KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 2

2 12 2016

Damn it.  2016 Whisky Advent was off to a happening start, excitement was building, I was sliding into my spirits-writing groove…and then Day 2 came along.  First of all, it took me about five minutes to get the cardboard mini-whisky box out of the calendar (unnecessary cardboard boxes:  not a fan).  Second, once the cardboard maiming was complete and the whisky was free, my heart sank as I again came in contact with the one Scottish distillery that I would LOVE to love, but can never seem to.  Kilchoman has a great backstory (it’s the first new distillery to be opened on the Scottish island of Islay in generations), is an incredible inspiration for the modern Scotch movement (they actually farm their own barley that is fermented and distilled into their whiskies, which is basically unheard of), has a ton of street cred and critical acclaim, but just never seems to have a flavour set I can fully get behind, often featuring an odd hard cheese-y aroma that just doesn’t do it for me.  Completely a personal preference thing, and not a slag on this revolutionary new producer.  I wish it weren’t so, but I am 0 for 3 in Whisky Advent history with my Kilchomans:  Day 15 of 2014 may of been the worst experience, but Day 11 and Day 21 of 2015 didn’t bump it by much.

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I’m so sorry, Kilchoman.

This particular bottling couldn’t have played a part in the 2014 or 2015 calendars because it’s a new continuing release inaugurally revealed this year.  The Kilchoman Sanaig, with its rather fetching violet label, is named after a small inlet just northwest of the distillery in the far top left corner of Islay (as indicated on the semi-destroyed box below).  Its deep orange-y colour seems suggestive of lengthy maturation, but since Kilchoman’s only been around since 2005, that’s not possible.  The alternative explanation is the correct one, which is that the whisky has been primarily matured in my nemesis of aging vessels:  Oloroso sherry casks, villain of Advent calendars past.  The oxidized deep-hued Oloroso that previously occupied the casks left a dark stain behind that the Scotch greedily sucks up, lending maximum colour in minimum time.

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The Bourbon-to-Sherry Cask Meter on the box is a nice touch.

I was feeling a bit better after the whisky’s visual intrigue, but I stuck my nose in the glass and there it was, that parmigiano reggiano sort of funk, overlaying everything, partially obscuring the supporting aromas of diesel/kerosene, moss, orange peels and molasses.  The Sanaig comes across as way boozier than its 46% abv, delivering heat and smoke and honey on the tongue in that order, begging for a few drops of water to help balance it out.  Hints of apple cinnamon try to peek through the grime, but this is neither designed nor executed to be a “pretty” scotch.  At $92 it’s a value for a Kilchoman fan; I just wish I was one.  Better luck tomorrow?

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