*Thanks to SF and all the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.
2008…it’s hard to know what to write about that year. On the one hand, we had what then seemed like an intense, crazy presidential election featuring a fantastically inspiring though politically middle-of-the-road man, his worthy running mate, a genuine war hero who was in a little over his head (and who has since turned into an incompetent coward), and a genuine crackpot who was out of her freaking skull. Thinking back on it now, that election seemed sane, civil, and almost a little quaint compared to the embarrassing, dangerous shit show we’re in the middle of now.
On the other hand, 2008 was the year that I met my wife, let’s call her Sherry Butts. I could easily wax poetic on that subject because it was a life-changing, dream-fulfilling time, but instead I’ll just relate a brief tale about how one guy with kind of crazy hair played a small part in convincing two people that spending the rest of their lives together was probably the right way to go. Perhaps just two or three weeks after we met, she invited me to see a screening of Young Frankenstein at the beautiful Castro theater in our then home of San Francisco. Along with the movie itself, the big draw of the evening was Gene Wilder himself being in attendance and talking with the audience after the film. For a couple of people who had only spent a handful of hours together, it was a somewhat bold move to invite me to an event several weeks away. I took the invitation as a good sign, and she took my excited acceptance as a good sign, too, though I think she was perhaps surprised by my enthusiasm. So more than a month later, we watched that pillar of American cinema and listened to that hilarious, gentle, talented man talk about his life. I revelled in the knowledge that Mr. Wilder was a fellow Milwaukeean, and my wife reveled in the knowledge that if I came from the same place Mr. Wilder did, perhaps I was worth holding on to. So, in a roundabout way, I suppose this is also a way to somehow squeeze in a little homage to the recently dearly departed Gene Wilder into a post that has nothing to do with Gene Wilder. We love Gene Wilder. We miss Gene Wilder. We still watch a lot of Gene Wilder movies together.
Totally lost my train of thought. So…Kilchoman’s 2008 Vintage. At the time of its release (Fall of 2015) this was the oldest expression yet from the young Islay distillery. It’s a continuation of their Vintage series which sees consecutive distillation years released every two years (a 2006 vintage was released in 2011, a 2007 in 2013.) The 2008 Vintage was matured in a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel for just over seven years, and was bottled without chill-filtering or any added coloring.
The Nose: Appropriately Fall-like with vibrant fruit and Islay peat. There’s tart lemon curd and caramel apples along with honey and a little true butterscotch. Behind that there’s a bit of warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream. The peat is lightly tarry and phenolic, but quite briny with a nice breath of beach bonfire smoke. There are light oak notes in the background with vanilla bean, clove, licorice candy, and white pepper.
The Palate: The fruit is less prominent on the palate, the peat and smoke more so. Juicy citrus and apple cider, along with brown sugar and honey are quickly joined by baker’s chocolate and roasted nuts. The peat is a bit more diesel-y here, a little more medicinal, and definitely more savory. The smoke is thicker, dry and a little ashy. The oak, while still taking a back seat to the peat, is more strongly grippy, as are the coarse vanilla bean, clove and pepper notes.
The Finish: Longish with continued smoke, and briny and ashy peat, with little of the fruit-tinged sweetness coming through. A bit of vanilla bean and clove come through as well.
Thoughts: So, 2008 was a very good year and Kilchoman’s 2008 Vintage is a very good whisky. The all bourbon barrel maturation helps keep this straightforward, keeping the house style well-defined. On the nose, there’s an excellent balance between the sweeter notes and the peat and smoke. On the palate, the peat and smoke surprisingly take over a bit, making the progression between the two a little steep. Personally, I prefer Kilchomans that have some sherry cask matured whiskies in them, but the 2008 Vintage does show off nicely the distillery’s ability to produce whisky that feels more mature than its age. Recommended.