Posts

Kilchoman Distillery – The Farmhouse

Kilchoman Distillery

Two team members from WhiskyGeeks went on an Islay-centric Scotland tour in September 2019 and we had a whale of a time! Coming back from Scotland was torturous, but such is life! It took us many months to get our bum to settle down in front of our computers to start writing, but here we are, finally!

Let’s start our journey with Kilchoman, the second newest distillery on Islay. The distillery started distillation in 2005 and have since expanded their production to 220 thousand litres of pure alcohol a year! New washbacks and stills will be installed soon, and we can expect increased production after that.

Going on a Distillery Tour

It was fun going on a distillery tour, mainly because you get to see all the machines and get behind the storefront to see the actual production hall. On Islay, the distilleries normally consist of different buildings on the distillery grounds, and Kilchoman is not any different. We started the tour at the shop, where our lovely tour guide met us. She distributed our tour souvenir, a mini Glencairn glass and a lanyard, as we will be using them along the way. After the usual safety briefing, we were off!

First stop – The Malt Floor

Entrance to the Malt Room

Kilchoman does some of their maltings onsite using Islay grown barley from the nearby Rock Side farm. Roughly 30% of the distilled spirit comes from Islay grown barley, while the rest comes from Port Ellen Maltings. Each malting is carried out in the traditional way of spreading the barley on the floor for germination to take place.

Traditional Malting Floor

Workers malt around 40 tons of barley at a time, by steeping them in water and allowing for 5-7 days of germination and drying.

Barley germination in progress

During the germination, the plant shoot, or acrospire, will start growing. The malting is complete once the acrospire grows to around three quarters or more of the length of barley. Once the maltsters see that the barley is ready, they will start the kilning process.

Second Stop – The Kiln

The Kiln

The kilning begins by igniting dry peat to get the fire going before adding wet peat to create peat smoke. The workers will smoke the barley for 10 hours and leave it to dry until the malt reaches 5% moisture content. This malting onsite leads to a 20ppm phenol content in the Islay malt. To follow the traditional way of malting, Kilchoman lets the barley rest for four days after kilning and before milling them for mashing and fermentation.

Third Stop – The Still House

The Still House

Kilchoman is a farmhouse distillery, which means that space is limited. To make work effective, the mash tun, washbacks and stills are placed in the same location.

After milling, 1.2 tonnes of grist goes into the mash tun. To extract the sugars, the workers add three streams of hot water at 56degC, 85degC and 95 degC. 6000L of sugary liquid, or wort, goes into the washbacks, along with 20kg of dry yeast. This wort is then left to ferment for approximately 84 hours to become wash, a strong beer at 6-8% abv.

Our tour guide asked if we would like to try the “Kilchoman beer” and proceed to pour us some when she got a resounding “YES!”

The Kilchoman Beer

The wash tasted sweet, with a yeasty, lightly fizzed note at the back. It was good! So good that we asked for a second helping. Personally, I think that Kilchoman should consider making their own beer. I would buy them if they make it!

The Distillation

The Stills

Since the stills are pretty small, only 3000L of wash goes into the wash still at a time. After the first distillation, 1000L of low wines at approximately 19% abv goes into the spirit still for the second distillation. The remaining 2000L became pot ale, which is used to fertilise the crops at Rock Side Farm. Pot ale is useless for making whisky, but its organic compounds made them perfect as fertilisers.

The low wines from the wash still, and the heads and tails from previous distillations are then added into the spirit still at approximately 26% for the second distillation. Kilchoman takes the cut of the heart between 76% and 65%; this means any distillate above 76% are foreshots, and any distillate below 65% are feints. These foreshots and feints are added to the low wines in the next distillation. After 3.5 hours of distillation, the spirit still produces 3.5 litres of spirit, which will be watered down to a filling strength of 63.5%.

Fourth Stop – Not the Warehouse

Sample Casks

Unfortunately, Kilchoman distillery has a policy that does not allow visitors to see their warehouse. It is due to safety reasons though; they have nothing to hide! Instead, we got to see some sample casks which the tour guide explained their way of storage before she led us to the next exciting part of the distillery tour.

Fifth and Final Stop – The Bottling Plant

The machine that helps to bottle Kilchoman Single Malt

The bottling process is a combination of manual and machine work. The bottling team needs to ensure the cleanliness of the bottles before feeding them to the machine, which will do the bottling. In the above picture, you can see the process of filling the bottle. The filled bottles then passed through the glass portion of the machine where the cork gets fixed onto the bottle. The final process gets the bottles sealed and labelled! The bottling team then completes the process by putting the bottles into their boxes and packed them into cases of six.

End of the Tour – Back at the Distillery Shop

Our tour guide led us back to the distillery shop and ended the tour. You must be surprised to see that we did not appear to taste any Kilchoman whisky. We did! It just did not flow nicely in the narratives earlier. We had a Sanaig in the malting room and it was surprisingly good! We got to admit that we are not big Kilchoman fans largely because we find it spicy, but the Sanaig was really awesome.

Sanaig and peat 

Back at the shop, we considered having a meal at Kilchoman because we heard that the food was awesome! Alas, we cannot, as we needed to move on to the next distillery. Nonetheless, we had enough time to explore the little farmhouse at the back of the distillery and the below pictures were what we found!

The Kilchoman Cat and Hen

There were some other hens running around but they ran away when they saw us. Hahaha…

It was a fantastic visit to Kilchoman, and we look forward to seeing more of them after their expansion.

 

Like what you have just read?

    Join WhiskyGeeks.sg as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!




    Whisky Review #87 – Geek Choc’s Blending Experiment #1

    Macallan 12 YO x Kilchoman 2009 Vintage

    Geek Choc loves to mix things up for fun, especially whisky! He was in the mood for some “mixology” yesterday (19 April), so he decided to mix a whisky that he likes (Macallan 12) with a whisky that he does not particularly like (Kilchoman 2009) and see what happened to the mixture. As I am not into such “mixology”, I stood aside to watch how the experiment went. Hehe!

    Geek Choc’s Blending Experiment #1

    These are the basis of the blending experiment.

    1. Macallan 12 Years Old – 10ml
    2. Kilchoman 2009 Vintage – 2.5ml
    3. Lots of swirling inside the Glencairn glass to introduce air into the blend

    Results of the experiment:

    Colour: We see an immediate change in colour after pouring the Kilchoman 2009 into the 10ml of Macallan 12 YO. The dark ruby colour of the Macallan turns pale, and the mixture becomes a dark gold colour immediately. The final colour after swirling remains as Dark Gold.

    Nose: The characteristics of Kilchoman overpowers Macallan 12 YO in the first nose. We get slight peat with brine, pepper spice, hints of cherry and raisin sweetness. After airing for 5 to 10 minutes, the notes from Macallan 12 YO overthrew the ones from Kilchoman 2009 and emerged victoriously with muskiness, and the full sherry sweetness reappears!

    After aeration of about 20 minutes, the mixture appears to settle, and interesting cereal notes surface, quite like Nestum in a tin, I must say!

    Palate: The first sip reveals slight peppery spice with soft peat and seaside brine. Notes of sherry sweetness surface beautifully with the spice, peat and brine. It reduces the horrible chilli spice in Kilchoman and brings out the peat and brine in Kilchoman. The combination reminds us of BBQ bacon! Yummy! After 5 minutes, the peat disappears completely. Cherry liquorice and raisin sweetness replace the peat and turn the whisky slightly oaky. It appears that the Macallan 12 YO has once again exerted its power over Kilchoman 2009.

    After aeration of 20 minutes, the sherry notes from Macallan 12 YO come to the forefront. Cereal notes quickly followed and finally, slight peat comes in the tail. The oak influence also increases. The peat reduces after aeration, which, we suppose, is a typical occurrence.

    Finish: Long and quite dry. The peat lingers in the mouth before the sweetness of the sherried Macallan joins the fun. The finish ends with a nice oakiness that coats the mouth. The finish does not change with aeration.

    Verdict/Balance: Wow! It is one hell of a dram! Simple but surprisingly balanced! We did not like the Kilchoman 2009 due to its extreme chilli spice, but the Macallan 12 YO brings out the peatiness of the Kilchoman and also reduces the spice drastically. At the same time, the primary flavours of the Macallan 12 YO remained more or less intact!

    Score: 7/10

    Comments:

    Geek Choc: Haha! It was a fun experiment. I did not know how it would turn out but just wanted to try something with the Kilchoman 2009. Geek Flora suggested to mix it with something sherried, so I grabbed the only opened bottle of sherried whisky that sits on our shelf – the Macallan 12 YO. The experiment is a success I think. I will try more experiments in future!

    Geek Flora: It was interesting to see how this turned out. We were toying with the idea, and then we decided just to do it! Haha! We will try more experiments soon! Stay tuned!

     

    Like what you have just read?

      Join WhiskyGeeks.sg as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!




      Whisky Review #53 – Kilchoman Machir Bay

      Picture Credit: masterofmalt.com

      We had a taste of Kilchoman Machir Bay at one of our local bars sometime before we tried the 8-year-old. We would say that this pales in comparison to the 8-years-old on many levels. Nonetheless, it is a dram that bears the typical Kilchoman signature.

      Let’s dive straight into the tasting notes.

      Tasting Notes:

      Colour: Gold
      ABV: 46%

      Nose: Light peat and sea-salt air come first before hot chilli spice springs up unannounced. Once the spice envelops the nose, nothing else is prominent. Even airing the whisky for more than 10 minutes did not bring changes to the nose. (15/20)

      Palate: The first taste is some sweet berries with some light peat. Some sea-salt lingers in the background. However, the chilli spice comes head-on shortly and envelops the whole mouth, blocking out the sweetness of the berries as well as the peat. We tried airing the whisky for more than 10 minutes to see if things change, but besides a more prominent sea-salt note in the background at the beginning, nothing much changes. (16/20)

      Finish: The finish is long with sea-salt and some fruity sweetness that surfaces again after the liquid goes down the throat. The finish remains long after airing the whisky for more than 10 minutes. There is no significant change. (18/20)

      Body: This is not the most well-balanced dram in our opinion. The whisky lacks complexity when compared to the 8-year-old. The overwhelming chilli spice is also a minus point in our opinion as it covers up all the other flavours of the whisky. (28/40)

      Total Score: 77/100

      Comments:

      Geek Flora: “This is quite disappointing as we were expecting a little more complexity and punch from Kilchoman, especially when this whisky has won numerous awards. The overwhelming chilli spice is possibly the culprit. However, what is truly lacking is the complexity of the whisky.”

       

      Like what you have just read?

        Join WhiskyGeeks.sg as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!




        Whisky Review #52 – Kilchoman 8 Years Old

        Kilchoman distillery is the newest distillery on the island of Islay. It is also the first distillery to be built after 124 years of relative inactivity. Anthony Wills, the founder and managing director of Kilchoman distillery, founded the distillery in 2005 and the first distillate ran off the stills in the same year.

        It is one of the smallest distilleries in Islay, producing only approximately 120,000 litres of alcohol annually. What makes Kilchoman stands out is the fact that they grow their barley on site and owns a traditional malting floor.

        The bottle for review today is distilled in 2009 and matured for more than eight years. It is an 8-year-old because of strict Scottish laws on its labelling.

        With such impressive backing, let’s dive into the whisky and see how it holds up!

        Tasting Notes:

        Colour: Pale Gold
        ABV: 46%

        Nose: The nose is full of smoked bacon and aromatic peat smoke at first. Floral notes and soft ripe fruits surface after a short while. After airing for about 10 minutes, the smoke went into the background. Lemon and citrus fruits notes come forcefully to the forefront while the aromatic peat stays in the background. (17/20)

        Palate: Spicy chilli padi assaulted the palate straight on without warning. It almost feels like drinking chilli oil. The peaty smoke is still aromatic but stays in the background. Nothing more is tasted because of the strong chilli spice. After airing for 10 minutes, the spice receded, and ripe fruits notes begin to surface. The peat smoke also wafts into the forefront. The sweetness of the fruits now coats the palate pleasantly. We added one drop of water to the dram to test out how it reacts with water. The effect is great! The spice reduces to reveal sweet white fruits and floral notes immediately. (18/20)

        Finish: The original finish is relatively short with peat smoke and the soft sweetness of citrus fruits. After airing for 10 minutes, the finish becomes more protracted and sweeter. The peat and spice are now very pleasant and lingers in the mouth and throat. After adding a drop of water, the finish extends longer, and the ripe fruits coat the mouth and throat. Gentle spice lingers in the throat for a while. (18/20)

        Body: A well-balanced dram for an 8-year-old with enough complexity. The way the whisky evolves with air and water is fantastic. It is whisky that is worthy of the time spent on it. (35/40)

        Total Score: 88/100

        Comments:

        Geek Flora: “This is one surprisingly good whisky. That initial chilli padi spice was not something I enjoyed, but the evolution of the whisky with air and water was good. I had another Kilchoman previously – the Machir Bay – and it wasn’t the most fantastic. So this young whisky certainly surprises me. Recommended to try!”

         

        Like what you have just read?

          Join WhiskyGeeks.sg as a member for FREE and receive our curated articles and videos in your mailbox every month!