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Islay whisky is always appealing to many whisky drinkers. With a population of only 3,500, Islay, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, produces 25 million litres of whisky annually, and attracts more than 50,000 visitors every year. It indicates that Islay holds a special place in drinkers’ hearts.
At one time there were up to 23 distilleries in operation, but many of them were closed due to poor management and economic depression over the years. And in 2005, Kilchoman was founded by Anthony Wills, and was the first new distillery to be established on Islay in over 124 years.
Kilchoman is an independently owned distilleries, there is only a pair of small stills due to limited capital. Although its annual production is a lot less than other distilleries on Islay, Kilchoman’s independence gives them the freedom to pursue their vision of what makes a quality single malt.
Being a representative of Farm Distillery, Kilchoman plants in spring and its farm team take good care for the barley over summer months before harvesting in early September, and each year they grow around 200 tons of barley.
Kilchoman is one of the distilleries still practicing traditional, yet time-consuming floor malting, there are less than 10 at the moment in Scotland. This process involves soaking the barley in water before it is laid on a concrete floor, and regularly turned by hand.
Although Kilchoman is a relatively new distillery, their respect to tradition shows their sincerity of pursuing good quality Islay whisky.
However, due to scale of Kilchoman, they also purchase malt from Port Ellen malthouse. After being peated by Islay unique peat smoke, drying the malted barley, milling and mashing, yeast is added to the sweet and slightly smoky worts to trigger fermentation and the creation of alcohol. Fermentation in Kilchoman takes 85 hours, at nearly double the industry standard, which gives out creamy and fruity notes.
Afterwards, it comes to the distill process. The distinct size and shape of the stills characterises Kilchoman single malt with earthy, maritime peat smoke, and clean floral citrus notes, not to mention the stills are charged and carefully controlled by hand.
Dave Broom, a renowned whisky and spirits writers, had mentioned that Kilchoman is one of the distilleries he was interested in. He pointed out that casks selected and used by Kilchoman were with good quality, this was the reason why Kilchoman was able to produce high quality, yet young whisky. Other than commonly-used bourbon and sherry casks, Kilchoman also fills a number of speciality casks including wine casks and other spirits casks.