Since setting this page up as hobbyists some years ago, we’ve set out to record our tasting notes and occasional opinion pieces that sit within the melee of whisky writings. Whenever writing up our tasting notes, we’ve tried to accurately describe what the smells, tastes and experiences have been like when enjoying these whiskies. What this generally involves is writing out a series of notes based on that experience alone, so that, like us, if someone wanted to try a whisky for the first time, they may see what its like, or, if already acquired, how their notes compare to ours. What we’ve sought to try out for a new set of features however is how those whiskies taste individually and then how they compare to similar whiskies within that distillery’s range – introducing: the triple tipple.
For this first run, we are looking at the three regular releases within Kilchoman’s core range, and you can click on each one for the individual notes:
Oh these were nice, but how did they compare:
There’s no denying that these whiskies come from Islay. Kilchoman’s peat-dried malt carries the island’s signature fragrance throughout. The Machir Bay is the biggest exponent of this and has a strong peat soil and smoked nose to it, which I’ve grown to associate with the distillery, whereas the Loch Gorm peat (whilst coupled with the fruity flavours) was slightly more astringent. The Sanaig had much less of a pronounced and floral peaty nose, but still had a smoky element to it – much more like a dry, woody smoke. Clearly, the bourbon-heavy maturation of the Machir Bay, made for more of a pure, vanilla, sweetness, whilst the sherry-led maturation of Sanaig and the sherry-only maturation of Loch Gorm made for more of a fruity sweetness on top of their shared malt character. That drying character from the Sanaig however, won it for me, and made for the most characterful nose.
Well, once again, you can’t deny that peat is king here, but, assuming that these whiskies are all of a similar age, you can really appreciate the influence of the barrels. Machir Bay is clearly the most bourbon influenced due to its rich vanilla sweetness and creaminess. It doesn’t lose its original malt flavours amongst the barrels though, and that flavour is also easily detectable in the Sanaig, but whilst the vanilla is not entirely absent, the sherry influence on Sanaig means that there is a real fruity burst of flavours to that initial smoke and malt smack. This is also the case for the Loch Gorm, but any of that underpinning vanilla essence has gone entirely, in place of drying smoke and multiple exotic fruits.
All three drams share a similar vibe and finish, which features a final flourish of those initial smells and tastes, all tapered off to give way to the peat-fire influence of the original grains. Magical stuff. Its interesting to see how the barrel influence has slightly altered that smoky finish though, with the Sanaig having more of a toasty smoke, compared to the late summer bonfire or camp fire smoke of Machir Bay and Loch Gorm.
This has been an exercise in barrel influence on good peated distillate. Whilst I cannot be accurately sure about the age between the whiskies, the fact that the oldest component of these whiskies will be at most 10 years old, makes for a fairly level playing field. Given that Machir Bay was the first core range release by Kilchoman, then that little bit of sherry influence will have added some colour and depth to the whisky, which would make initial sales be confident, rather than seeing something really see-through. What I would be intrigued to try is a solely bourbon-matured Kilchoman distillate and see just how much stronger that vanilla impact would be. That said, there is not a bad whisky amongst these. In fact, they are great. All of them. If I had to put an order to these, I’d still pick the Machir Bay over the other two, and would put Sanaig just in front of Loch Gorm, but that might just be me being nostalgic about the Machir Bay and my first exciting sample from the new kids on the (Islay) block several years ago. Either way, each displays the benefits of barrel influence and the importance of a good source material. If I could have my way, I’d have a bottle of each in the whisky cabinet for further experimentation and delectation.