A family owned establishment, built in 2005, the Kilchoman is one of a few that nurtures its very own farm. And though the 250 acres surrounding the distillery might not satiate the distillery’s appetite for barley, it does cater to their “All-Islay” releases. The rough weather and the maritime environment provides less than ideal dynamics for a high yielding crop, but does inscribe its influence lending its distinct character to the grain.
Machir Bay, one of the distillery’s core expressions, is named after the beach situated along the western coast of Islay and is our spirit of choice for this review. Barley for this particular expression comes from Port Ellen and water from the Osamail river; water that has a darker hue, from its interaction with nearby peat bogs, lending it a soft and mildly alkaline charachter, that ultimately helps better the overall quality of the finished product. Fermented to a strength of 8% abv, the wash is distilled in stills that are relatively smaller than most in and around Islay. Aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks and vatted together with spirits more so from the former; the outcome malt is free from chill filtration and artificial colouring.
Pppm : 50
ABV : 46%
Eye : Pale gold | Non Chill Filtered, Natural colouring
Nose : Brine with a whiff of hot, crusty puff pastry, interleaved with vanilla and a charred sweetness. Dried fruits, coconut shavings, melons, red wine and peat with bits of rasberries and floral nuances and soon followed by green olives, cardamom and a pinch of white pepper.
Taste : Lovely play of maritime, char and caramel that floods the palate initially, slowly accompanied by some cream and the sweetness of honey, milk chocolate and fruits. Leather and cigarette ash cuts through revealing bits of pepper, sundried tomatoes and some citrus zest.
Finish : Medium to long | Warm, an amalgam of herbs and spice, ash, with a hint of vanilla
The Machir Bay provides a fine balance of aromas on the nose, with good complexity that’s well spread and not too intense. On the palate, you see similar complexity, well bodied and rich, mildly convoluted but still a pleasure. Crisp and relatively light with a handful of peat that reverberates across the nose and palate, in the midst of a subtle sweetness and a warm spice, this expression is delightful and gratifying, even if it doesn’t have an aged statement tied to it.
This Islay bloke comes at approximately AUD $100, good value for money and a great foray into the Kilchoman line of spirits. If you like your whisky peaty and smoky, look no further as this Islay will certainly not dissapoint.
PS: You might be wondering what the distillery’s circular Celtic symbol refers to? The distillery calls it the “Threefold”, with the centre or the “Hub”, indicating the unison of three powers – Water, barley and Yeast, which together creates Kilchoman’s most prized possession, liquid gold!