Kilchoman 2018 European Tour Bottling – Machir Bay Cask Strength (Islay Scottish Single Malt Whisky: 59.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale brackish grain. Slow thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Thick. Peaty. Oily character. Light menthol and moss notes. Peppermint. Water adds dust balls and soot. Slight salt.

Body: Thick. Oily. Toffee and caramel. Thick peat. Oily charring. Oily chocolate. Oily peppermint cream. Water makes creamier. Salt touch. Honey. Sweet apricot. Sauternes wine. Sherry trifle.

Finish: Peppermint cream. Peat smoke. Light charring. Water adds dessert wine notes.

Conclusion: this is not what I expected, not at all. The extra abv seems to have utterly changed how the Machir Bay whisky expression comes across.

At normal abv strength this seemed slightly light back when I last tried it – very enjoyable and complex but gentle. This booms with oily thickness in feel, matched with huge honey to trifle sweetness. Everything feels like it is delivered in a oily fashion – oily peat, oily chocolate, oily charring, and now added to that is a completely new element -oily peppermint notes. This minty menthol to peppermint character is fresh yet creamy and adds both a sweetness and a slight natural mint leaves that I did not find in the standard expression. It makes it feel fresher, bigger and more greenery touched, adding to and massively changing the overall character.

This Islay character Kilchoman have become well known for is more subtle here than in a lot of their expressions. It is smokey, slightly salt touched, but the huge, thick oily and sweet character used here means that the sea breeze and peaty characteristics are less prominent that usual. Instead the apricot spirit note I have noticed at the back of Kilchomans before is now pushed to the forefront here in big dessert wine like flavours.

Oddly considering what makes this so different is what the extra abv brings to the game, this actually works better with water. Only a few drops are needed to bring out the best, so it is still a lot higher abv than the base expression, but those few drops make it smoother and really bring out the sherry trifle complexity from below the oily character.

Again the distillery does brilliantly – a sweet dessert wine meets Islay whisky that is rewarding on every level. Highly recommended.

Background: Second of the 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 – an exclusive bottling for the 2018 tour. It is a cask strength take on the Machir Bay which I was already a fan of. This was tried directly after the prior Kilchoman tasting, so I was still listening to the new Spektrmodule podcast.

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