June 11, 2014

Battle of the Beasts Part Four: Kilchoman Barrel Room

The Final Contender

Battle of the Beasts continues with our final contender, Kilchoman Barrel Room Sherry Cask #3010.

Ok so Ardbeg and Bruichladdich made a lot of whiskey.  It's not really fair to compare their special release extra-peated bottles with Kilchoman's standard bottling.  While Kilchoman hasn't released a more heavily peated bottle, we were able to snag a cask strength single barrel from their "Barrel Room" selection which was available at Binny's in Chicago.  (hint - it was still available online as of yesterday...).

Now honestly maybe Kilchoman shouldn't be in this contest.  First of all, they probably wouldn't put themselves in the same category as smoke monsters like Supernova and Octomore.  When we did our interview with Kilchoman, James explained that they were going for a middle ground between the heavy smoke of the southern Islay distilleries (Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg) and the lighter style of Bunnahabhain up north.  Well we'll be honest, we don't like Bunna nearly as much as we like Kilchoman.  Yes, they do pull off a huge amount of finesse with their malts.  But thank God they're still really smoky, and that's a great thing.

We decided to stick with this one because it's our favorite new scotch bar none, end of conversation.  And we wanted to see how some of our aficionados compared it to some of the famous Islays.  We feel like it holds up nicely in terms of smokiness and adds a wonderful flavor element, particularly with the sherry cask aging.  Anyway we hope we're not showing any disrespect by throwing this beautiful beast into this mix, but here goes!

SmokyBeast Tasting Notes

Nose:  We've always loved the mixture of sherry and peat, particularly the way the aroma mixes up grapes and smoke into a thick fruity chutney.  There's a new complexity here with some curry and deep candies: chocolate covered cherries and peanuts.

Palate:  Very sweet and soft on the palate.  More nuts, chocolate, and fruits.

Finish:  Long finish with good balance of heat, smoke, and sweets.  You can definitely sense (like with all Kilchomans) a few unique characteristics: quality of the spirit - you can tell it's not an old malt, but it has such a quality of the underlying spirit that it doesn't come off hot or young; freshness - there's like a grassy, farm fresh bouquet and taste to it that really speaks to the farm-to-table approach; and balance - equal parts smoke monster, subtle perfumy white chocolate, and rich malty sherry cask.

Guest Judge Comments

"Amber.  Nose: Herbal, peaty, grassy, farmy, musky!  Color says sherry.  Nose says 60%.  This one is great, my favorite!"

"Sherry nose, caramel, flowers, tastes like Octomore!"

"Nose- smoke blowing in your face while cooking on the beach (haulover beach is probably too specific).   Palate- malty, peaty and some nuttiness from a sherry finish.  Finish - intense but medium in length. Lots of char from the barrel comes through.  Notes- darkest in color. Also seemed the most familiar and expected. I'd guess Lagavullin"

Hey, look at that, just like we thought, our judges were fooled!  One thought it was Octomore, another Lagavulin, and it got the favorite of a third judge!  We're not surprised, this one holds up extremely well against older and more well-known Islays.  Wonder what would have happened if this wasn't a blind tasting???

So that's it for our contenders.  Tune in soon for the finale where we show all the judges rankings and declare the winner of Battle of the Beasts!

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