Whisky Review: Kilchoman 4 Years Old 2011 Sauternes Cask Matured

Category: Islay single malt scotch whisky

Origin: Kilchoman Distillery

Bottling: Kilchoman Distillery Company

ABV: 50%

Cost: £74.93* from Master of Malt

kilchoman-sauternes-cask-matured-2011

What they say:

We are delighted to announce the first ever Sauternes Cask Matured Kilchoman.  The Limited Edition release of just 6,000 bottles will be available from Kilchoman stockists worldwide this week. The exclusive bottling has been matured for over five years in Sauternes casks.

The Sauternes Cask Matured follows Port and Madeira cask matured expressions released in recent years and continues our commitment to small batch ‘full term maturation’ rather than the more common practice of finishing whisky in such casks for a short period prior to bottling.

Anthony Wills, Kilchoman founder and Managing Director; “Although only making up a small part of our range, full term wine cask maturation in Port, Madeira and now Sauternes has produced fantastic results. The combination of peat smoke, fragrant Kilchoman spirit and full maturation in fresh Sauternes casks makes for a truly unique single malt.”

Robin Bignall, Kilchoman Production Manager; “Having spent its full maturation period in fresh Sauternes casks the whisky has inevitably taken on the textured white age influence associated with Sauternes casks however it remains balanced with an intriguing mix of maritime peat smoke, sweetness and citrus vibrancy.”

A limited number of bottles will be available here on the Kilchoman website from 10am this Wednesday (the 7th September 2016) priced at £73.50 (70cl, 50% ABV).

What I say:

Dramvent Calender Day 2

This December I am attempting to sample and review a whisky everyday for the 24 days of Advent in the run up to Christmas. My very basic criteria as I sorted through my masses of whisky and samples were these:

  1. Single malt scotch only and should be (or have been) generally/easily available
  2. Each day must be from a different distillery
  3. Each day must be equivalent in age or older than the previous

Fast-forward a whole 12 months in maturation from the 3 year old Wolfburn Aurora our Dramvent Day 1 dram and we arrive at Kilchoman’s inaugural general release Sauternes Cask Matured expression distilled in 2011 and bottled in 2015. We had the joy of sampling the Kilchoman Club 4th release precursor to this particular whisky which was made from a choice selection of a small number of these ex-Sauternes casks presented at 60% ABV cask strength so I have an inkling of what to expect from this expression. Kilchoman have excelled at presenting young, feisty and massively smoky but ultimately drinkable and unforgettable whisky expressions from Islay with such aplomb that they have weaved themselves into the fabric of Islay and are revered just as much as their much longer established neighbours.

Colour:

Slightly darker than Sauternes gold (9/10) fine rounded droplet tears leave ultra-fine legs

Nose:

Smoky peat on the nose, with a cloying sweetness of honey and golden syrup, some malty and barley cereal notes and some dry grassy hay combine with musty oak wood and slightly fermented peach skin. A hint of toffee or butterscotch fudge continues the sweetness and pear and banana notes hint at the youthful esters whilst damp & sweet tobacco persists

Taste:

Piquant and spicy mixed with rich, syrupy sugars and honey settle into a warm ashen peat ember fire with a pot of pears and peaches poaching in honey atop, wafts of cigarette smoke, green banana and liquorice wrapped in dark chocolate present with tannic woody astringency all the while backed by more smoke. Full-bodied and complex, a drop of water soothes this mixture, hiding the fruity sweetness and exposing more citrus lemon and lime with a touch of sea salt and dissipating the smoke ever so slightly.

Finish:

Long, dark chocolate, lime, smoked sea salt, pear & honey and ashen peat smoke persist

Overall:

A warming and stimulating dram, perhaps this doesn’t work up the Peat & Sweet magical mixture Kilchoman hit on with their Port-Matured offerings, but the honey & fruit from the Sauternes casks is present and integrates with the peat influence reasonably well. Maybe a full Sauternes maturation has helped here rather than being used in the more familiar way as a ‘finishing’ cask – allowing this whisky to really develop these sweet wine specific flavours. I guess being a fan of peated whisky and also of Sauternes dessert wines – I find plenty of familiarity in here to enjoy, but this sweet, occasionally sour and profusely smoky dram is maybe not to everyone’s taste?

Score: 84/100

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