The vast majority off this was written back in winter 2015 but I try to bring it up to date.
Here is an overview of the History of Kilchoman up to 2016. In this post, I try to give you an overview of the expressions released by Kilchoman. While they used to give at least the approximate age of the casks used in the vatting at the side or back of the boxes up to the last year, sadly they don’t give this information anymore. I think that’s really sad as I loved the fact that they were so open with it. Don’t know why they changed it though.
In September 2009 the first official expression was released: The Inaugural Release. Since then some more regular and not-so-regular expressions were released. To give you an overview I tried to collect all original distillery bottlings as well as a few others. I tried my best to include at least all of the official/regular releases. There is, however, a vast field of Single Cask as well as Small Batch releases for many different events, shops, etc. I didn’t even try to add them all here but I added some at the end of the post.
Here’s what I said elsewhere about the casks Kilchoman uses:
Today Kilchoman receive their Bourbon Casks from Buffalo Trace and the Sherry Casks come from Miguel Martinez from Jerez, Spain.
In the early years they got their Casks from the Speyside Cooperage and only in late 2006 Anthony Wells stated that they are in negotiation with BT. The first time I’ve seen the specification of “Miguel Martinez” Casks is on the bottle of first release of the Loch Gorm (2012), which was matured in Olorosso Butts for 4.5 years. So, 2007 might have been the first time Miguel Martinez Casks were used, or maybe they were used the whole time but Kilchoman never cared to include that on their labels as of 2012.
Older number/statements say that 80% of the annual production went into a combination of fresh bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace and refill casks and 20% went into fresh Olorosso Sherry Butts. I think I overheard/read somewhere that the Sherry casks held the Olorosso for three years. I have to admit I don’t know much about Sherry, Sherry production and live cycles of Sherry Butts in their pre-Scotch life…so please correct me if I’m wrong or that’s the minimum/standard age of Sherry.
More recent numbers given by James during the 2015 European Tour were 80% Bourbon, 15% Olorosso and as much as 5% “other” casks, which would be Madeira, Sauternes, PX-Sherry, Port, Fino Sherry, Red Wine and who knows, Herrings? Though 5% seems a bit much to me, so the numbers might have been simplified for the presentation.
The casks they use are wet casks – at least the Bourbon ones surely are, I’m confident about the others but not 100% sure – meaning that once the bourbon (or other previously held liquid) is emptied, the bung goes back in, cask stays intact and is shipped as, well, cask and is not disassembled for transportation. Once the casks arrive at the distillery, bungs go back out, Kilchoman spirit (reduced to 63.5%) goes in, followed by bung.
Kilchoman receives its soft water from the Allt Gleann Osamail Burn. All releases so far aren’t chill filtered and no color is added.
Inaugural Release: released 09/09/09 – It spent three years in fresh bourbon barrels and five more months in Oloroso Sherry butts. Bottled at 46%.
Autumn 2009: fresh bourbon barrels for three years plus a three month finish in Oloroso butts. One three year old refill bourbon barrel has been added to the vatting. Bottled at 46% and released in November 2009.
Spring 2010: three years in fresh bourbon barrels and a 3.5 months finish in Oloroso Butts. Bottled at 46%.
Summer 2010: three years in fresh bourbon barrel and then bottled at 46%.
Winter 2010: a combination of refill and fresh bourbon barrels but it’s not mentioned on the box how long the spirit stayed in there before it was bottled at 46%. Given the other releases I guess it’s three years 😉
Spring 2011: a vatting of three and four year old single malt matured in a combination of fresh and refill bourbon barrels and bottled at 46%.
I haven’t seen annual releases later than the Spring 2011 release, though that might be just me…
Reviews: Sadly, I haven’t had any those as of yet. If you got some and are willing to share/swap a sample, let me know!
100% Islay Releases
Here’s a nice animation on these releases.
The 100% Islay expressions are officially “limited” but are usually widely available for quite some time. Still, due to the limited supply of Islay barley these are labelled as limited, but limited in this case means there usually are “only” about 10.000 – 12.000 bottles available.
Inagural 100% Islay (Cask Strength) release: bottled in 61.3% from the Casks 100 – 103/08 which were first fill bourbon casks and resulted in 1060 bottles being bottled on the 16th January 2011
2nd Edition: this one is the first to be bottled at 50% abv like the following editions. It was matured in a combination of fresh and refill bourbon barrels for „over three years“
3rd Edition: over four years in a combination of fresh and refill bourbon barrels, bottled at 50%, the only 100% release so far with a red label 😉
4th Edition: over five years in a combination of fresh and refill bourbon barrels
5th Edition: over five years in combination of fresh and refill bourbon barrels
6th Edition: Distilled in 2010 and bottled 2016 after the spirit spent six years in fresh and refill BT casks
7th Edition: also distilled in 2010 but this release spent a year longer in it’s fresh and refill Buffalo Trace casks – which did the spirit good if you ask me!
Small Batch Releases: I have a Small Batch Release of 100% Islay at cask strength bottled for Germany and there are others out there as well.
Other special 100% Islay releases:
100% Islay Cask Vatting (2017): A distillery shop only release, it a vatting of two fresh bourbon casks (517 & 538) resulting in 458 bottles of 56.8%.
100% Islay Cask Vatting – Sherry Finish: While on Islay there was a rumor going around that this was a Frankenstein creation, saying that there had been some Sherry matured 100% Islay left in the tank prior to bottling when the Bourbon Casks went in. So then it went back into a Sherry Butt to make-up that. Or something like that, you know those things go. Islay, stories, whisky, more stories, more whisky. Anyway, here are the facts: distillery shop exclusive, vatting of three fresh bourbon barrels (717,718,719) which were married and finished in a sherry hogshead for 8 month, resulting in 774 bottles of 57.1 %.
Reviews: (I will upload these the coming days!) 5th Edition – Small Batch 100% Islay Cask Strength bottled for Germany – 7th Edition – 100% Islay Cask Vatting 2017 – 100% Islay Cask Vatting Sherry Finish – 100% Islay Single Caroni Cask bottled for LMW
The Machir Bay is one of the core expressions of Kilchoman and is “always” available. There are different vintages of this however. The Machir Bay was released in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. I had some 2013 (I think…),14, 15 and 17 but never really thought of them being any different but since I never actually had two vintages side by side that might be simply because of the time between when I had them 🙂
The Machir Bay is usually a vatting of roughly 10% Sherry and 90% Bourbon Casks and is bottled at 46%. For the 2015 expression “mostly” malts of five to six years were vatted but earlier releases naturally had younger malts in them…As always it’s not chill-filtered or colored.
I know of at least two Cask Strength Machir Bay Versions namely the European Tour Bottling 2014 and 2015. But I’m sure there are more of that out there as (spoiler alert) these are pretty amazing.
The malt used for these expressions comes from the Port Ellen Maltings and is malted and peated to the excact same specifications as the malt for Arbeg. That is, it has a phenol content of 45-55ppm. Personally, I think this shows in the, well, cleanliness of the smoke/peat in the Machir Bay, which I find to be very similar to the Ardbeg 10.
Reviews: 2014 – European Tour 2015 Cask Strength
Loch Gorm / Sherry Cask Release
Loch Gorm expressions are the successors of the Sherry Cask Release, which was the first Sherry cask matured Kilchoman release. The Sherry Cask Release was released in 2012. I’m not sure if there was a 2011 release as well, but I don’t think so. Feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken here. The Sherry Cask Release had the same specifications as the Loch Gorm, namely both were matured for 4.5 years in Olorosso Butts Kilchoman received from Miguel Martinez and then bottled at 46%.
As the Sherry Casks make up only about 10% of Kilchoman’s warehouse stocks the number of released bottles each year is lower than for e.g. the Machir Bay. So far the Loch Gorm was released three times in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and I think there’s a 2017 version out right now.
Reviews: 2014 – 2015 – 2016 – 2017
The Sanaig was originally released as a “sweeter” expression for certain markets. I think it was France but I’m not really sure. It is a vatting of 50% ex-Bourbon and 50% ex-Sherry casks. It was first released in 2015 as a limited release in certain markets.
The Vintage releases use the oldest stock available at the point of release, so the Vintage 2008 which was bottled in 2015 represented the oldest Kilchoman release available. By now there are some 10 year old bottling out there, including the Club Release as well as several private casks.
They are bottled at 46% and the number of bottles is in the 10000+ range. They are usually vatted of fresh and refill Bourbon Barrels. The first one, Vintage 2006, was released 2011.
Vintage 2009 (bottled and released 2017) – this is the first release which has Sherry Butts in the vatting, so Sherry butts and Bourbon casks
Vintage 2008 (bottled and released 2015) – American Oak Bourbon Casks
Vintage 2007 (bottled and released 2013) – fresh and refill bourbon casks; 10000 Bottles
Vintage 2006 (bottled and released 2011) – 1st fill bourbon (80%) and Refill Bourbon (20%); 11300 Bottles
Reviews: 2007 – 2008 –
The Original Cask Strength
The first Original Cask Strength was bottled in October 2014 and was a vatting of 35 ex-bourbon barrels resulting in 9200 bottles world wide. It was bottled at 59.2% and like every Kilchoman expression it’s neither chill-filtered nor colored.
The second edition hit the shelves in 2016. It was distilled in 2010 and spend six years in quarter casks before it was bottled at 56.9%.
Reviews: 1st Edition – 2nd Edition
Specially Matured Expressions
There is a certain percentage of casks other than the standard bourbon or Oloroso Sherry Casks, containing Kilchoman spirit and maturing away in their warehouses. These are limited and very popular so far the Sauternes Cask Matured, the Madeira Cask Matured (2015) and the Port Cask Matured have been released as “normal” bottlings. However, there are Single Casks as well as Club Releases (see below) of Sauternes, PX-Sherry (finished) as well as Fino Sherry out there.
Port Cask Matured
Released in 2014 this bottling was fully matured in Ruby Port Casks for “over three years”. It was very well received and even though it was a huge success and rather limited they still show up at auctions and I even found one in the wild this year.
Madeira Cask Matured
Released in 2015, this bottling is the second “official” specially matured expression. It sold out within hours when it hit the German market in November. There were 6100 bottles. The Madeira Cask was casked in 1st fill ex-Madeira barrels in 2011 making this four years old. It is bottled at 50%.
Sauternes Cask Matured
This one was released in 2016, the spirit was distilled in 2011 and went into Sauternes Wine casks for the time in-between. Like the other two it was bottled at 50% in contrast to the Club releases which were bottled at cask-strength.
Red Wine Cask Matured
After several Red Wine Casks especially bottled for certain Shops and markets, in 2017 there is a generally available – though limited to roughly 7000 bottles – release. It was fully matured in Red Wine casks from Douru Valley in Portugal for five years. As usual with the …-matured releases they come at 50%, are peated and of course not colored or chill-filtered.
Reviews: Port Cask Matured – Madeira Cask Matured –
Travel exclusive bottlings
Bottled in 2013, it’s a vatting of four year old Bourbon Barrels and Oloroso Sherry Casks. It’s bottled at 46% and as usual not colored or chill-filtered. Just in case you wonder, yes it is a landmark in Rhinns on Islay close to the distillery
Bottled in 2014, it’s a vatting of five year old Bourbon Barrels, bottled at 46%. I think I have a sample somewhere, but it seems that I lost it…whoops.
Reviews: Coull Point –
Being a member of the Kilchoman Club gives you a nice card, a pin, nice percentages in the gift shop for many different items as well as access to the Club Releases of which there are five so far:
1st edition: Single Cask Olorosso: A Sherry Hogshead held the spirit for 5 years and resulted in 330 bottles which were bottled at 59.2%
2nd Edition: Small Batch Release Sherry Casks: 8 first fill bourbon barrels fished in 4 Oloroso Butts for a few month. Resulted in 2000 bottles. If you’d like to know the cask numbers were 485 – 490 + 567 + 568
3rd Edition: Small Batch Release Madeira: Two first fill Madeira Casks, having held the spirit for four years and 610 bottles were bottled in November 2014 with 58.4%
4th Edition: Sauternes Cask: A vatting of three fully matured Sauternes Casks which were filled in January 2011 and bottled in 2015. It resulted in just over 900 bottles bottled at 60%.
5th Edition: Ten Year Old: A marriage of two casks filled in 2006, one first fill Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cask and one first fill Oloroso Sherry Butt leading to 920 bottles of 57%. It was one of the very first ten year old available beside one bottle auctioned for charity as well as one private cask.
Reviews: 3rd Edition – 4th Edition – 5th Edition
Feis Ile Releases and 10th Anniversary Release
10th Anniversary Release: Sherry and Bourbon Casks from the years 2005 – 2012 were vatted for this expression. It is often confused with a ten year old expression, which this is not, even though tiny parts of it are of that age. The percentage of malt of that age in this expression is suggested to, naturally, be rather low. There are 3000 bottles around and they are bottled at 50%.
Feis Ile 2017: A vatting of two 100% Islay Casks, a Bourbon Barrel of nine years (324/2008) and an Oloroso Butt of eight years (443/2009) resulted in 877 bottles of 58%.
Feis Ile 2016: Single Cask Oloroso Butt number 427/2009 was bottled for the Feis 2016 as the oldest Kilchoman Sherry Cask at that point. 637 bottles of 56.6%
Feis Ile 2015: three fresh bourbon barrels matured Kilchoman spirit for 7 years and gave birth to 742 bottles of 58.2%
Feis Ile 2014: Five years in fresh Bourbon barrels and Fino-Sherry finished for three month, bottled at 58.7% and 525 bottles
Feis Ile 2013: two five year old Bourbon Casks with the Casknumbers 246 and 247 gave live to 526 Bottles of 60.1%
Feis Ile 2012: The spirit for this release spent most of its almost four year old life in bourbon casks before it was finished in sherry casks for a few month. Abv of 58.5% and 439 bottles.
Reviews: 10th Anniversary – Feis 2014 – Feis 2016 – Feis 2017
Single Casks and Small Batch Releases
A huge variety of Single Cask or Small Batch Kilchomans are out there. Because these are far too many different bottlings, I will not include them here. However, naturally these tend to be mostly Bourbon or Oloroso Casks as these are the major stocks in the warehouse. They are usually branded as “Bottled for XXX”. These don’t have to be from the two categories above but warehouse stocks says they likely will be. However, there are also some slightly different releases out there! There are some PX-Finished versions which is (usually) a single bourbon cask which then was finished in a PX-Sherry Cask.
By now there is also a small batch vatting of Oloroso Casks and a PX-Finished Bourbon Cask. There are also Red Wine Cask and Rum Casks out there.
There is also a release for the Islay Pipe Band which was matured in Octave Casks, which are, well, half quarter casks so to say 🙂
Reviews: Single Cask Oloroso – Single Cask Bourbon – Single Cask PX-Finished – PX-Finished Oloroso Casks – Single Cask Caroni –
Independent Bottled Expressions
It’s hard to believe but there are also some independent bottled Kilchomans out there. These are:
Elements of Islay Kh1: 05years old and bottled at 59.7%,
That Boutique-y Whisky Company: Kilchoman Batch 1: actually I don’t know much about this one. It was released in 2013 and had an abv of 55.5%
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society: They had some bottling of Kilchoman so far: 129.1 – 129.7 if I’m not mistaken. Too lazy to research specifications right now, maybe I will add them later on.
Masters of Malt: They also had a Kilchoman release in 2013. Five year old first fill bourbon cask gave 286 700ml bottles of 59.2%
JWC – Single Cask Nation: Four year old first fill bourbon barrel. 245 bottles of 58.4%
I guess there are some more out there, if I come across them I will add them here….
Reviews: Never even seen one out in the wild, if you have one and are willing to swap samples let me know!