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Kilchoman - To Buy Or Not To Buy

Here's an interesting scenario where I am going to pander a bit to the comments field - I actually could really use some input.  We have the opportunity to purchase a five year old sherry barrel of Kilchoman, the new Islay distillery that is wowing people with its precocious young whiskies.  So far the quality of their malts has been fantastic, but the prices are still a bit high for some consumers who compare it with older expressions from other distilleries that cost less.  I'm a big believer in the idea that great whisky is worth whatever you think it's worth, regardless of the age statement, but if we were to pull the trigger on this project we would be looking at around $100 a bottle for a cask strength speciman of Kilchoman.  Granted, the sherry really helps enhance this malt and help it to seem far more mature than its actual age.  The mix of rich sweetness with smoky peat is quite nice, but sherry barrels are big and therefore so is the committment.  My question is this: how many people are interested in Kilchoman?  I myself haven't seen customers swooning over it, so I'm a bit hesitant to go deep on something like this, but maybe I'm just not witnessing a more passionate global response?

-David Driscoll

Reader Comments (27)

sorry to be a rain cloud but I think $100 is a lot, especially considering we've already got what 12 great choices from your trip...

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpaul

I'm not looking for sugar coating!

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

I would purchase at least one. I personally love sherried islay malts though. the purchase is similar to buying the alligator for me.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Plain and simple, I would not buy the Kilchoman. I have tried two of theiir previous releases, and whether it is the youth or not, something has yet to click for me. David, my vote is nay.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTQM

I would say no. I don't think that a whisky of young age is bad, I actually like them, but there are better deals out there for a maybe similar whisky.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJuanD

Even loving sherry cask maturation, I would breeze directly past this on my way to Lagavulin 16. And theoretical considerations aside (i.e. one's position of pricing vis-à-vis craft distilling), there's no shortage of observable data to suggest Kilchoman just hasn't been a (retail) hit.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRN

I definitely say yes. I've tasted all the quarterly Kilchoman releases as well as a number of cask strength bottlings and think that it an amazing malt that is only just starting to hit its stride. The fact that it's at cask strength (and from a sherry butt) is a real bonus because I've found some of the official releases lack the fire for their age. The sherry butt puts it over the top for me - put me down for a couple of bottles!

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJmoneymadness

I also wouldn't buy the Kilchoman due to the glut of other options available at that price--especially if those Alchemist bottles ever make it out of that black hole/shady storage unit :)

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames

For the sherry/cask strength category, I love both the Aberlour Abunadh and the Macallan Cask Strength. While understanding the novelty of the Kilchoman (I'm sure it's a fine whisky as well), I have little interest in over paying for novelty in and of itself--a la the BT Experimentals.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Keep it coming people. This is very helpful.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

I don't know how these things work for you guys. Are you being asked to buy it untasted or would they send you samples. Obviously, the former is riskier.

While $100 is a bit steep, I'd probably be tempted to pick up a bottle. There are lots of young whiskies, lots of smoky whiskies and lots of sherried whiskies out there but not a lot of young, smoky, sherried whiskies, and that's a flavor profile I'm interested in. From the comments above, though, I'm guessing you'd have a hard time unloading a whole butt's worth.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersku

We get to taste it, but then we have to invest in an insane amount of it. It needs to be the hottest thing ever. Probably not going to happen.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

That's a shame - I was really hoping to get a chance to try it. Save me some of the cask sample!

Though it likely won't affect the decision, people in the UK are going bonkers trying to get single cask bottlings of Kilchoman. Maybe you could split the cask with a shop like Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt?

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJmoneymadness

jmoney- that is an option and it's on the table right now. Even then, looking at 400 bottles.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

OK, one last thought, which may also not even be an option - what about doing something akin to Port Charlotte and bottling the cask on an annual basis? It would be an interesting look at how one cask ages over, say, five years? If you could sell 100 bottles a year for 5 years that would unload the whole butt and make each bottling collectible. Of course, there's the insurance costs for the continued storage of the cask and whatnot, but I'm just trying to think outside the box...

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJmoneymadness

Not supremely interested - the Kilchomans have been good but I don't know that I could justify $100 based on anything I've tasted to date. It'd have to be on the order of PC6 for me to really waver.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRegularChumpington

Jmoney- that was the first thing I asked: could we buy it but not bottle all of it now?

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

You know what they say about great minds...

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJmoneymadness

I understand and respect that being young doesn't make a spirit bad, just as being old doesn't make one good; but the fact that whisky stocks must be laid and managed over decades is undeniably one of the critical factors in why older whiskies command a premium.

I'm sympathetic to the plight of the startup distillery, faced with massive up-front capital investments, but years before seeing any returns on that money. But if I'm going to subsidize them, it would be as an investor, not as a retail buyer of overpriced young spirits.

June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

David, you are the king of superlatives. If you are excited about the whiskey we will buy it. If you aren't we won't. Doesn't really matter where it comes from.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Silvers

That's nice of you to say Steve. Although I don't want to be the boy who cried wolf.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

I bought one of the earlier Kilchomans almost on a whim. Not bad but definitely tasting young.

For the one being contemplated, I definitely want to taste how their distillates are maturing but count me among those who do not want to buy at $100. $40 I'll do.

In other words, I'm among those who are fascinated by watching and tasting how a new distillery matures.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHoover

With so many wonderful single malts available from K&L alone--ones priced a bit more reasonably--there's no way I would spend $100 on a five y.o. whisky. I'm interested in trying something from Kilchoman, but why wouldn't it be one of the recent seasonal releases at 2/3 the price? Not cask strength, but so what? Thanks for querying your customers on this.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHenry H.

Henry - in my opinion, cask strength makes all the difference.

Also, you're never going to get a 100% sherried Kilchoman - the seasonal releases are either finished in sherry barrels or are all ex-bourbon. This is a pretty unique opportunity.

Just my two cents.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJmoneymadness

Don't care about the age. It's just that I've already bought too much whisky lately and $100 whiskies are a rare purchase for me -- period.

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEugene

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