Thursday, December 31, 2015

Keeps Getting Better - Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014

Kilchoman Machir Bay
Only a few days ago we reviewed the Kilchoman Original Cask Strength by Kilchoman Distillery on Islay, Scotland. There is no denying it was a cracker dram but it would only be fare to follow that review up with the distilleries flagship expression Machir Bay.

Kilchoman is currently still the youngest of the Islay distilleries. With a new distillery comes new approaches and one of Kilchoman’s marketing directives has always been paddock to bottle where ever possible. Supporting the local farmers in growing Islay strains of barley means a boost to the islands economy but also the development of the island whisky terroir. Though we are not reviewing it here the 100% Islay release by Kilchoman is as the name suggest 100% made in ideally at every step. That is growing, malting, fermenting, distilling, ageing, and bottling.

The Machir Bay Single Malt was originally launched back in 2012. It carries a no age statement though indications from the distillery is that the whiskies it is built from are 5 to 6 years old. Kilchoman do not put an emphasis on age statements but opt for vintage or named expressions. Since 2012 I have seen a steady progress in flavour as the product rounds out. really it has just been getting better and better. Matured in both sherry and bourbon casks this whisky also supports a medium eating level of 20ppm to 25ppm. My original assumption was that Machir Bay would not remain the constant as it felt overly young and fruity on the first release. Now I question my logic of that assumption. Not only due to arm chair ignorance on my part but also once someone says “this is our core expression”, we naturally assume it will never change. It has changed (at least to my perceptive point of view) and it is progressing at an appreciative level.

Before reviewing I want to just bring some attention to presentation. Just look at the bottles Kilchoman are utilising. Classy, strong, bold, including an embossed badge for that regal element. The cork is wood capped and solid while the bottle shape squats the carter pf gravity lower giving a better chance of rebounding from a knock. I have always loved these bottles Kilchoman well before I began to appreciated the whisky. Not to stop there though as Kilchoman deliver just as much attention in the structural solid packing of the cardboard cartons. Full colour printing, embossing and foiling make presentation distinguished in the shelf.

Kilchoman Machir Bay, Single Malt
Distiller: Kilchoman Distillery
Region: Islay, Scotland
ABV: 46%
Wood: Ex-Bourbon & Ex-Oloroso Sherry Butts
PPM: 20 - 25
Vintage: 2014

Nose: Smoky fresh tropical fruits, with typical Kilchoman pineapple & ash.

Taste: Vibrant with large vanillas, fruit tending to caramelised pineapple. There is the obvious peat smoke nip but it is not to intense balancing against those fresher pineapple notes.

Finish: Long & lingering with sweet fruits and an intense pineapple sweetness.

Overall you will note I have spoken about pineapple in every aspect. This is certainly a signature characteristic that originally was extremely underpinned in the early days now tending towards caramelised wood fired pineapple. This has become a solid dram embodying the excitability of young peated whiskies. The ABV is not too low as a nice sticky oil is still retained in the liquid. If I was to give a dram 5.75 out of 7. The price does get hard to justify but the quality is obviously refined.

We are lucky enough to also be seeing Machir Bay enter the retail chain Dan Murphy’s which gives far wider access to the Aussie market. This has only come about I believe in 2015. Pricing is high at $109AU a bottle and it will be hard slog to get it over the line when so many other distilleries are pushing quality whiskies at below the $90AU mark. This price comes down to production and Kilchoman don’t make tremendous amounts of whisky. If you want to keep a look out for some of the more rare releases like the Original Cask Strength, Single Cask, Port or Madeira matured releases then check your local specialist like Oak Barrel or World Of Whisky here in Sydney.

The Baron