Kilchoman – Through the Ages: 100% Islay

Kilchoman Distillery – Through the Ages: 100% Islay, September 2021

It is no secret that we are BIG fans of Kilchoman whisky in this house! We’ve attended a number of their virtual tasting sessions this year, and the theme for September is: ‘Through the Ages: 100% Islay’.

100% Islay

The 100% Islay range is the flagship expression for what Kilchoman really stands for. Taking the process all the way from growing barley, malting, distillation, maturation, and bottling. Looking to the future, Kilchoman are beginning to experiment with different types of barley – which will be exciting to compare down the line!

The first few releases of 100% Islay were all in bourbon barrels. Over the years the recipe has been tweaked to include some sherry influence, to show-off the character of Islay barley. Each year there are 12,000 bottles released.

100% Islay, New Make Spirit

We have previously tried the standard Kilchoman new-make spirit as part of the Fèis Ìle celebrations. Average strength of the new-make is 63.5% ABV.

Nose: damp conifer, fresh-dew, citrus peel, heavy soil, lemon sherbet
Palate: sweet sticky smoke, chewing tobacco

A different style to the Port Ellen new-make we have previously tried. More delicate and floral. As we go through the tasting we will attempt to compare each expression back to the new-make, to see how the flavours develop!

100% Islay, 2nd Edition, 50% ABV

A young whisky, of just three years of age. Comprised on mainly first-fill bourbon casks and the rest re-fill. One of the youngest Kilchoman releases that we have ever tried, we were excited to see how this spirit starts out!

Nose: very smooth, delicate, caramel-toffee sweetness, wet-conifer trees, apricot jam, lemon meringue pie
Palate: grilled tropical fruits, cinder-toffee, earthy peat smoke, caramelised sugar
Finish: bitter citrus notes, savoury greens (like on a roast dinner!), light salinity, light BBQ smoke

It is very soft in your mouth, very delicate given the young age, high levels of creamy texture. In comparison to the new-make, it is sweeter and earthier. They finish in a similar way and you can definitely taste the familial resemblance.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

100% Islay, 4th Edition, 50% ABV

The 4th edition was realised in 2014. Again all bourbon maturation, with a large proportion being first-fill casks.

Nose: salty water (like a marina!), pine-trees, earthy smoke
Palate: cinder-toffee, black treacle, damp mud (in the best way!), caramelised orange peel
Finish: fresh leather, earthy-peat, deep smoke builds as you drink

A very tasty dram. Deeper and earthier again. The smoke builds more and more – but a lovely sweetness remains. It mellows out the edges of the new-make, whilst keeping the key flavours.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

100% Islay, 11th Edition, 50% ABV

The first thing we notice about the 11th edition is the deeper, darker colour. Moving away from the light-golden of the 2nd and 4th editions, to a more burnt-caramel colour. Released in September 2021, this is made up of harvests from 2009, 2010, and 2011. It also includes some sherry maturation casks – 60% bourbon and 40% sherry.

Nose: lemon meringue pie, very citrusy, burnt sugar, spicey cooked fruits, red berries, marzipan, dried pitted fruits
Palate: creamy, ginger spice, light salinity, cinder-toffee, cinnamon, earthy smoke, orange peel, citrus undertones
Finish: well-rounded, warming, very creamy, dried pitted fruits

Once again this expression is richer and smoother. That being said, the citrus undertones from the new-make are very much present! If we can find a bottle in the shops we will definitely be trying to get our hands on it!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

We feel incredibly lucky to taste some of these young expressions – especially the end 2nd edition from 2012! There has been less experimentation with the 100% Islay – but we hope that is something Kilchoman consider in the future. It would be great to compare some like-for-like expressions from the 100% Islay range, and the standard Port Ellen spirit.

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