05 July 2021
For the time being, Kilchoman is the youngest distillery on Islay—by a full 124 years in fact. The first spirit runs came through in 2005, so Kilchoman is now old enough to be producing whiskies of 15 years maturity, but being the youngest child in the Islay family we find it hard to imagine Kilchoman ever being known for anything other than the clean, zesty, mineral whiskies that it has become famous for over the past ten years.
Kilchoman Distillery is on the northwest of the island, close to one of Islay's most spectacular beaches at Machir Bay. Machir bay is a popular retreat for locals in the summer months, but on our visit there the wind was extreme and the risk of hyperthermia real! Just up the road from Machir Bay is Rockside Farm, which is where the founder of Kilchoman, Anthony Wills, chose to build his distillery.
It's no surprise then, that the entire operation feels very 'agricultural' and is therefore probably more reminiscent of the distilleries of the past which often served as ancillaries to farm operations. Some of the publican barley used to make Kilchoman is grown on the farm then sent to their own floor maltings. The barley is peated to around 25 ppm and used in their 100% Islay malt, a unique product since every part of the production takes place at the Kilchoman farm, from growing the barley, to malting, ageing and bottling.
Looking to Machir Bay, which is Kilchoman’s core expression, this dram is built from the same malt specifications as Ardbeg and bought in from Port Ellen Maltings on Islay. It’s matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, there’s no age statement but we're lead to believe that the whisky in Machir Bay bottles is three to five years old.
If you're a long time member of Whisky Me you may recall that we sent Kilchoman Sanaig out as our May 2018 drop (can you believe that was over three years ago!). We made a video at the Kilchoman distillery, which you can watch below: