Kichoman Feis Ile 2021 Review

Confession: I have never been to Feis Ile (the Islay whisky festival). That probably seems blasphemous to some of you who have hung around here long enough to know my affinity for the isle of Islay and proclivity for anything related. I have actually made a point of avoiding the island at festival time. I’m just not into fighting the crowds and queues, and I’ve discovered that I like being able to eat and sleep without stress. Yeah, yeah, I’m getting old and soft, I know it. But here we are, year C19-2, and I’m really curious to see what happens on the island when the calendar comes ’round to Feis Ile nowadays. Normally, Islay at festival time is like a hive of fury-whipped hornets, crawling all over each other for limited edition festival-only bottles, oversold tastings, and whatever bits of grub can be scrounged from overtaxed pubs and the island’s handful of killer eateries. As you can imagine, the island relies on that annual influx of tourism, so the last couple of years have undoubtedly cramped the financial well-being of more than a few of the Ileachs. Granted, things have opened up a bit now, but so far as I know, the situation is still nowhere near what it should be (and will be again!). And let’s face it, an online festival is no festival at all, fun as it may still be.

So, to commemorate the 2021 virtual Feis Ile, Anthony, Robin et al have released this special edition 8 year old. It’s a bit of a gentle giant, in my opinion, and sits close to what I actually now believe is Kilchoman’s wheelhouse: their Islay Barley range. For me it’s not necessarily about the barley provenance, but about the in-house floor maltings, which weigh in at less than half the peated ppm we’d expect in the more core expressions from Kilchoman. This softening of the phenols allows the sweetness of the distillate to sing just a wee bit louder. And it’s all the better for it.

Thanks to our mate and local agent/rock star Andy Dunn for donating this bottle to a KWM tasting. I was fortunate enough to have a wee nip before the bottle was drained. Lovely dram I hope to revisit at some point.

2 x Oloroso sherry butts (2011) and 6 x bourbon barrels (2012). Optic and Publican barley. 2,832 bottles. 56.3% abv

Tasting Notes

Nose: Chlorine. Lemon and lime. Pineapple. Swedish Berries. Orange. Ocean water, clay, and chalk or limestone. A lower level of peat smoke than I’d expected, so yeah…nose absolutely confirms in-house malt? Beautifully sweet and fruity. Cherry Coke Bottles candy. Brisket bark. Palate: Creamy licorice notes. Smoke. Salt. Red and black licorice, if bound up and chewed together. Greengage and gooseberry. Tiger Tiger ice cream. Melon Rind. More of that carry meat. Burnt rosemary. A nice oceanic salinity; almost like using three or four drops of salt water to reduce strength. Finish: Fruit skins. Plum. A hint of mezcal without heavy agave notes. Clean all the way through. 88.5/100

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