Kilchoman: Loch Gorm 2018 (Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Moderate gold colour with fast thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Smokey. Lightly salty. Sea breeze. Raisin loaf. Charcoal dust. Spicy. Turmeric. Seaweed. Water adds greenery and moss, plus a mix of rocks and salt.

Body: Sherried raisins. Smoke. Dried smoked beef. Paprika. Light custard sweetness. Drying alcohol. Water adds cherries, makes very smooth. Peaty. Light apricot.

Finish: Soot. Salt touch. Dried smoked beef. Overcooked streak. Malt loaf. Water makes beefier in a broth style. Malt chocolate and a red fruit touch.

Conclusion: This is both distinctly forceful Islay in its style, and yet somewhat restrained with great subtly being showed in the openings this provides. The sherry use isn’t overpowering, but instead interwoven throughout the whisky to add light extra spice, and a little extra sweet dark and red fruit character. It adds a gentle sweetness that smooths the edges of a solid Islay core.

So, lets talk about that solid Islay core then. It is restrained but still evocative of the sea breeze and wet salted rocks of Islay, showing sooty smoke and dried beef to overcooked steak meaty roughness. So, distinctive as an Islay but not leaning into the punching medicinal or peat assault of the more intense ends of the scale, just weighing in with a character that brings imagery of a seaweed laden rock pool and wild island character that the region espouses. It is very well done, layered and expressive.

Water brings out more subtleties from the spirit – cheekier red fruit, but more tellingly an apricot sweetness that seems to belong to the spirit itself rather than the sherry ageing. An odd element but one I have seen in the background of a couple of Kilchoman now. The Islay character is still the core, but the more restrained expression lets a surprising amount of lighter notes through to play.

This is very good indeed – as mentioned in the background, I had the choice between buying a bottle of this, or the port aged cask, and I really feel I should have bought this expression instead back then as this is very impressive.

Subtly understated, rewardingly solid – this is a Kilchoman that brings weight and range from the sherry but is not lost to it. Very highly recommended and my respect from this distillery is rising with every expression I try.

Background: This is the first of two samples I was given by Independent Spirit for doing notes on, many thanks! They had done a Kilchoman tasting night I had to miss, but kindly let me try this, a sherry aged take on the spirit. This came out at the same time as the port cask, and back then I decided to go with that expression over this one. Time to find out if that was the right choice. Warren Ellis had put out a new Spektrmodule podcast – a collection of ambient and haunting music, so I put it on while doing the notes.

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