*Thanks to the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.
A little over a mile west of the Kilchoman Farm and Distillery lies a long strand of sand that opens up to the beautiful looking Machir Bay. Facing west into the Atlantic, it’s probably a pretty good place to catch a sunset but since there’s not much in the way of land here until you hit Newfoundland, 2,500 miles away, it’s also probably a place to catch some rather intense weather from time to time. To illustrate that point, there are apparently several shipwrecks in the bay, including one near shore that exposes itself during low tide.* God knows I love a good shipwreck. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to visit Islay, but I am absolutely itching to go. It’s beautiful spots like these that make me want to visit the island regardless of all the great distilleries there.
Named after this nearby bay, Kilchoman’s Machir Bay is, as they’re calling it, their first general release. The idea is there will be a yearly Machir Bay release, though the expression will evolve year to year as more mature malts are added to the vatting. This 2012 release is made up of 60% three year old malt, 35% four year old, and 5% five year old, all matured in ex-bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace. Additionally, the four year old was finished in ex-Oloroso butts for two months before vatting. As you can now expect from Kilchoman, this expression is non chill-filtered and free of artificial coloring.
The Nose: I definitely recognize this as a very Kilchoman-esque nose, partly because that’s what the bottle said and partly because there are elements here that I’ve found in most of their previous releases. Rich, complex smoke, savory, even slightly meaty, but also full of dry wood smoke and a bit of ashiness. ocean-side notes of damp seaweed and briny peat. Swirling around these very Islay notes are sweeter notes of baked apples, lemon curd, and coarse vanilla bean. Tucked well in the background there are hints of cinnamon & sugar on buttered toast and butterscotch.
The Palate: Pleasantly oily initially, with notes of spiced apples and caramel-y butterscotch with dark chocolate and just a touch of salted nuts appearing before a languid, satisfying wave of wood smoke and peat smoke usher in youthful spice notes. Bright cinnamon, cardamom, anise and white pepper mingle with the rich complex smoke. While this is youthful and vibrant, there’s almost no trace at all of that “green” harshness one finds in most young whiskies.
The Finish: Long and nicely smoky, a little peat, a little sweetness, a little ash. A bit of that saltiness carries on from the palate with lingering spice notes of white pepper, cardamom and star anise.
Thoughts: Excellent whisky. This is perhaps my favorite Kilchoman so far. There’s a more obvious structure and balance here, giving me the sense that this release has been more deliberately crafted, which of course it has. The Kilchoman house-style is definitely evident, but it seems a bit more refined than it has in the past. I don’t think the age has much to do with this as Machir Bay isn’t any older than the other releases, instead, I think it’s the careful selection and even closer attention to the finishing of the whisky that’s made it perhaps the most realized Kilchoman yet. Some might balk at the ~$55.00 price tag for such a young whisky but I think it’s well worth it. Definitely recommended.