Let’s start this review out on the right foot. I love Kilchoman Machir Bay… but I have a soft spot for pretty much everything that honestly represents Islay.
I’ve been drinking Kilchoman for a number of years and while they may be Islay’s youngest distillery (Kilchoman was the first distillery to be built on Islay in 124 years), they are putting up a solid fight against their 200 year old neighbours.
Before I share my thoughts, I thought I’d share a little anecdote:
After I wrote my official tasting notes, I decided to scour the internet and see the opinion of others. It seems I am at ends with the general whisky community about this one.
I have read a lot of people describe this whisky as “light” and “soft”. I honestly have no idea what everyone is talking about. This whisky is about as much traditional “Islay” as anything else on the market. If I had no idea what the maturation was, I would have guessed a mix of first-fill and re-fill ex-bourbon barrels for about 6 years. Turns out I’m not too far off.
Sources say that Machir Bay is is a marriage of 3, 4 and 5 year old ex-bourbon barrel whisky that is finished in sherry butts for 8 weeks.
I honestly believe that in 10 years Machir Bay will be one of the quintessential Islay whiskies alongside industry behemoths like Lagavulin 16, Laphroaig 10 and Ardbeg 10.
Kilchoman Machir Bay
Category: Single Malt
Mashibill: 100% Malted Barley
Cask: Ex-Bourbon Matured and Finishing in Sherry Butt
Review & Tasting Notes – Kilchoman Machir Bay
Nose: Fresh coastal notes and big Islay peat (reminiscent of Lagavulin). An interesting mix of heather, meatiness (smoked pork) and lime that work together perfectly. In the background is a delicious mix of light fruits, likely driven by the additional sherry maturation. Delicious and evocative. I could spend hours nosing this whisky.
Mouthfeel: A satisfyingly oily and velvety dram, but a touch on the thin side.
Palate: Huge flavours in this dram. The peat is fuller on the palate than the nose and is accompanied by a battalion of malt, vanilla and light fruits. Notes of apple and pear provide a delicious level of acidity and tartness, until fresh black pepper flavours are brought forward. There is a refreshing hit of salt and grass notes, reminding me of edamame, that I absolutely love.
Finish: Looooong. The finish just never ends. The peat lingers with strong honey sweetness until it transforms into a quirky dry oak. It’s so good it’s hard to explain. P.S. No bitterness.
With Water: The addition of water sends us down a rabbithole. The meat has become tobacco, the lime has become lemon and the vanilla has become dessert sweetness. The peat is still present but it is slightly more subdued and gives way to oak, vanilla and ex-bourbon cask influences.
As I said in my opening line, I love Kilchoman Machir Bay. I do not care if others claim it’s light or soft or whatever other nonsense. Sorry they’re wrong and just parroting each other. If one is completely open and honest with themselves they will realize that Kilchoman may be the best thing to happen to Scotch whisky in a long time and Machir Bay is the weapon leading the charge.
I am highly opinionated and overly analytical, but when something is a spade I call it a spade. I don’t look for justification from others that it possibly, maybe could be a spade under the right circumstances.
Kilchoman Machir Bay is a fucking delicious spade. It is an amazing well priced rollercoaster of sweet, spice, sour, salt and umami with thankfully no bitterness to be found.
I will be buying more and I will be advocating everyone do the same.