know me, I can go on for hours) was inspired by Kilchoman’s Summer 2010 Release. Located just south of Loch Gorm, near the town of Kilchoman on the west side of Islay, Kilchoman Distillery is the first new distillery on Islay in 124 years. The Distillery is pretty small, in fact, it’s one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, churning out only around 100,000 liters a year (compared to, say, Macallan cranking out 6,000,000). Even more striking and inspiring is their near self-reliance and emphasis on keeping things local; they do their much of their own floor maltings (some is also done at Port Ellen) and much of the barley used is grown on the distillery’s nearby farm. With the idea of terroir in mind, it’s hard to get more Islay than that.

The Summer 2010 Release is the third for Kilchoman. They began maturing spirit at the end of 2005 and have bottled an Inaugural release and an Autumn 2009 release. Unlike the two before it that finished a few months in Oloroso casks, the Summer 2010 Release is aged for a little more than 3 years only in new and refill-bourbon casks.

The Nose: Man, this is a brash, striking, Islay nose. It’s dominated by pungent, rubbery, antiseptic, tar-like peat with waves of smoldering grass smoke swirling about. Hints of lemon custard, ripe melon, and grape skin are there but subtly. Nice but faint notes of salted nuts show up as well, but mostly this is all about the strong and challenging peat.

The Palate: A light, oily mouthfeel starts with scraped-from-the-bean-vanilla, almost creamy citrus notes and a touch of plump ripe raisins. The peat and smoke move in fairly quickly, but with a lot more carameled maturity than I expected. It’s still very medicinal and green with a sharp youthful punch that teeters on the edge of harshness, but manages to stay upright. A strong ashy quality towards the end reminds how young this is, but there are not as many rough edges here as I would’ve thought.

The Finish: Perhaps a little quicker than you’d expect, but then again you’d expect something this young to move on pretty quickly. Peaty and smokey and a little salty with that youthful ashy char lingering.

Thoughts: I dipped into this one thinking I’d find a flawed young spirit with some promise and instead came away really very impressed…and kind of crushed out on Kilchoman. Yes, they’re the new darlings of the in-the-know whisky sect, but for good reason. I’m definitely jumping on this bandwagon. 3 years old…Hell, I’ve had less solid, less balanced 12 year old whiskies! Make no mistake, this is young, brazen stuff, there’s almost a kind of pure, peaty, Islay fury in its attack but it also holds itself together. There’s just enough fruit and carameled sweetness here to balance things and stop it from knocking a person out completely. If Kilchoman can keep this peaty fury while adding softer, complex layers of maturity…well, I’m a strong man, but I’ll frankly admit, I weep joyously and wring my hands in anticipation…

Kilchoman Summer 2010 Release, Islay

46% ABV

Score: 86

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