Feis Ile; Cardrona & Kilchomans on Taste
It‘s almost Feis Ile time again and those of you attending this year will doubtless have been busy a couple of months back booking your event tickets and, more recently, ordering your Feis bottlings from your chosen distilleries, if not all of them. There are certainly some interesting expressions on offer this year. I recently bought a bottle of the new Bunnahabhain Canasta Cask. Not opened it yet as I‘m debating whether to keep it or give it to my brother for Christmas and hope for a dram.
I‘m back over again to host my annual dinner at The Port Charlotte Hotel. The whisky decisions have been difficult this year and they get more so each time. That‘s because there are so many expressions from each distillery now and they do change from time to time. This year so far, I‘ve had to change one choice because it‘s no longer available (tell that to their website) and another is in short supply so I‘m waiting to hear. Chef Chris has come up with a lovely menu yet again but he does like to test me! I‘ll be able to report back on that dinner in June as my end of May column will be posted a couple of days before the dinner happens and before I set sail to get there. Although the hotel displays the menu in advance, I like to keep the whisky/food matches as a surprise for the actual event.
A couple of weeks ago I received a sample of Cardrona Full Flight Sherry Single Cask from Cardrona Distillery in New Zealand. Well, we like to look at worldwide whisk(e)y offerings here. It‘s bottled at 62.7% abv and has been matured for 7 years. The distillery‘s goal is to have a signature malt at 10 years old. They‘re off to a good start. The sherry butt for this was a Gonzalez Byass oloroso sherry cask and the whusky was then transferred to a Pedro Ximenez butt „for a decadent finish“. It certainly has an opulent nose.
Appearance: Glowing amber with orange and old gold highlights. Tears very slow to form.
Nose: Oak, raisins and brown sugar caramel. A rich dried fruit mix. Also dried peel and warm, sweet spices – ginger and mixed spice. Candy floss. With water, more oak and sugary sweetness. A touch of caramelised banana and milk chocolate. It‘s an enticing nose.
Palate: Slight viscosity. Oak and spice plus black pepper. A touch of marzipan and honey. Dark chocolate bitterness and a little citrus zest. Pleasant to drink but not overly complex. I‘d like to try this again when it‘s spent a bit longer in cask but wouldn‘t turn it down now. Plenty to look forward to.
Finish: Medium length; astringent, dry, spicy.
This sherry expression has a sister matured in bourbon wood, same age but at 66.9% abv. Both are really quite expensive at £125 for a 35cl bottle.
I also have a sample of the Tiree spirit (not yet whisky) which has been racked into sherry cask to sit for a while. Still to try that one so will do that for next time.
Two samples which did arrive this week are the latest from Kilchoman – part of the 2023 Limited Editions – and my thanks to Catherine MacMillan for getting them here quickly from Islay so I could decide if I wanted to use one for my Islay dinner menu. Still deciding where one might go after getting the time to nose and taste them.
Kilchoman Fino Sherry Matured comes in at 50% abv.
Appearance: Bright barley gold with pale brass highlights.
Nose: Soft smoke and tar with a slightly warm wool sock. Touch of almond and brine and a little bit of ripe apple and pear fruit plus a dab of something tropical and honeyed too – mango maybe. With water, the richly peated barley is stronger; slightly waxy with dash of citrus zest and icing sugar glaze.
Palate: A slightly oily mouth feel with some tar/char; salt and a little seaweed as well as juicy fruits. Peppery with citrus zest bitterness, almond and dark caramel. Quite astringent, softly peaty and mouth drying.
Finish: Fairly long and malty with smoke and salt plus some bitter citrus zest/pith notes and dark chocolate. Dry.
The peating level is 50ppm and 15,650 bottles are available for worldwide sale. It was put into cask in 2018.
Kilchoman Cognac Cask Matured is also at 50% abv with peating level at 50ppm too. There are 15,100 bottles available. This is the first cognac cask matured Kilchoman to be released. The casks came from Tonellerie Bossuet in France in 2016 and the spirit was held in them until bottling.
Appearance: A light gold colour with pale brass highlights, similar to a white burgundy or lemon juice. Tears quite fat and oily.
Nose: From the bottle, floral and vinous. In glass, some ripe mellow fruits but also grassy and some almond and oak. With water, even a touch of walnut. Soft smoke and wax plus some dialled back char.
Palate: Oily, melted butter mouth feel. More smoky than on the nose; astringent, tongue-tingling pepperiness. Marzipan, oak char and tannin, spice and licorice.
Finish: Quite long and smoky; dry and with a char aftertaste with citrus, dried herbs and slight green leaf notes.
I‘d have expected marzipan notes from a whisky which has spent its life, however short, in cognac cask and this was true to that.
I was originally keen to try the Cognac Cask version but ended up preferring the Fino Sherry matured expression though that was on one single tasting. I do intend to try them both again. I looked at their tasting notes after I‘d written mine and, curiously, I definitely got the apple and pear on the one labelled Fino Sherry rather than Cognac Cask but do agree that the peat „remains delicate on the nose“ in the Cognac Cask bottling. Not quite so delicate on the palate, though.
Just today a bottle of a new expression of Elijah Craig Bourbon arrived so that will be included at the end of this month.
Till next time, happy drammimg.