Watching this distillery find itself is a cool experience, and one I hope all lovers of Islay malts are taking to heart. This is literally us watching whisky history unfolding. Much as I lord back over details of long gone distilleries, or the stories of the early days of existing ones, future generations will one day contemplate the wee might of Kilchoman. Think about it…this was the first new distillery on Islay in 124 years. Obviously that tells you there’s something special here. Moments like this don’t come ’round often. Next year will be Kilchoman’s 10th birthday already. Cool stuff.
I think, throughout all of the previous Kilchoman reviews and features here on the site, we’ve shared enough about the distillery’s wonderful beginnings, so let’s move on to more topical subject matter: the distillery’s relatively new flagship single malt, Machir Bay. This whisky was so named for a beautiful stretch of beach along the western shore of Islay, not far from the distillery itself. It is a young whisky, heavily peated, and already recognizable for its own style. As we’ve discussed before, peat monsters often work best when served up in their early years, before the big clouds of smoke and heavy peat have had a chance to fade away, and this is certainly a malt that exemplifies that approach. It’s built on a bedrock of malted barley that has been peated to the same specs as the mighty Ardbeg. You can expect a big dram from in Machir Bay.
Kilchoman has something to be proud of with this expression. Indeed, one drunken night outside of Duffies whisky bar on Islay, not long after a group of us lads had toured the distillery, we ran into one of the young men whom we’d seen earlier that day working at Kilchoman. He remarked (in a thick slurring Ileach accent) that if we came back to see him again at the distillery before we left he’d be sure to it that we got some more Machir Bay. Arms around our necks, he reiterated his generous offer about 13 more times before we moved on. Love it. That’s the sign of Islay pride. And well-earned, at that.
Oh, yeah…and one more thing, please: It’s pronounced ‘kil-homan’. The ‘c’ is silent.
Nose: Ashy. Very ashy. Smoky, yes, but quite surprisingly creamy at the same time. Very rich in oceanic notes, or shoreline or Maritime…whatever seaside descriptor you like (brine, wet rock, salt water, drying seaweed, fishy breezes, etc). Quite citrus-heavy. Salt and pepper. Vanilla. Did I mention dry ash? A touch of smoked ham. Simple and bold. Succeeds in spite of (or more likely, because of) it’s relative youth.
Palate: Ash again. Salt licorice. Smoke. Earthy peat. Lemon drop candies. Vanilla. Wet rock. Big and peppery. Granny smith apples throughout denouement. Tasty and long lasting.
Thoughts: Islay at it’s youthful best. A great addition to the Kilchoman range that should only get better as it gets older.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt