Kilchoman Cask # 326 (KWM Exclusive)
Kilchoman brings the heat again.
To be clear though, before going any further…you gotta be a lover of enormous billows of smoke and peat reek in your glass in order to really appreciate this one. If that’s your cup o’ tea (or malt) however…do read on.
Kilchoman, Islay’s wee little success story is now in year 9. Oddly enough though, having said that, we’ve yet to see any official Kilchoman releases nearing that sort of age statement. Most of the expressions I’ve seen hit the shelves so far are still averaging about 5 years, give or take. Case in point is this young single cask release bottled exclusively for Calgary’s Kensington Wine Market. The spirit was born in 2008 and ‘came of age’ in 2013, when it was bottled and sent out into the great wide open (or Calgary at least).
If you’re familiar with the Kilchoman profile, don’t expect anything new here. If you’re unfamiliar…well…I refer you back to the second sentence in this review. This is a young and snarling Islay single malt, where the smoky and earthy notes are forefront and subtlety is nothing more than a word in the dictionary between ‘huh?’ and ‘what?’ It’s a ‘nearly naked’ whisky, coming from an ex-bourbon barrel, so there’s no hiding behind the sweetening influence of sherry or any other sort of finish. In my ‘umble opinion this relative purity suits the clean and impressive distillate from Kilchoman.
Just an observation here:
Much like a magician drawing your eye away with one hand as he palms a card with the other, I think the enormous peat influence here helps to draw the mind away from the fact that this is merely a five year old whisky. If this were an unpeated malt I can’t imagine we’d all be quite so enamoured. Just my two cents. Having said that…at the end of any magic act I’m always happy just to have seen a good show and leave satisfied. I don’t need to pull back the curtain.
I can’t imagine any fan of Kilchoman being disappointed by this whisky. They may however, like me, take exception to the $120 price on a five year old whisky. I love this distillery, but there’s no need for pricing like this. There are 18 year old bottles of Springbank on the shelf at a similar price point. Just sayin’.
Limited run of just 252 bottles. If you want one…grab it while you can.
Nose: Sharp lemons and buckets o’ briny seawater goodness. Iodine. Smoke (and lots of it). Peat (and again…lots of it). White pepper. Clean wet dog. Black licorice. Vapo-rub. Green Jolly Ranchers. Caramel.
Palate: Cola. Lemon. Peat n’ smoke. Salt n’ pepper. Big licorice. Oily sardine. Black candies. Ashy and earthy. Even some chocolate. Did I mention there’s a lot of licorice here?
Thoughts: Another great young Kilchoman. I’m holding back from going any higher on score, as technically this is rather flawless, but at such youth there’s still so far to go. Can’t wait to see this distillery’s quarter century malt at some point far down the road. So much yet to come from Kilchoman.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
I agree I’d love to see this a little lower, $90-100, but keep in mind the distillery’s production is tiny by comparison to even Springbanks which is more than double. It is around 1% of Glenfiddich, Macallan and Glenlivet. Kilchoman has achieved cult status at a young age, and the whiskies are in high demand. If they price it too low they will either have to short markets or burn through all their maturing stock leaving little to reach 18 years of age or greater.
Sadly, pricing on single malts are going to continue creeping up, probably at an even higher pace as the Canadian exchange differential starts to bite, and as long as demand for Scotch whisky across the board keeps pushing prices.
Another great write up. Thanks Curt!
Distilleries can only sell, and sell out, the products and volumes that they put on the market. Markets are regularly shorted on products made popular through quality, hype, and the slightly irrational but clearly sought-after phenomenon of “cult status”, so no one endangers their maturing stock by putting it all out there in an attempt to avoid selling out anyway. Raising prices is not really a conscious defense against it either – who would want to raise their prices so much that, while keeping stock on the shelves so as not to short markets, it costs them a sale that they would have otherwise made? I think it’s far more about profit taking and what the market will bear. Markets are driven by demand – but demand is shaped, at least partly, through review and commentary, and there are a lot of people, industry wide, with a vested interest in influencing choice and price acceptance.
It does bring up an interesting point, however: are prices being driven by demand alone, or does greed, under the guise of overwhelming demand, also play a part? The industry will say that prices are the direct result of demand (“our hands are tied”), but are they saying it for the benefit of those so easily convinced that they will not question it and wouldn’t the message from the industry be the same regardless of the reality anyway?
Not going after Andrew, or any retailer, in particular, but I think it could also be useful to point out that, at point of sale, the “it has to be this way” narrative is psychologically convenient for both seller and buyer – no one has to feel guilty about overcharging, or being overcharged, because it’s agreed that the price is “just a sign of the times”. It’s like having absolute faith in the fairness of the sticker price so as to avoid feeling you might have fleeced while buying at a new car lot.
All that aside, I do wonder about the pricing on this expression, given the very small edge in quality, but the very big difference in strength and money, over Machir Bay. I’m also not sure of the selling point of single cask vs. multi-cask here, given the whisky only spends 42% as much time in ANY cask as Glenfiddich 12.
sorry – might have been fleeced.
Difficult to sell 7, 8, 9 year old whisky in your 9th year of operation when you sold so much 3,4, 5 year olds in earlier years. In other words, they probably don’t have much left to sell that was produced in the first 2 years of operation.
Therefore, I suspect they will put out tiny number of bottles of 10 year old to celebrate 10 years but don’t count on a regular 10yo until at least the 12th or 13th year.