21 February 2021: Online Live Tasting with George & James Wills: Core Range & 2021 Pre-Releases
The first online tasting of 2021 with George & Peter Wills took place on 21 February from 19:00 Islay time.
Besides the two Core Range whiskies Machir Bay and Sanaig, the Tasting Pack this time included two pre-release samples of 2021, Loch Gorm 2021 and Comraich Batch 4.
The two Kilchoman standard releases Machir Bay and Sanaig were frequently part of the online tastings last year, especially often as food pairing experiments – i.e. in combination with special foods, such as smoked venison sausage, fish, cheese or chocolate. As was learned at the tasting, Kilchoman, in collaboration with the Edinburgh chocolatier COCO, has now launched two chocolate varieties that are supposed to complement the two standard whiskies particularly well. For the Machir Bay, this is Atlantic Sea Salt & Lime Milk Chocolate, the Kilchoman chocolate that goes well with the sherry-toned Sanaig whisky is called Haggis Spice Dark Chocolate.
The Tastings Packs could be purchased for £16.66 + tax and shipping on the Kilchoman homepage. The chocolates cost £4.17 each.
31 March 2021: Loch Gorm 2021 released
Also in 2021, the series of annual Kilchoman Limited Releases was opened with Loch Gorm, the Kilchoman whisky matured exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks. A limited quantity was available from the Kilchoman Online Shop from Wednesday 31 March for £69.90 (limited to one bottle per person), and from retailers worldwide from early April.
The 2021 edition is a vatting of 24 oloroso sherry butts that were filled in 2011 and 2012. As always with Kilchoman, the 500 litre sherry butts come from the Bodega Miguel Martin and were filled with spirit that has a phenolic content of 50 ppm. The vatting of these 24 casks, diluted down to 46%, resulted in a yield of 17,000 bottles.
The annual Loch Gorm editions differ somewhat from year to year in the composition of the casks used. With two exceptions in the early years of the series where hogsheads were also used, they are always Oloroso sherry butts, but of different ages and different numbers of first fill and refill casks. For this year’s edition, fresh sherry casks were again selected for the most part, four of the sherry butts are refill casks, while in the 2020 edition there were only one or two refill casks. The age of 9 years is quite a bit less than in last year’s edition, where casks from 2007, 2008 and 2009 were also used and made the whisky one of the best and most complex Loch Gorm bottlings, not only in Anthony Wills’ eyes.
After the 15,000 and 15,500 bottles of the last few years, the 2021 edition was increased slightly to meet the growing demand.
“Although we have always filled the bulk of our spirit into ex-bourbon barrels, the Loch Gorm releases have shown how well our peated Islay spirit can combine with sherry casks, something that’s not always an easy task.”
“Rich bold flavours with a breadth, depth and balance of character that sets it apart, the 2021 edition is packed with juicy fruit, macerated lemon and sweet chargrilled BBQ smoke” Anthony Wills, Kilchoman Founder and Master Distiller.
8 April 2021: Online Live Tasting with George & James Wills: Core Range & 2021 Pre-Releases
As with the 1st online tasting of the year, the tasting pack for the second online tasting with George and James Wills on 8 April 2021 included the two Core Range whiskies Machir Bay and Sanaig and two pre-release samples of 2021, this time the PX release and a Ruby Port Quarter Cask Finish Single Cask.
The Tastings Packs could again be purchased for £16.66 + tax and shipping on the Kilchoman homepage.
21 April 2021: Sales start of Fèis Ìle Release and Tasting Packs
As in 2020, the Islay festival Fèis Ìle could only be held online in 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. The Fèis Ìle special bottling and the tasting packs for the three online tastings planned on Kilchoman Day, 3 June, could be purchased online on the Kilchoman homepage on 21 April.
The Fèis Ìle Release 2021 (£83.30 plus VAT and shipping) is a vatting of eight 100% Islay casks, two Oloroso sherry butts from 2011 and six bourbon barrels filled in 2012. The whisky, with a phenolic content of around 20 ppm, was made from Optic and Publican barley varieties, harvested at Kilchoman in 2010 and 2011.
The casks yielded 2,832 bottles, bottled at cask strength of 56.3% abv.
Anthony Wills wrote: “As you might know, I am partial to marrying bourbon and sherry casks, I feel these two cask types allow me to increase complexity without losing depth of character. The bourbon barrels I’ve selected give a solid structure to the dram that allow for a balance of maritime Islay flavours and the natural citrus sweetness of our spirit to shine through. The two oloroso sherry butts I chose add depth and richness to the whisky, I’ve had an eye on these casks for a while and they’ve now reached their peak”
“I am delighted with this year’s Feis release and while I’m sad we won’t be sharing a dram in person we invite you to join us online for the next best thing”.
The Tasting Packs for the three online tastings scheduled during Fèis Ìle:
Kilchoman DNA – Live Tasting Pack – £16,66 + VAT
(Cask Strength Machir Bay, Cask Strength Sanaig, Loch Gorm 2021, 100% Islay 2021 Preview, Kilchoman Tasting Glas)
Through the Ages – Live Tasting Pack – £20,80 + VAT
(New Make Spirit, Cask sample 04/2006, Cask sample 203/2011, Cask sample 645/2016, Kilchoman Tasting Glas)
Experimental Casks – Live Tasting Pack – £20,80 + VAT
(Cognac Cask 737/2016, Calvados Cask 356/2018, STR Cask 207/2018, Port Cask 480/2014, Kilchoman Tasting Glas)
A really interesting selection that Kilchoman offered here in all three tasting packs!
After the Christmas edition of a Machir Bay at cask strength in 2020, the wish for a Sanaig at cask strength was voiced again and again at the Kilchoman online tastings. In the Kilchoman DNA-Tasting Pack, one could already taste a sample of it. The Through the Ages Tasting (scheduled for 19.00 on 3.6.) is likely to attract a lot of interest, especially because of the sample from cask no. 04/2006. This was one of the very first casks bottled by Kilchoman and the first opportunity to taste a 15-year-old Kilchoman whisky.
21 April 2021: First Tequila Finish Single Cask bottling released
As in 2020, Kilchoman also released a new Online Shop Exclusive Release on the day of the launch of the Fèis Ìle release and the Fèis Ìle Tasting Packs and also as in 2020, when the first Cognac Finish Single Cask was released, it was a world first, namely the first Tequila Finish Single Cask from Kilchoman.
Due to the change in the corresponding SWA regulations, it is now allowed to use casks for whisky maturation that previously contained, for example, Calvados, Tequila or Mezcal. Last year, Kilchoman was able to show with some first Calvados releases how well the Kilchoman Spirit develops in these casks.
At various online tastings, Anthony Wills had reported that the distillery had also filled some tequila and mezcal casks for the first time in 2020, some intended for full maturation, some for finishing, and how amazingly well the whisky had developed in these casks, so that they filled some more right around Christmas time.
With this bottling, Kilchoman fans were given the opportunity to taste a tequila finish for the first time. The cask no. 638/2013 was a fresh ex-bourbon barrel in which the whisky, distilled on 29 August 2013, matured for over 6 years before being finished in a tequila cask for over 9 months. The cask strength bottling on 14 April 2021 yielded 255 bottles. The price was £74.58 + VAT and shipping.
5 May 2021: PX Sherry Cask Matured Edition released
As already announced and presented at the Kilchoman Online Tasting with George and James Wills on 8 April 2021, the second Limited Release of the year 2021 was a PX Sherry Cask Matured Edition. From Wednesday 5 May it was available for the first time in the Kilchoman Online Shop, then in the course of the following week at local retailers worldwide.
Casks that previously contained the extremely sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry are mostly used for finishing, as with full maturation there is a risk that they will dominate the whisky character after a relatively short period of maturatione. Kilchoman had not only released more than 70 PX-finish single cask bottlings in the past years, but also some PX single cask full maturations in 2020, the latter interestingly all with the slighter peated 100% Islay distillate, while the finishings were based on Port Ellen malt peated at 50 ppm, with one or two exceptions.
With the PX Sherry Cask Matured Edition, Kilchoman released a larger PX release in an edition of 12,000 bottles for the first time. Anthony Wills and Robin Bignal selected 33 casks for this, nine of them PX full maturations from 2015 and 24 PX finishes that had been distilled in 2013 and finished after an initial maturation in bourbon barrels between 12 and 18 months. Using only PX full maturations would have dominated the Kilchoman distillery character too much, according to Anthony Will. The mixture of about 2/3 finish and 1/3 PX casks, all with a phenolic content of 50 ppm, would then have produced the desired balance of maritime peat smoke notes, citrus and fruit notes and a pronounced honey sweetness.
“Pedro Ximénez casks aren’t always the easiest to work with. That was why we decided on a combination of full maturation and finishing, to balance the distinct PX influence with that of our spirit. I’m delighted with the result; big and bold but with a delightful poise and balance of flavour,” Anthony Wills, Kilchoman Founder & MD
Anthony and Robin also tested the release in different alcohol strengths and decided on an unusual 47.3% (Kilchoman’s limited releases usually have an alcohol content of 46% or 50%). At 47.3%, the whisky appears most present and allows the natural citrus character of the Kilchoman distillate to shine through best.
May 2021: First Kilchoman Mezcal Finish Single Cask bottling released
After Kilchoman released its first Tequila Finish Single Cask as an Online Shop Exclusive on 21 April, the world’s first Mezcal Finish Single Cask followed in May for the well-known Edinburgh whisky shop Royal Mile Whiskies.
As we have reported on several occasions, since a change in the relevant SWA regulations in 2019, it is now also allowed to use casks for whisky maturation that previously contained, for example, Calvados, Tequila or Mezcal. After some Calvados releases in 2020 and the mentioned first Tequila Finish by Kilchoman, a Mezcal Finish Single Cask appeared as the last of this trio.
Distilled on 12.9.2013, the whisky was first matured for almost 7 years in a bourbon barrel and was then finished for 9 months in a mezcal cask from Oaxaca. On 21.4.2021, 243 bottles with an alcohol content of 55.5% were bottled.
3 June 2021: Kilchoman 360° Online Fèis Ìle 2021
Due to COVID restrictions, the Islay Festival Fèis Ìle could only take place virtually for the 2nd time in 2021. As in 2020, however, Kilchoman had developed an extensive online programme. Under the title 360° FÈIS ÌLE, virtual visitors were also to be offered a very special opportunity to explore every inch of Kilchoman on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
With a 360° tour, in which one could scroll up, down, left and right on the screen, every corner of the distillery could be viewed. Accompanied by various members of the Kilchoman team, the route led from the barley fields to the bottling hall, across the courtyard, into the malt floor, deep into the still house and through the warehouses, almost as if you were there yourself.
This was the exact programme (Islay time):
12 Noon – “Kilchoman DNA” Live Tasting. The programme started with an online tasting. In the first tasting the two Core Range whiskies Machir Bay and Sanaig were tasted at cask strength, as well as the Loch Gorm 2021 and the 100% Islay 2021, which will be released at the end of the year.
13.00 – On the Farm. Islay Heads, the general manager of Kilchoman, gave a tour of Rockside Farm: from the barley fields where different types of barley grow to the sheep and cattle on the farm.
Afterwards, you could ask him questions live during a Q&A at around 1.30 pm.
14.00 – Malting and Peating. Derek Scott, maltman at Kilchoman, told everything worth knowing about the traditional floor maltings at Kilchoman, the equipment used and how to achieve the perfect germination of the barley.
Around 2.30 p.m. there was also a Q&A with him – a live question and answer session.
15.00 – In the Stillhouse. Production Manager Robin Bignal took us through all the production steps in the stillhouse, from milling and mashing to fermentation and distillation.
Followed by live Q&A with Robin followed at around 3.30 pm.
16.00 – Maturing in the Warehouse. Kilchoman founder and Managing Director Anthony Wills gave insights into the process of cask maturation, how he created the Kilchoman range of whiskies and revealed which special cask types still lie dormant in the warehouses.
At around 4.30 pm, the guests had the opportunity to ask Anthony personally questions during a Q&A session.
17.00 – Vatting and Bottling. The final steps in the whisky-making process – vatting and bottling – were explained in detail by Michel Besser, who manages these final stages of production at Kilchoman.
Around 5.30 pm: Q&A with Michel.
18.00 – “Through the Ages” Live Tasting. At the second live tasting, 15 years of Kilchoman cask maturation could be traced.
Starting with the New Make Spirit, the path leads through cask samples from 2016 and 2011 to a sample from the cask No. 04/2006, for most Kilchoman fans the very first opportunity to taste a 15-year-old Kilchoman whisky.
19.15 – “Experimental Cask” Live Tasting. The third and last live tasting was dedicated to the more unusual cask types used by Kilchoman: Cognac Cask 737/2016, Calvados Cask 356/2018, STR Cask 207/2018 and Port Cask 480/2014.
In our opinion, Kilchoman presented here, as in 2020, a well thought-out and highly interesting programme for all whisky lovers!
15 September 2021: 100% Islay 11th Edition released
The annual limited 100% Islay edition is always one of the highlights of the Kilchoman year and has heralded the autumn for several years. The 11th edition of the series was released on 15 September 2021 in the distillery’s online shop and in the following weeks in whisky shops worldwide.
The 11th edition is a vatting of 26 ex-bourbon barrels and 7 oloroso sherry butts matured for over 9 years in Kilchoman warehouses. This is whisky distilled from barley of the Optic and Publican varieties harvested at Rockside Farm in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. As usual with the 100% Islay range, the whisky was bottled with an alcohol content of 50.0%. The edition size was 12,000 bottles.
While the age composition of the casks used in this year’s release is very similar to last year’s, the sherry cask content is now a whopping 40% for the 2nd time in the history of the 100% Islay series, compared to just over 10% last year.
Anthony Wills, Kilchoman Founder and Managing Director wrote: Having tasted some excellent older sherry butts we quickly decided that they were at their peek, we then tried a few bourbon barrels of a similar age and the backbone of this edition came together very easily. Our bourbon barrels and oloroso butts are incredibly consistent and this combination of roughly 40% sherry butts and 60% bourbon barrels works phenomenally with the style of whisky we produce. It allows both the citrus sweetness of our spirit and the rich fruity flavours of the casks to balance perfectly.”
16 September 2021: Kilchoman Online Tasting: Through the Ages: 100% Islay
After a few months of interruption, an online tasting with Anthony & George Wills took place again on 16 September, focusing on the 100% Islay range, i.e. the part of the Kilchoman range where all production steps “from barley to bottle” are carried out at Kilchoman itself.
By Kilchoman’s count, this was already the 14th live tasting of the successful series started in COVID times. However, only the truly interactive tastings with previously sent tasting packs were included in this count, the first two “Friday Night In” tastings with Anthony Wills were not considered here, nor were the six Fèis Ìle online tastings in 2020 and 2021. If these are counted, there were already twenty-two live tastings up to this point.
The Tasting Pack “Through the Ages: 100% Islay” contains the rare 100% Islay New Make, samples of the 2nd and 4th 100% Islay Limited Releases from 2012 and 2014 respectively, and, as a preview, a sample of the 11th edition to be released in autumn 2021.
The Tasting Packs, which could be purchased for £16.66 + tax and shipping on the Kilchoman homepage, were shipped for the first time in a newly developed, much more appealing Kilchoman Sample Box, which offers space for a Kilchoman nosing glass in addition to 4 sample bottles.
October 2021: Sales start of Madeira Cask Matured Release postponed
After a first Madeira Cask Release had already been released in 2015, Kilchoman had announced another Madeira Cask Release for autumn 2021 as the last of the four annual Limited Releases.
Due to a massive problem with the delivery of empty bottles, Kilchoman had to postpone the bottling until spring 2022, when it is to be released as the first limited release of the year.
To the confusion of Kilchoman fans, who are nowadays connected worldwide via social media such as the Facebook Kilchoman Appreciation Society, bottles of this release could already be bought in some countries, such as Sweden. Kilchoman explained this by saying that quotas for individual countries had already been bottled and shipped before the bottle problem arose…
21 October 2021: Online comparison tasting with George & Peter Wills: Comraich Batches No. 1 – 4
After the 100% Islay Online Tastings on 16 September, the next Kilchoman Online Live Tasting followed on 21 October.
The theme of the tasting this time was the Comraich releases, i.e. the special bottlings for the bars of the same name, which can only be tasted there and do not go on sale. In the meantime, there is a worldwide network of whisky bars that are distinguished by an exceptional range of whiskies in general and Kilchoman whiskies in particular and have been given the status of a Comraich bar by Kilchoman. An overview can be found here.
The participants of the tasting got the rare opportunity to taste all four previous Comraich editions. As always, the tasting packs could be purchased for £16.66 + tax and shipping on the Kilchoman homepage.
8 December 2021: Club Release 10th Edition released
The 2021 exclusive bottling for members of the Kilchoman Club was released on Wednesday, 8 December 2021 – limited to one bottle per person – at a price of £119.90 + shipping on the Kilchoman homepage.
Always keen to select something special for the annual club release, this year Anthony Wills chose a Small Batch of three just under 13 year old Oloroso Sherry casks.
Oloroso Sherry full maturations of this age are still very rare at Kilchoman, the oldest so far – a 14-year-old – had appeared shortly before at the French whisky merchant La Maison Du Whisky.
Distilled in December 2008, the whisky was initially matured in Oloroso Sherry Butts. As Anthony Wills was not satisfied with its development in 2016, he decided to have it decanted into three Refill Oloroso Hogsheads. Now, 5 years later, it is at the peak of its flavour development according to Anthony and was bottled in November 2021. The yield was 807 bottles with an alcohol content of 52.6%.
“These are some pretty special casks with quite a unique story. Originally the whisky was filled into oloroso sherry butts however I wasn’t satisfied with their development so in 2016 I decided to decant the whisky into refill oloroso hogsheads.
Since being decanted, the whisky has come on beautifully and in my opinion these casks are at their absolute peak in terms of their depth of flavour. The influence of the sherry oak is certainly present however, it is subtle and rounded, the character coming through on the palate is fruity and layered, offset perfectly by typical Kilchoman freshness and citrus sweetness”
Anthony Wills, Kilchoman Founder and Master Distiller.
28 December 2021: Christmas Live Tasting with Anthony & George Wills
As the last online tasting of the year 2021, a “Christmas Tasting” with Anthony and George Wills took place on Tuesday 28 December.
Following a tried and tested recipe, the tasting pack again included the two Core Range whiskies Machir Bay and Sanaig and two pre-release samples, this time those of the Madeira Cask Release and the Kilchoman Club Release 2021.
The Tasting Packs could again be purchased for £16.66 + tax and shipping on the Kilchoman homepage. Some randomly selected Tasting Packs also included a small Christmas gift – from a Kilchoman T-shirt to a bottle of the current Distillery Only Single Cask release.