The above picture is the tiny little malting floor at Kilchoman where they do their own in-house 100% Islay single malt, made from barley grown right there at the farm. When we went to Kilchoman last May to pick out a cask, we never thought any of these precious local barley barrels would be on the table. There is so little of this whisky available and why would the distillery want to sell of their precious commodity to a little store like K&L? Sometimes certain people just get along, however, and deals can be struck through common interest and friendship. David and I really love John MacLellan, so we bullied, I mean charmed, him into releasing us two casks instead of one. Each is totally unique from the other, throwing completely different spices into the mix. If they hadn't been so unique we never would have taken them both - we simply had to have them! Much like Meryl Streep in Sofie's Choice, we said, "Please don't make us choose!" Therefore, we have returned with both barrels under contract: a stunning five year old sherry cask of Kilchoman, full of earth, peat, rich sherry, and smoke, along side an ultra-rare sherry cask of 100% Islay, originally planned only for the 2012 Feis Ile Festival visitors. Both are available for pre-order now at a discount.
Kilchoman K&L Exclusive Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $99.99 - Getting to taste fresh Kilchoman, right of the still, was one of the highlights of the trip this year for David and me. Something magical is going on inside this tiny farm distillery. Their formula is so delicious, even as a white dog, that it hardly needs much aging at all. However, we were very curious to see what five years in a first-fill sherry cask would do to soften up some of the spice. Sitting in the warehouse with manager John MacLellan, we tapped into one of the fresh butts and poured ourselves a sample. This malt is loaded with fresh earth, chewy oils, petrol and peat smoke, mossy, dried grass, and a maritime sea air note that really hangs on the finish. It's a beast of a whisky, showcasing everything we love about both Kilchoman and sherry-aged Islay whisky. Of all the Kilchoman whiskies we've tasted, this one by far had the most maturity and was precocious beyond its years. It was only a matter of seconds before David and I looked at each other, nodded, and added another distillery-direct cask to the list. Years from now, when Kilchoman is one of the most sought-after malts in the world, no longer bottling private casks, we'll look back and say, "We used to buy them right out the warehouse." These are heady days for Islay fans.
Kilchoman K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Sherry Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky $109.99 - Our single sherry cask of standard Kilchoman was an easy choice. The malt was simply brilliant, so good that any Islay fan could easily fall in love with its power and complexity. It was the other barrel, however, sitting in the corner of the warehouse that brought out the whisky geeks in David and me. We had heard rumors that Kilchoman was sitting on a small batch of sherry-aged 100% Islay single malt, their ultra-delicious and incredibly-limited whisky made from a small crop of barley grown and malted entirely at the distillery. It's no secret that the rest of Islay buys their barley from Diageo's Port Ellen malting facility, but circumventing that route is difficult, not to mention costly. Is it worth it however? The answer to that question is a resounding "YES!" The spice on Kilchoman's all-Islay whisky is totally different from the standard make - think blanco tequila meets smoky mezcal, with lots of citrus. When you add a sherry barrel to that equation the spice turns to cinnamon red hots, the fruit tropical and hedonistic, the peat to a sweet and vibrant tang. At cask strength, the malt overwhelms the palate, almost like a giant party in your mouth. We had to push hard for this cask, but when you see two young buyers jumping up and down and hugging each other in your warehouse after tasting it, it's probably hard to say "no."