Kilchoman might be the youngest active distillery on Islay, but seeing as they’ve already announced plans to double their production capacity, they’ve obviously been ticking a lot of the right boxes over the past 13 years. As well as building a new still house, mash house and tun room (within the same design parameters of the existing equipment) this year, the distillery has just launched both the 2nd release of its Port Cask Matured whisky (which has flown off the shelves) and the latest edition of its ongoing oloroso sherry matured series - Loch Gorm.
The first Loch Gorm was bottled in 2013, drawing from sherry casks laid down in 2007. Now onto its sixth edition, the series has in many ways aged with the distillery, each year, drawing on spirit that has matured a year longer. Though it’s worth noting that Loch Gorm is technically an NAS bottling – whilst some editions list a single distillation and bottling year, others, such as the recently released 2018 are multi-year vintages (this one being composed of some of the distillery’s very first sherry casks from 2007 and 2008 alongside younger casks from 2011). It’s at this juncture also worth noting the price of these annual releases – though by no means unreasonable in the current market – they are, increasing each year by around £7. If this trend continues, you can extrapolate what sort of price a Loch Gorm containing 18 year old whisky might cost.
We’re taking a look at the 2017 edition, which was distilled in 2009, making it around 8 years of age. Like all Loch Gorm releases, it is bottled from 100% ex-oloroso sherry casks, and bottled at 46% ABV. This release had an outturn of 13,500 bottles – as of writing there are still some outlets stocking this and previous editions.
Nose: Thoroughly coastal with smoked fish, oysters, rock pools and a strong vein of minerality. Peat is quite pronounced, and rather interesting – there’s an earthiness (smoking soils) as well as a meatiness (BBQ pork ribs), both of which are enveloped in a sweet medicinal tang – oranges and lemons with TCP and hospital floor cleaner. After a short period of resting, this alters somewhat, taking on log fire character. Deeper - rubber inner tubes, chocolate, burnt golden syrup and a light herbal-quality – somewhere close to mint. The addition of a water adds even more maritime quality to this – a lobster bisque – rich, semi-sweet and a touch of cream.
Taste: A solid arrival which continues with the theme of maritime vs. sweet peat and commences with pronounced minerality (almost salty) and a kick of chilli pepper. Sweetness again comes from BBQ’d meats, but now also honey and raisins and liquorice. The smoke is quite earthy, and with a touch of ash. It is tempered nicely by tart citrus fruits – grapefruit in particular. In the mid palate, burnt logs and camphor, and again with the underlying herbalness. A few drops of water heightens the minerality further, adding salinity, and also a chalky-like quality.
Finish: Quite long, quite dry, quite smoky and quite sooty.
The 2009 Kilchoman Loch Gorm will certainly appeal if you like things ashy, sooty and chalky – it’s packed full of pronounced and interesting minerality and dry smoke. These both interplay rather well with the sherry influence, which is restrained and well judged, resulting in a balanced and characterful whisky that belies its relative young age.