Ask and You Shall Receive
When the folks from Kilchoman approached us about doing a new private barrel selection for K&L, we were interested. There were two caveats, however. First off, we wanted the price to be at or less than $100 per bottle. With single casks of Kilchoman hovering between $120-$150 globally, our cask had to be a value in comparison. Secondly, we wanted something we had never tasted before; a whisky that stood outside the standard selections from Kilchoman and truly offered a new and unique profile. We've done seven private Kilchoman casks over the years, but in order to justify doing another there had to be a very good reason. Buying new whisky for the sake of it at this point is passe and unnecessary given the expansion of the market.
While we were skeptical that Islay's boutique farm distillery could deliver on those demands, they dug deep into their warehouse of odd balls and found us one of the most spectacular Kilchoman whiskies we've ever tasted. Aged full term in a red Bordeaux wine barrel, the resulting single malt drinks like a drier version of a Port-finished whisky, buffered by soft fruit on the entry but with a balance anchored in the spirit's smoky, peaty, briny Islay character. From front to back, this 60.3% cask strength specimen is a dynamo. The nose reveals dessert-like flavors of butterscotch and sweet pudding with subtle smoke, but the first sip dials up the peat and classic Islay intensity. There's a playful sweetness right off the bat, but it quickly melts into the peat fire. At no point does the whisky's profile ever allude to its potent power; the richness from the wine influence plays like half-sherry/half-port, tempering the 120.6 proof and mellowing out the middle. The result is one of the most interesting and delicious Kilchoman whiskies we've yet tasted, which is exactly what we asked for.
This is honestly the first red wine barrel aged single malt that doesn't taste like a gimmick or simply an excuse for marketing, which is exactly why I jumped all over it. Because the whisky spent its entire life in that Bordeaux cask, the red fruit is integrated entirely into the malty flavor. This isn't a finish, where the cask influence acts like icing on a cake; this is a rich and classically-styled Kilchoman with just an entirely different profile than I've ever experienced. It's traditional, yet exotic. It's big, but surprisingly subdued. Every single time I've tasted it I've sensed something different that I didn't notice previously. What I do notice each time around, however, is how much I like it and how delicious it is.
Watch for this guy later in the week.