Fèis Ìle 2021 – Kilchoman, Through the Ages

Fèis Ìle 2021 – Kilchoman, Through the Ages, Tasting Notes

It is no secret that one-half of The Dram Duo has a full blown love affair with Kilchoman – as evidenced by the two virtual tastings we’ve already done with them this year, and the multiple bottles on our shelf! So of course we jumped at the opportunity to participate in their Fèis Ìle celebrations!

Fèis Ìle 2021 – The Islay Festival, Kilchoman Day

June 3rd 2021 was Kilchoman Day. Throughout the day the team hosted three tasting sessions:

  • Kilchoman DNA
  • Through the Ages
  • Experimental Casks

Virtual Tasting – Through the Ages

Hosted by Robin, Peter and George this tasting focused on demonstrating what the Kilchoman spirit at different ages. The distillery has two different new-make spirits; a commercially produced Port Ellen, and their own using Kilchoman farm grown barely. All of these samples are from the commercial Port Ellen malt.

Each of the following samples are first-fill ex-bourbon casks, although the final sample (2006) came from Speyside cooperage instead of Buffalo Trace where their barrels have been sourced from since 2007.

New Make Spirit, Port Ellen Malt – 63.5%

The Port Ellen goes into the core range: Machir Bay, Sanaig, Loch Gorm. Looking for a fruity, floral quality in their new make. It was included in the pack to help provide a base understanding of their flavours, and demonstrate the difference that casks make.

Nose: heavy dark wet soil, tobacco leaves, tropical fresh fruits, citrusy notes
Palate: very fruity on the palate, despite feeling very rich it does have a fresh taste, elements of chewing tobacco

Despite being 50PPM there is not a huge amount of smoke on the nose. It does bite the tongue and is quite fiery. Compared to the one other new make spirit we have tried (Tobermory) this is much kinder to the palate.

645/2016 Bourbon Cask, 5 y/o- 59.7%

As a five year old spirit this is relatively young, and therefore the spirit has more of an edge than a longer maturation. The team recommended adding a drop or two of water to intensify the citrus flavours.

Nose: lots of stewed fruits, vanilla, toffee, apples, pears, citrus, honey, definitely creamier than the new-make
Palate: apple is a predominant flavour, chilli pepper, light, fresh, creamy – like fresh apple crumble with lemon cream, roasting apples over a bonfire
Finish: campfire smoke on the finish, very oily providing a GREAT mouth coating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Really interesting as you can smell the similarities to the new make spirit, but there is no doubt a bourbon influence to the whisky. With it being sweeter, and having more vanilla notes. The farmyard-y edge of the new-make spirit has been removed, and gives way to more citrus flavours.

203/2011 Bourbon Cask, 10 y/o – 53.2%

Anthony believes that bourbon casks really come into their own between 10 – 15 years of age, mellowing out and bringing out the best characteristics of the barrel and the whisky. This should therefore be something a little bit special. It also happens to be one of the oldest Kilchoman whiskies that we have tried.

Nose: smells much creamier, smokey butterscotch, light smoke, citrus cream, pineapple and tropical fruits, honey
Palate: unbelievably smooth, dark chocolate, lime zest, butterscotch, a whisper of smoke (like the dying embers of a BBQ)
Finish: some bramble-bush flavours coming through, creamy texture reaches all corners of your mouth, perfect balance of honey/vanilla sweetness and light peat

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A beautiful, beautiful whisky. Very sophisticated and understated. It doesn’t shout about itself, but instead lets its smoothness and depth of flavour talk for themselves. There is no doubt that it is related to the new make and is unmistakably Kilchoman, but it feels more grown-up than other whiskies we have tasted from this distillery. If we could purchase of a bottle of this right now, we would snap it up!

04/2006 Bourbon Cask, 15 y/o – 53.78%

This is the 11th cask they ever filled at Kilchoman – a first-fill bourbon cask of an unknown exact origin, sourced from Speyside cooperage. It was interesting to hear about the different ways that casks get delivered to a distillery; some fully-built and ‘wet’, others dismantled needing to be put back together.

Nose: LOTS of tropical fruits, banana, very light smoke, dark stone fruit, honey, definitely some outdoor notes, grilled pineapple
Palate: harsher on the palate than the 10 y/o, lots of oak on the palate, wood flavours are more predominantly – the fruitiness is not quite there on the palate
Finish: definitely rich, with oaky pepperiness and bite

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Ironically, despite being an older spirit and therefore supposedly better – both of us at The Dram Duo felt that this particular whisky had gone too far, and preferred the 10 y/o spirit. Just too much wood for us.

Tasting the new-make Kilchoman spirit was a great way to start this tasting, and hopefully something we will do more of with different distilleries as we get around to visiting them. Although half of The Dram Duo prefers a sherry whisky, these were certainly very tasty and that 10 y/o is definitely something special.

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