Kilchoman in Stock, Time to Circle the Wagons

My early pick for Best Whisky of 2012 is here and ready to rock:

Kilchoman Machir Bay Islay Single Malt Whisky $53.99 - See my post below for tasting notes

Normally I don't read whisky reviews online, mainly because I don't need to (I get to taste the stuff myself so why do I need to know what other people think?).  However, I did do a quick search for Machir Bay scores because I want to see how the industry reacts to this malt. So far I haven't seen too much press. I'm curious about the reviews because this whisky disproves everything that the Scotch Whisky world holds sacred - it goes completely against the theory that great whisky needs ten years or more in the barrel.  Personally, I too have always been of this mindset.  I've tasted the craft distiller attempts to accelerate aging with small barriques and other clever tricks, but it's never worked as well as extended time in good ol' Bourbon or Sherry casks. 

So what makes Kilchoman different?  What is so special about their whisky?  Think about it this way.  For a guy, I'm a pretty good printer - as in calligraphy.  If you asked me to print your name on a piece of paper five times in a minute, I could probably do it perfectly and cleanly, no problem.  However, if you asked me to write your name thirty times in a minute, the quality of my printing is going to suffer as a result.  Going back to the Kilchoman's whisky, their new-make, fresh from the still, is one of the most amazing white whiskies I have ever tasted.  They don't sell it, but if they did I think people would drink it over most quality mezcal selections.  It's simply amazing.  Kilchoman only has one still and they're not capable of pumping out large quantities of whisky like other distilleries.  They can only write their name on the paper five times per minute.  Even if they wanted to go for thirty printings in a minute, they wouldn't be able to.  Quality comes with precision.  They know they can't play the bulk game, so they don't even try.

I relate to that philosophy.  K&L is not the bulk whisky store.  We're not Costco doling out rock-bottom prices for 100,000 case buys of big-brand hooch.  We couldn't be Costco even if we wanted to be, so we don't try.  Instead we focus on quality and hope it's enough because that's our only choice.  Somehow little old K&L, the family run liquor store, is now competing with some of the bigger stores in the country.  At the same time, little old Kilchoman is making whisky at five years of age that competes with the ten to sixteen year malts from its larger competitors. 

My question is: will the industry allow that to happen?  Is anyone going to give this whisky its due?  Are the major publications going to say, "A nice first effort, but it needs more time."  Because if the industry does try to shrug this whisky off with a simple "It's alright, but it's still too young," I'll call bullshit.  We all know that Kilchoman is only going to get better with time, but this whisky is great right now.  I'm so curious to see how the world reacts.  Will the Scotch industry circle the wagons and protect the sacrosanctity of long-term maturation, or are they going to admit that in some cases, when a distillery takes the time to do everything right, young whisky can actually compete with older expressions? 

I'm dying to find out.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll