Kilchoman Sanaig – Review

kilchoman_sanaig*Thanks to SF, JH, and all the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.

According to the Kilchoman literature, Sanaig (pronounced SAN-ig as far as I can tell) is the name of an inlet located near the distillery. There’s also a bay called Sanaigmore on Islay, about six miles north of the distillery. Is Sanaigmore and Sanaig one in the same place? After perusing several maps for a total of about 15 minutes, which then led me to some wishful-thinking perusal of Islay real estate listings for about 45 minutes, I find myself no closer to saying with any surety that the inlet named Sanaig is more or less the same place as the bay named Sanaigmore. But it probably is. It seems a reasonable assumption, right? Hell, the German wikipedia page for Sanaigmore links the two, perhaps that’s all the proof one needs these days.

Sanaigmore means “great sand harbor”, with the “more” part of Sanaigmore being the “great” part of “great sand harbor.” By clever deduction then, I deduce that Sanaig means…”sand harbor.” If it is the same place, I’m not sure why it goes by both names. Perhaps on the day it was named, one intrepid namer said, “man, what a great sand harbor!” and the other intrepid namer shrugged and said, “I don’t know, it’s not that great,” whereupon the first intrepid namer wrapped things up by saying, “well, you name it your way and I’ll name it mine.” Not likely, I guess, but possible.

In any event, the newest core expression in Kilchoman’s line is named Sanaig. This one is being touted as the sibling to the Machir Bay release and is similar in price. There’s a lot of contradictory info out there about these releases, and while some of it may be inaccurate, some may just be slightly out of date. These two releases don’t carry an age statement or dedicated “recipe” because it’s Kilchoman’s intent to have these expressions evolve over time as their stocks grow. In general, the Machir Bay is going to be matured primarily in first-fill bourbon casks with a bit of Oloroso shading. The Sanaig is going to be mostly first-fill Oloroso matured with some first-fill bourbon casks. The current Machir Bay is made up of five and six year old whiskies, with around 90% being first-fill bourbon, 10% Oloroso. In contrast, the Sanaig is matured in first-fill Oloroso hogsheads and first-fill bourbon barrels, with the bourbon cask whiskies then finished for an unspecified amount of time in Oloroso casks. The end result is reportedly 70% Oloroso, 30% bourbon matured. The Sanaig, like all official Kilchoman releases, is bottled non chill-filtered with no added color.

The Nose:  An upfront nose with a nice balance of fruity sweetness and peaty savory…ness. Lemon bars and apple cider, baked tart cherries and canned pineapple. Subtler hints of mincemeat pie, rum-ed raisins, vanilla bean and warm toffee. The peat is briny and barbecued with very pleasant beach bonfire smoke wrapped around it all. Spicier notes of oak, clove and faint peppercorns are more in the background.

The Palate:  This has a smooth, creamy mouthfeel that’s vibrant with early spice notes of pepper and a little grippy oak. The lemon and apple dessert notes carry over from the nose along with nice hints of warm fruitcake and salted nuts. The peat is slightly more medicinal here than barbecued, the smoke a bit ashy but there’s still that more-ish savory quality. Notes of vanilla bean, clove, and a bit of anise join the earlier peat and spice, and carry over to the finish.

The Finish:  Long, peaty, with continued sweetness and spice. Charred meat, honey, baked apples, a touch of tannic oak, and dry, slightly ashy woodsmoke at the end.

Thoughts:  It’s Kilchoman. It’s very, very good. Like the Machir Bay, it’s put together well and exudes the lemon-y, apple-y, savory, slightly ashy peat house style. The sherry influence is really nicely integrated, and while it doesn’t brazenly stand up against the strong youthful peat, it adds a warm, consistent complexity throughout. At the moment, as the two core range offerings, I think the Sanaig and Machir Bay are perhaps a little too similar. But as Kilchoman let’s these two evolve, it will be fascinating to see them stand further apart from each other. As previously stated, I’m a big fan of sherried Kilchoman and this one only solidifies that notion. Definitely recommended.

Kilchoman Sanaig, OB, Islay +/-2016

46% ABV

Score:  87


  • “Isle of Islay Place Names – Meanings and Pronunciation.” Islay Info. N.p., n.d. Web. Oct. 2016.
  • Joshua Hatton, Impex Sales Exec., Single Cask Nation founder, bass player, silk underwear wearer.
  • “Sanaigmore.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. Oct. 2016.

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