Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 11

11 12 2015

This is the kind of impact two years of this Advent Calendar has had on me:  I opened the cardboard door to Day 11, saw the top of a squat, bulbous bottle, and immediately said aloud:  “Kilchoman”.  And so it was.  I remembered the low, round bottle shape from last year’s KWM calendar, when Kilchoman’s entry-level Machir Bay might have been my least favourite whisky of December 2014, an opinion based on personal taste rather than anything in particular wrong with the scotch.  I really wanted to like it too, because Kilchoman is one of the best stories in Scotland, the first new distillery to open on the island of Islay in 125-odd years and one committed to all parts of the whisky production cycle, including growing its own barley to malt and distill, something that basically nobody does.  As a traditional-minded producer (especially for one that just celebrated its 10th birthday), it is also committed to the near-extinct practice of floor-malting, which I’ve strangely discussed before on this blog here and which is also featured in possibly the greatest cartoon whisky-making video ever made on Kilchoman’s website.  Tonight’s attractively named Loch Gorm bottling, named after the peaty lake (bog?) overlooking the distillery, is higher up the food chain than the Machir Bay, on the shelf for $118.  Despite its sherry-based maturation, I hoped that this one would appeal to me a bit more than the last one.

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Alas, ’twas not to be.  The Loch Gorm smelled oily in more than one way, both diesel and Vaseline, but wasn’t overly aromatic otherwise, a surprise for an Islay whisky.  Shoe polish, leather, tomato leaf and celery stalks rounded out a fruit-free aromatic profile.  Both Islay’s characteristic peat and the flavour volume generally turned up the volume on the palate, layering tar, moss, smoke and wet pavement on top of bakers’ chocolate, dried fruit and rubber balls, but things tapered off again on the finish, which seemed papery and a touch bitter.  I’m sorry, Kilchoman; I have friends who love you and I know you’re making waves in the industry, but you’re just not my thing.  Onto the weekend, and the halfway point of this spirit adventure!

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