Islay distilleries explained thru Rock and Roll comparisons – Part 5 – Kilchoman & my review of the new Machir Bay (UK bottling)


Islay distilleries and their whiskies explained through Rock and Roll – Part V (of VIII)

We’ve made it over the hump.  There are eight active distilleries on Islay and so far I’ve lead us through four of them and what I deem their rock & roll likenesses to be:  Part one:Bruichladdich as The Sex Pistols, Part two: Ardbeg as Slayer, Part three: Caol Ila as The 80′s (They get their very own decade!) and Part four: Bowmore as David Bowie.

I thought reviewing Kilchoman might be the best way to kick off the 2nd half of this series.  At 6 years old, Kilchoman is Islay’s youngest distillery and they are kicking out some absolutely cracking whisky!  Age be damned, Kilchoman is all about quality.

Today we’ll review the new Machir Bay whisky (the UK bottling – we will see a bottling here in the US very shortly) which is a mixture of 3yo (60%), 4yo (35%)  & 5yo (5%) ex-bourbon barrel (Buffalo Trace to be exact) matured whiskies.  Before batting it all together, the 4yo whisky was further matured in oloroso sherry butts for an addition six weeks (to help round out some of the flavors, methinks — it’ll help add some nice color to the whisky as well).

Kilchoman Machir Bay – 46%ABV – $55 | £39

On the nose — It’s quite obvious that Kilchoman has a true style and character.  Initial whiff and yup, this is a Kilchoman.

And it’s lovely.

Quite sweet smelling under all of that peat — fruity and tart (tart apples in an apple tart).

The obvious brine and smoke are waving a flag saying “hello, hello!!  here we are!!”  Citrusy notes here as well.  Lemon, lime… limon?

This aside, I’m enjoying some buttered toast notes and even a salted pie crust like scent.

On the mouth — Thick, full, oily whisky.

Much like what I experienced on the nose however there is the slight addition of sherry influence here.  Think light milk chocolates and spice.

There’s a bit of pepper here and something that I just love: salted black licorice.

Nice and even keeled – No huge sign of being too young.

Finish — Very long and laced with more licorice and even a touch of grilled apples.

In sum — Impressed yet again with Kilchoman.  It’s obvious they know what they’re doing.  This whisky is peaty/smoky enough for the peat heads out there and complex enough for the whisky geeks and just perfect, if you ask me, for a summer’s day.

I find this Kilchoman to be bright and fresh and has a bit of a pick-me-up feel to it.  Highly recommended.


Kilchoman – The Band!

Initially, I thought the easy comparison to make with Kilchoman (as sort of the new kid on Islay) would be to make a comparison to a rock band that was comprised of youth.

Bands that come to mind:

  • Hanson (mmmbop, no)
  • Old Skull (I forgot how terrible this band was)
  • Justin B… I’m not even going to go there

Well, that didn’t work out so I decided to think of bands I love that have had hit after hit after hit (like Kilchoman has enjoyed with their whiskies).

I was happy to finally think of a band that had both youth, great music and hit after hit after hit…

Kilchoman – congrats!  You are the Jackson Five!  A truly incredible band and truly delicious whiskies.

Special thanks goes to JJY for getting me a bottle of this fancy sauce!

High West Silver Whiskey – Western Oat


Utah – 40%ABV – $25 – $42 (now THAT’s a spread!)

Oat whiskey?  Yeah, oat whiskey.

Actually, the mash bill is comprised of 85% oat and 15% malted barley.

People seem to love the stuff, too:

  • 92 Points “Very Stylish…Will Make Great Cocktails” Beverage Testing Institute
  • GOLD MEDAL – International Review Of Spirits 
  • “A” Rating — “One of the most enjoyable silver whiskeys I’ve ever had” Christopher Null – 

Me, I’m usually more of a malt whisk(e)y, bourbon or rye whiskey sort of a guy.  However, more so than my preferred tastes, I am an adventurous soul and when it comes to whisk(e)y, there’s isn’t anything I wouldn’t try.  Well, except for pissky maybe.

So let’s give this one a go, shall we?

On the nose  Sweet, soft and pillowy.  Much like Steve Martin’s lower cheeks in Planes, Train’s & Automobiles.

Better yet, more like marshmallows.

Speaking of…  There is a distinct marshmallow note to this whiskey.

Very light/clear olive oil.  (Not in color but in scent.  To clarify, more like olive oil from an economy brand bottle where the olive scents are very, very subtle.)

Soapy – and this is a good thing here as it lends a very clean quality to the stuff.

Not overly complex but quite enjoyable.

On the mouth Here’s where it gets good!  That marshmallow note is quite pronounced and the mouthfeel could not be better.  Oily verging on ooey.

Lot’s of dairy going on here as well – sweet cream, powdered creamer, evaporated milk… Dulce de leche?

Again, not super complex but the spirit is so nice.

Finish Somewhat short but those milk & marshmallow notes leave an impression.

In sum – A surprisingly good, easy sippin’, whiskey.  I actually had a small sip of this at WhiskyLive NYC back in 2011 but, admittedly, I was a few whisk(e)y samples in by then so I can’t say as I remembered it.

I know that there are some folks out there that dig their cocktails and I’d imagine that this would go well in one.  However, I really enjoyed this ‘as is’ and you may too.  Kudos to micro distillers that try new stuff.  Kudos to David Perkins and the rest of the people at High West for releasing such an interesting whiskey.

(Maybe you can do a 100% quinoa mash bill and make a whiskey from that so I can imbibe during Passover??)

Special thanks to High West for the sample!

Amrut Kadhambam


India – 50%ABV – $80

I actually do not know a lot about this whisky.  I know that it was matured in three different types of wood:

  • Oloroso Sherry Casks
  • Indian Brandy Casks
  • Rum Casks

That’s about where my knowledge ends and, to be honest, I didn’t want to know much more.  I wanted to the whisky to speak for itself a bit.

Wait, I do know one more thing – this was bottled at 50% ABV which is such an odd ABV… it’s so exact that I want to say that it was reduced to 50%.  Especially given some of their cask strength whiskies have been at 60%ABV+

This is quite a limited release – I only found two stores that still have some (note the link above, or click on the picture of the bottle, for the lowest cost source).

Special thanks goes out to Raj and Purple Valley Imports for the sample!

On the nose  Peppery, yet sweet.

There’s something that is very “Amrut” about this Amrut.  My point is that the style and character of the spirit is unique unto itself.

Quite fruity – a mix of apples and persimmon come to mind.

There’s a deeper sweetness in here as well – some of the rum cask influence, mayhaps?

On the mouth A good and oily mouthfeel and very peppery toward the back of the mouth.

Light in flavor in the front of the mouth yet it seems as if this might be a peated whisky (I am reminded of Amrut’s peated offering).

An odd and interesting experience here… the flavors are massive toward the back of the mouth (Jack fruit and green peppercorns) but it’s so light in flavor in the front of the mouth.

I’ll need another sip here.

A good amount of spice and wood in the front of the mouth including floral teas.

Finish Quite a long and spicy finish.

In sum An enjoyable experience and perhaps that is the best way to explain this whisky – it’s an experience; one that requires the drinker to have time to his or herself and a friend or two to share and discuss.  Lovely, lovely stuff.

Glenfarclas 1953 Single Cask


Highlands Region – 47.2% ABV – $9479.71 | £5995

I’m going to keep the typing down to a minimum because, as you’ll see below, I’ve hand written this post and all of the tasting notes to accompany it.  It was suggested to me by a good friend to write the notes as if I was actually in 1953 so, I grabbed a pencil and paper and, viola!

What I am about to review is the oldest whisky to EVER be released by Glenfarclas.  A 58 year old whisky, this was distilled in 1953 and is one of 4 cask of its age – the oldest in all of Glenfarclas’ stock.

The single cask rendered just about 400 bottles and all of them are available exclusively through Master of Malt.

A 1953 Glenfarclas, 58 years old… I have very lucky taste buds and they are all thankful.  Very thankful.  I mention it in my review but a HUGE thanks goes out to the folks at Master of Malt, George Grant of Glenfarclas and Michal Kowalski for the generous sample!

And now, the review – there are two jpgs you can click on to view the pages in full size on a PDF if the type is too small or difficult to read – the PDFs are about 8mb each so they may take a couple of moments to download for viewing:

Islay distilleries explained thru Rock and Roll comparisons – Part 4 – Bowmore & my review of Dawn, their older Portwood bottling


Islay distilleries and their whiskies explained through Rock and Roll – Part IV (of VIII)

I started this series just four weeks ago and am just so pleased as to how well it’s being received.  Thank you all SO MUCH for tuning in (and commenting) to this series!

So, let’s tally up what’s happened so far.  Part one: Bruichladdich as The Sex Pistols, Part two: Ardbeg as Slayer, Part three: Caol Ila as The 80’s. (They get their very own decade!)

Today in part IV we will have a chance to discover Bowmore’s older “Dawn” bottling.

Whisky aficionado and co-author of the 6th edition of Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion, Bill Meyers, introduced me to this whisky not too long ago.  Thanks again, Bill!  It was one that wowed me at the time.  I liked it enough to seek out a bottle and below are my tasting notes.

My previous posts in this series started off with the whisky review first then the Rock band comparison just after.  I’ll run the entire series this way.  So’s you know…

Bowmore “Dawn” Portwood – 51.5% ABV – $|£ – ??

On the nose — Immediate blast of smoke upfront.  However, as quickly as it hits you, it’s overtaken…

While the smoke remains, it waits patiently in the background as red gem candies and grape soda take center stage.

Coming back — there’s an underlying dankness, or earthy quality, quite like a mix between potting soil and fresh lavender.  The lavender is actually massive here.

This whisky has a lovely sweet and floral nose that’s balanced quite well with the smoke and earthy tones.

On the mouth — Remember that grape soda I mentioned?  It’s here, it’s queer, get used to it!  Queer as in its flavor not being one you’d normally associate with a whisky; especially an Islay whisky.

That lavender is back as well.

The port casks make themselves known with touches of spice on the back of the tongue (plus more of that fresh potting soil – the taste of the smell of, that is).

Spider mums and other flower-like scents.  This is quite the feminine whisky.  Me likey.

Finish — Spicy (lightly so) and with red fruits and just a touch of smoke.

In sum —  Coming back to the nose after every sip and that (sweet) smoke returns in a very nice way.  This is a solid, solid whisky.  If you’ve stayed away from port casked whiskies in the past, this may be one to change your mind and one to search out (just save me a bottle or two…).  I think I’ve discovered why it’s called dawn — this would make a solid breakfast whisky!  Wake, pour, sip and invigorate.


Bowmore – The Band!

I’ll get this one out in the open — I LOVE 70’s and 80’s Bowmore.  90’s Bowmore makes me happy too.  The variations of Bowmore released in the 2000’s+ seem to be a bit all over the place for me – a bit of a moving target.

However there have been some *solid* winners in my eyes.  The Bowmore Tempest releases come directly to mind.  As do Bowmore Dawn (reviewed above), Mariner, 25yo… heck, I really enjoy Bowmore Legend.  One of the most uniquely delicious whiskies I’ve had in years was the 26yo single cask Bowmore put out by Master of Malt (so G-d darned brilliant a whisky!!).

There are also Bowmore whiskies that I find to be ok but not overly thrilling – Bowmore 12, 15 and 18yos come to mind.  Decent whiskies but they don’t excite me like other Bowmores do…

While I may not be overly thrilled with that portion of their current standard range, I have a feeling that the addition of Rachel Barrie to the Bowmore team will put a shine upon their whiskies like we’ve not seen in a few years.  Alongside Dr. Bill Lumsden, Rachel Barrie has done some solidly good things during her time at Glenmorangie and Ardbeg.  Rachel, I can’t wait to taste all of the good whiskies that will come from Bowmore under your watch!

So, who are you, Bowmore??

I am actually reminded of David Bowie when I think of Bowmore.  With his every changing styles/fashion and outfit coupled with a good mixture of some of the best Rock and Rock to come out in the 70/80’s (followed by some albums later in his career, during the 90’s and 2000’s, that were not up to par with the his earlier work but still pretty damn good).  Not only am I a fan of 70’s glam, I’m a total Bowie Junkie.

Like Bowie, Bowmore is some something that others strive to be like but just can’t match.  Are you Hunky Dory or just Aladdin Sane?