Here we are at the end of May, and according to Whiskybase there’s been 1154 new whiskies released globally since the start of the year. Even the most ardent will have tasted a mere fraction of these. I gave up trying to keep up with new releases quite some time ago (other than our monthly SMWS roundup of course) – whilst it’s always nice to be ahead of the curve and writing reviews about bottles the moment they hit the market, at best this is going to lead to a bottle storage issue, at worst it’ll require a second mortgage.
There’s been a trio of Whisky Exchange exclusive single cask bottlings which have all caught my eye recently (Kilchoman, Pulteney and Croftengea). Whilst the Croftengea is still available, both the Kilchoman, and particularly the single sherry cask Old Pulteney sold like hotcakes. Fortunately, Webmaster Danny couldn’t resist the lure of two of these exclusives and like the lovely chap that he is, brought them around this weekend for a test drive.
The TWE Exclusive Kilchoman was distilled in 2007 and bottled 10 years later at the end of 2017. Other than this year’s Feis Ile offering (at 11 years of age), it is amongst the oldest Kilchoman’s bottled to date. This one was drawn from sherry butt #401/2007, bottled at 58.5% ABV and was a release of 599 bottles. Priced at £125 (quite expensive for a 10yo single cask in my opinion), this sold out online fairly quickly, however, I was in Exchange’s Covent Garden outlet a few days ago, and there was still at least a couple of these left on the shelves.
Nose: Sharp, bold and high impact. Immediate and pronounced dry ashy smoke – part medicinal (TCP), part mineral (coal dust, granite and salt) with a slightly meaty rubberiness (BBQ ribs and bicycle inner tubes). Burnt honeycomb and molasses are joined by heavily reduced red berries and plums for some intense sherried influence – still dry, and quite peppery. The addition of water reduces the minerality whilst allowing the meatiness and sweeter elements more room to express themselves. Bold stuff.
Taste: A powerful, slightly extreme, slightly odd arrival and development – you’re in for quite the ride here. Concentrated engine oil, tar, ash and earthy peat at first, then a wave of burnt sugars and meat stock. As this settles in the palate, minerality again – wet slate with a touch of citrus peel. Dark chocolate, red and blackberries and plums reinforce the intense sherry impact. But, it’s not over yet as a swirling, ever building wave of pepper and ginger comes bursting across the back palate, before delivering a final gift parcel of eucalyptus. Water ups the perception of medical peat, and also really pronounces the underlying earthiness - the combination results in TCP-soaked scorched earth. The apocalypse never felt closer. Or better.
Finish: Long and highly mentholated. Surface cleaner, vaporised peat bricks, ash and burnt sugars – literally sinus clearing.
This Whisky Exchange Exclusive Kilchoman is strangely wonderful. Complex and impactful, this walks the tightrope between oddness and equilibrium, but somehow makes it across to the other side and then gives everyone a triumphant fist pump. Whilst water might be seen to ‘normalise’ this whisky, it’s in its purest form that I enjoyed it most – a roller-coaster ride of quirky giant aromas and flavours that shouldn’t work anywhere near as well together as they actually do. I don’t mind being late to the party when the entertainment is this good.
But don't take our word for it..
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