Kilchoman is a distillery in a class of it’s own in many ways. As Scottish distilleries go, a mere babe being built in 2005. In fact, it was the first distillery built in Islay in 124 years. A family concern, founded and run by Anthony Wills and his three sons – the Kilchoman distillery is the smallest on Islay and the only distillery on the island run as a family-owned, independent distillery. All of it’s whisky is aged on-site as single malt. It is not chilll-filtered. None is sold to independant bottlers, nor is any used in a blended whisky. It is exactly this meticulous and precise control over all aspects of the whisky making process that has resulted in such a young distillery making such a big splash on the international whisky scene. This month’s malt of the month – the Kilchman Sanaig has just won Gold at the 2018 Whisky World Cup with Best Peated Whisky of the competition.
Probably the most outstanding thing that stands Kilchoman out from the crowd is the fact that it is Scotland’s only ‘farm distillery’. They grow, harvest and malt their own barley on-site. The use their own peat for the malting they do in their own malting house. Once again – this allows for precise control on what goes into the whisky – from farm to glass.
Whilst all their whiskies are peated, Kilchoman use a variety of methods to ‘temper’ the peat effect. Firstly they ferment their wash longer than average – 85hrs in fact. This is around twice as long as normal. As we learnt when we reviewed the Cotswolds Odyssey Single Malt, this extra time allows alcohol to react with acids to form esters – the sweet, fruity flavours and light, floral notes.
The stills and distilling process itself also aims to tame the peat. Kilchoman’s stills are the smallest on Islay (by far) and amongst the smallest of any Scottish distillery. The extremely small stills allow a large surface area to volume ratio which maximises the spirit contact with the copper – producing a lighter spirit. In a similar vein to Cotswolds once again – Kilchoman favours the lighter ‘cut’ when distilling to capture more of the lighter esters whilst avoiding the heavier smokey phenols that come later in the distillation.