ISLAY SCOTCH WHISKY PART 3 – TOURING THE LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT THE LEAST
So here we are with the 3rd and final part on our series showcasing the distilleries on the island of Islay in Scotland. As the title says, these are the last ones on the list, but there is definitely some quality to be found…or expected. Two of the three we will discuss today are relative newcomers to the scene with one technically not having even bottled as of yet. The 3rd is an old soldier with a rich and storied history. Let’s take our last mini vacation to the enchanting isle of Islay
KILCHOMAN – Kilchoman (pronounced “keel-oh-men”) Is a relatively new distillery, especially considering some of the age on other facilities on the island, including Bowmore listed below. Though still quite young as far as Scotish distilleries go, Kilchoman has been producing exceptional malts since it’s opening nearly 20 years ago. The distillery first filled casks on 14 December 2005 and the distillery began bottling 3-year-old single malt in September of 2009. The first Kilchoman, the “Inaugural release” was released in 2009 and the first 100% Islay whisky was released in 2011.
Since then, Kilchoman has been offering 4 whiskies in it’s core line up. The most readily available selection is named after a nearby beach area, Machir Bay. It is a peated single malt, matured in both bourbon and sherry casks. The use of bourbon barrels create a distinct balance of classic Islay character and fresh floral complexity. Keep with the theme, the next one in the core line is named after an inlet on Islay’s rugged Atlantic coast, Sanaig is vatted in both sherry and bourbon casks. The high proportion of Oloroso sherry influence adds a nice balance of dried fruits and spices to sit aside the classic Kilchoman citrus sweetness and peat smoke character. Though produced in limited quantities, Loch Gorm and the 100% Islay are available annually, but always change slightly from year to year. Named after Islay’s largest freshwater lake neighbouring the distillery, the dark murky colour of the loch’s water is reflected in the rich coppery tones of this sherry matured release. The 100% Islay range is the world’s only Single Farm, Single Malt Scotch Whisky. The barley is grown, malted, distilled and matured entirely on site. The full line up and story of this up and comer can be found at kilchomandistillery.com
BOWMORE – Bowmore (pronounced “bow-more’) Is definitely the veteran of this group. Having been established in 1779, Bowmore is the oldest distillery on Islay. Through the years, Bowmore has crafted some of the most sought after whiskies in the world, including the fabled “Black Bowmore” (seen here) as well as some of the most collectable whiskies in the world. Some bottles costing upwards of 10,000 pounds or more. Built on the shores of Lochindaal, the barrel room is actually below sea level and legend has it, the waters of the sea somehow permeate the casks, imparting the essence of the sea within each one
Bowmore’s core range consists of year-aged selections. Offering 12, 15, 18 and 25 year old editions. The 12 year old is golden in color and exhibits a bit of a lemon/honey cough drop with a bit of smokiness. It then gets a bit richer with some chocolate notes on the pallet. The 15 year old is much more amber toned and the dark chocolate and smoke aromas come much quicker. Smoldering wood and toffee coat the mouth and remain through the finish. The 18 year old has a mellow aroma of creamy caramels, milk chocolate and dried fruit. The chocolate, fruit and smokiness ride out through the finish. The 25 year returns to the the more golden color and is the grand dad of the core, offering a more sherried, fruity experience. On the pallet, candied nuts and toffee offer an elegant experience that showcases the majesty of this “experienced malt. Bowmore offers a number of limited single malts. Go to bowmore.com to check them out.
ARDNAHOE – Definitely the new kid on the block, so new in fact, that they haven’t even begun bottling yet…but soon. Located just north of Port Askaig and Caol Ila distillery, I think we can expect big things from this group. For those of you who are familiar with Scotch legends, semi retired malt legend Jim McEwan was brought in as a consultant as they began production, and if his time at Bowmore and Bruichladdich are any indication, this stuff is going to be quite special.
Casks were first filled in late 2018, so I would assume we won’t see anything until late in 2023, though something may appear later this year. Your guess is as good as mine. Ardnehoe is also offering casks for sale at 11,ooo pounds each. If you do the math, actually not too bad a price per bottle. But the freight to the US will kill ya : )
To pick up a cask or to just poke around. Browse their site at ardnehoedistillery.com
So that does it for our quick overview of the Islay distilleries and the excellent single malt scotch whiskies they produce. There is nothing like diving in and experiencing these nectars for yourself however, and the best thing about these distilleries…you very rarely can go wrong. Be prepared for a little smoke (except in the case of Octomore…expect a forest fire) and then after each of your explorations, write something in the comments or catch me on social media @boozepress and let me know your thoughts. Happy tasting. Talk to you soon…