It's going to be a long one by the way guys, I was pretty much at Bruichladdich till they closed.
Waking up for the last day on Islay I had a sense of foreboding. We would have to leave this wonderful place soon and plunge back to reality, work and stress. Back to everyday life.
So I really wanted to make the most of it. I wanted to taste some epic whisky and spend a load of my money of stuff I wouldn't be able to get anywhere else.
Armed with a plan we drove up to Kilchoman. The tour was really good, it's all close together and small scale but they do everything, barley to bottle. The barley that they produce on site is used for the 100% Islay and everything else is produced from malt bought from Port Ellen.
First up was the maltings but they weren't using them at the time. Then we went over to the mash tun which is also in the still room, it's a tiny place and also popped into the fermentation room quickly. Steel washbacks (it's quite a modern distillery after all) with very long fermentation time that produces a fruitier wash. We couldn't stay in there for too long because the batches were right at the end of the fermentation and the CO2 levels were very high. Back out to the stills. They're really small. Tiny in fact. The wash still only holds just over 3200L and the spirit still even less. We were then shown the tiny bottling hall and went back to the visitors centre for our tasters. Machir Bay 2015 and 100% Islay.
Kilchoman Machir Bay 2015 46%
Colour: Light Gold
Nose: Creamy, fruity and earthy. Quite Autumnal if that makes sense, wet leaves, damp earth, pear drops, apple.
Taste: Fruity arrival, smoky mineral development with some lime.
Finish: Medium/Long length. Earthy lime citrus.
Notes: 5 year old, some 6. 90% Bourbon, 10% Sherry according to the guide. I've had a bottle of 2014 and I think I preferred it to this, this is more mineral I thought.
The vision for Kilchoman was always to produce a whisky that was completely made on Islay, barley to bottle. So here it is:
Colour: Light Gold
Nose: Green oak notes, creamy, lots of citrus- Lemon, lime, melon, green malt, a little fresh smoke. Vanilla and pastry.
Taste: Fresh citrus- Lime, some lemon, lemon meringue, creamy and malty, fresh smoke. Sour development with melon and vanilla.
Finish: Long length. Sour and smoky, very fresh but some earthiness.
Notes: 5 and 6 year old from Bourbon barrels. Really good stuff, worth supporting.
With Bruichladdich still to go, I decided not to ask to try anything else but decided to buy the new Madeira matured Kilchoman and the 10th Anniversary edition.
We went up to Machir Bay before going to Bruichladdich, which I'd really recommend because it's a beautiful beach.
Great visitors centre. Great staff. They're very open about you staying as long as you want and trying whatever you want as long as it's for sale. Benches, sofas and tables. Great displays. They've got barrels you can bottle the whisky straight from and the Micro-Provenance bottlings.
I was on the warehouse tasting, which is a tasting of three barrels in the warehouse and doesn't include the tour, although we did get taken on a short tour at request. Again it was me on my own with 2 other big groups, 9 and 10 people. Raymond was our guide and he was amazing, very funny and relaxed.
We went straight up to the warehouse, just behind the distillery. They also have some warehouses in Port Charlotte and are building more at the moment.
Inside waiting for us were 3 barrels. A 1989 Bruichladdich, a 2003 Port Charlotte and a 2005 Octomore. Amazingly Raymond talked, entertained us and told stories throughout the next 2 hours while tried the whiskies.
Bruichladdich 1989-2015 1st Fill Bourbon 48.2%
Nose: Light, citrus and tropical fruit. Lime, lemon, pineapple, lots of tropical pineapple, cream soda, vanilla sweetness. Some chocolate and coffee after a bit. A little grassy and mineral.
Water: Great balance of old and young- More lemon, some malt, more floral too.
Taste: Fruity and full. Estery, tropical, pear drops, apple, melon and pineapple. Some wood, vanilla, some caramel, building wood and some spice.
Water: More building and spicy, leather and then a lemon burst!
Finish: Long length. Estery and fresh but some wood and coffee.
Notes: 26 year old from a Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrel.
Then the Port Charlotte:
Port Charlotte 2003-2015 1st Fill Sherry 61.8%
Colour: Dark Amber
Nose: Heather smoke, wood smoke, sherry, raisin, sweet sulphur, sweet cherry and oily malt.
Water: A little alcohol, but more sweet smoke. More water: Comes together- Sweet smoke and cherry with meat.
Taste: Big, sweet cherry and meaty- Bacon, cured ham, sherry and raisin.
Water: Lighter, sweet wood and raisin, pepper spice then more campfire smoke. Sherry spice.
Finish: Medium length. Cherry and bacon. More smoke with water.
Notes: 12 years old from an Oloroso sherry Hogshead I think? Too small to be a Butt.
And then the exciting one!
Octomore 2005-2010 2nd fill Sherry, 2010-2015 1st Fill Guyana Rum 159ppm 63.6%
Nose: A little weird but it works. A little sweet sulphur, mineral, toffee, caramel, rum, sweet grass.
Water: More sherry with raisin. Banana, white sugar, white rum then more grassy with lots of mineral Bruichladdich-y-ness. Rum and raisin ice cream.
Taste: Soft and sweet, very oily, mineral, caramel, toffee, mint and honey.
Water: Bigger, it's huge, massive, colossal but perfectly in balance. Hugely sweet, sugar, molasses, rum agricole, building mineral.
Finish: Long/Very Long length. Sweet cinnamon, liquorice and mint.
Notes: Jim McEwan is a genius. Wish I'd been able to take some home.
After that it was back to the shop to try some other stuff! First up one of the bottle your own barrels.
Bruichladdich Valinch 16 1990 47.2%
Nose: Light and sweet. Estery with tonnes of fresh fruit- Pear drops, apple, lots of lemon.
Taste: Light then estery with spice. Loads of pear drops and apple. Apple spice, mint, some aniseed.
Finish: Medium/Long length. Estery and light on lemon.
Notes: 18 years in Bourbon then 7 years in a Calvados cask. A bit too estery and young tasting despite 25 years.
Why not another weird finish/second maturation?
Bruichladdich Cuvée 640 Erotica 46%
Nose: Sweet and nutty. Raisin and date, hazelnut, Cognac.
Taste: Sweet medium arrival, nutty with lemon then winey then back to nutty with wood and oak. Some spice into the finish- Ginger.
Finish: Medium length. Winey with nut and ginger.
Notes: 21 year old. Finished in Limousine oak Cognac casks, not sure how long for but I wouldn't say it's subtle so more likely a second maturation rather than a finish.
Let's try another Octomore, never tried any of the x.2's.
Octomore 7.2 208ppm 58.5%
Nose: Sweet sulphur, vanilla, fairy cake.
Water: More sulphur then meaty red fruit, cream soda, vanilla sweetness.
Taste: Sweet, actually quite light and delicate. Lemon and malt. Peat coming through and going very mineral.
Water: Lighter, more lemon, more vanilla sweetness then a great wine fruit sweetness and peat.
Finish: Medium length. Lemon and mineral peat.
Notes: Four and a half years in Bourbon barrels then six months in Shiraz wine casks.
Oh crap they're closing soon and I still don't have anything I want to buy. Perhaps I'll have more luck with the Micro-Provenance bottlings.
Bruichladdich Micro-Provenance 2004 Amerone
Nose: Cherries, tonnes of 'em, sweet sulphur. Am I drunk or is that Parmesan cheese?
Taste: Soft arrival, growing sweetness with spices, very rich and full. Cherries, tannins and I know I'm drunk but I taste cheese.
Finish: Long length. Cherries and cheese.
Damn it! The cheese is a bit weird and unsettling. In a last ditch effort to find something really awesome I tried another Micro-Provenance, the 2007 fresh European oak. Didn't have time to make notes but it was incredible and exactly what I was looking for.
What a day. Amazing whiskies. Great trip overall and a fantastic experience. Will definitely be going back to Scotland as soon as I have a bit more money.
It was sad leaving but then I realised I work at a distillery and get to do this stuff every day!
Thanks for reading!