*Thanks to the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.
“If you speak to older people on Islay who have worked in distilleries they will generally agree that the best whisky is made in cold weather . I would agree with that but preferably without going to the burst pipes stage.” – John MacLellan, Kilchoman’s General Manager, when asked how Scotland’s cold, snowy end to 2010 affected the whisky making.
“Example? Winter always comes too soon. This year was the worst I can remember, except when I was five years old. Pushed open the front door, got lost in the snow.” Hüsker Dü, Liner notes to Warehouse: Songs & Stories
Sitting here in San Francisco, I feel a little sheepish for saying that it’s been a tough, tough winter. I spent a lot of January listening to friends and family in the Northeast and Midwest bemoan the frigid temps and mountains of snow while I sat in a t-shirt enjoying unseasonably 60’s-ish, sunny days. It seemed like every couple of weeks brought another storm of the century there and even my old high school, which used to only close for nuclear war, enjoyed a few snow days. So yeah, hard, snowy, cold times…what better way to commemorate such fun than with a bottle of Kilchoman’s Winter 2010 Release.
This is Kilchoman’s fifth release, and, like 2010’s Summer release, was aged for a little more than three years only in American Oak, specifically this time in first fill American Oak from a little known bourbon maker named Buffalo Trace. It was bottled non-chill filtered and for those who care about such numbers, has a peat level of 50 ppm.
The Nose: Much like the Summer 2010 bottling, the nose is dominated by smokey peat. It’s medicinal yes, slightly ashy, but the smoke is a little richer, less green, more like dry wood smoke. There are nice butterscotch notes along with French vanilla ice cream and hints of candied citrus and ripe melon.
The Palate: The palate opens with more of that butterscotch-y, caramel-y sweetness. Along with soft hints of roasted salted nuts, the smoke and peat move in heavily, but they don’t completely overwhelm those sweet, from-the-barrel notes. The Peat and Smoke end up just slightly ashy and bitter, but not harsh, just a bit of that youthful exuberance at the end.
The Finish: Nice, decent length, peaty and smoky as expected, salty with continued notes of caramel-y sweetness.
Thoughts: So far, Kilchoman, you’re 3 for 3. Of the three I’ve tasted, I think the Winter 2010 Release is the most balanced and…mature tasting, yet this stuff is just over three years old…very impressive. I think the influence from the Buffalo Trace casks comes through quite a bit. The wood lends a lush sweetness that helps to tone down the brash, youthful smoke and peat just a bit, making for a more structured, restrained malt. I love the aggressiveness of the Summer 2010 Release, but I think the balance here works even better.