Sweet and Smoky Dreams
Dessert Wine Cask Finish from Kilchoman
After a few weeks away, we’re back and ready to continue on with our whisk(e)y journey. Recently, Leonidas had a chance to sample a rare bottle of Kilchoman at Delilah’s whisky bar here in Chicago. Among the 800 or so choices on the menu at this whisky paradise are several bottles which were crafted specifically for the bar. This particular bottle was chosen from a cask by representatives from Delilah’s as well as Jack Rose, one of the top whisky spots in Washington DC. Distilled at Kilchoman on Islay, the single malt had been aged full term in a sauternes wine cask. The flavor was unlike any peated Islay malt Leonidas had tried, so he went on a quest to find one.
Unfortunately, supplies were, as one might expect, extremely limited and we could not find a bottle for sale. Refusing to give up, we determined that Kilchoman offered a sauternes cask finished single malt. Speaking of Kilchoman, we are astonished we have yet to review a whisky from this distillery. Established in 2005, the company is one of the newest on Islay and is independently run. Furthermore, Kilchoman markets itself an ‘Islay’s Farm Distllery’ and maintains control of the entire whisky making process, from farming the barley to malting and beyond.
Being a younger distillery, Kilchoman has had both the freedom and pressure to produce several different expressions. In addition to a core range featuring various mixes of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry oak, the distillery offers limited edition bottlings. These expressions are aged in everything from Port, Madeira, red wine, Sauternes and re-charred oak casks. Sauternes is a sweet, white dessert wine from Bordeaux, using grapes that have been laid out in the sun to raisin a bit before fermenting.
Kilchoman 2018 Sauternes Cask Finish
For the 2018 Sauternes Cask Finish, Kilchoman took whisky that had been aging in ex-bourbon casks and transferred it to Sauternes casks for 5 months. The single malt is bottled at 50% ABV.
Eyes: A pale, reddish gold color, picking up a lot of tones from the wine cask. The dram has a rich texture.
Nose: Scents of lemon marmalade mix with sea salt and leather. Underneath is a strong waft of fresh baked cinnamon rolls.
Taste: The first flavor impressions were sweet, like the taste of pancakes and syrup. Yet the sweetness is quickly surpassed with a wave of dry, bonfire smoke flavor like the ends of a brisket.
Finish: The finish is really pleasant, a mix of starchy sweetness matching the cinnamon roll scents of the nose and balancing those with a lingering wisp of smoke.
If you have had a chance to taste a sauternes wine, the Sauternes Cask Finish picked up a great deal of influence from cask. The malt and fruit forward flavors of the wine infiltrate the whisky in ways that create a dynamic mix. The trademark Kilchoman peat is mellowed to the point of playing a supporting role, and no flavor or aroma seems to dominate the dram. In this way, the Sauternes Cask Finish has a lot to offer, as each taste seems to emphasize different flavors. While not as Sauternes-heavy as the single cask bottling we tried at Delilah’s, this whisky is still a great representation of Islay malt mixed with dessert wine casks, and it is a pretty good value as well.