Kilchoman; the newest addition to the Islay family. The distillery lies to the West of Islay and takes its name from the nearby settlement. Established in 2005, it is the first distillery to be built on the island for the last 125 years. A true farm distillery they do everything from growing their own barley to bottling. They are also one of the few distilleries that does their own barley malting. All reasons that this is a must for my upcoming tour to Islay! Those of us who love an Islay malt can only be excited by the fact that there is now another producer; indeed, a producer who has gone back to the very basics of farm distilling.
Very much an active farm, Kilchoman is home to a couple of hundred cows who are fed off the draff produced in the making of the whisky. I am reminded of the words of Iain Banks at this point: "sadly for the cattle, there's no alcohol left in this stuff, so if a distillery tour guide tells you they have 'happy cattle' nearby, just smile tolerantly".
This particular expression is named after a small rocky inlet which lies to the North of the distillery. Sanaig was released in 2016 at 46% ABV. My notes:
Nose: Without water: Peat is very prominent (it reminded me of a Laphroig 10 in this respect); a delightful sweetness breaks through the smoke tempered by a citric sharpness; oaky vanilla notes are detectable.
With water: The sweetness becomes sugary - the notes say toffee, but I think of fudge; possibly a whisper of espresso.
Taste: Without water: The smoke comes through dominantly, living up to the dram's Islay heritage; dark chocolate and spice.
With water: the spice takes on the character of a twist of black pepper. The notes talk of fruit on both the nose and palate but I was at a loss to find them, with the sweetness coming through as sugary instead. I would be interested to try it again.
Finish: Peat smoke lingers for a long time with a hint of fruity sweetness finally appearing for me towards the back of the palate.
This is a distillery that I think has a lot to offer and I look forward to trying more of their expressions. To have the bravery to enter a market of Islay malts that is populated with well-established names is, in itself, impressive but to also create something as good as the Sanaig straight out of the gates is remarkable. I will follow the Kilchoman with interest.