Kilchoman 100% Islay 11th Edition on Taste; Whisky Islands; John Campbell Departs Laphroaig; New Springbank Bar

As promised last time, a note on the latest Kilchoman which arrived after the last column was completed. Just as a reminder the whiskies in here were distilled from the 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 barley harvests before being matured for a minimum of 9 years in 26 bourbon barrels and 7 oloroso sherry butts. 12,000 bottles in total for global distribution and it was available mid-September. 50% abv with no added colour and not chill-filtered.

Appearance: Bright old gold; tawny highlights. Initial tears swift then slower and stickier; narrow and not too widely spread.

Nose: From bottle – tar, char. Iodine, smoke, disinfectant. In glass, sweet barley cereal, burnt caramel, smoke and wood char. Baked honey and very ripe stone fruit. Some oak wood and vanilla. With water, initially masks the fruit and honey notes which re-emerge. More of the smoke and char. Warm wax and soft vanilla. A hint of dark chocolate.

Palate: Smoky with a touch of tar; also sweet, richly roasted barley notes. Coffee grounds bitterness.

Finish: Long, dry and smoky. Licorice and „caught in the throat“ tar. Also a bit of grassiness.

As I started writing this piece, I was sitting in Campbeltown‘s Royal Hotel before hoping to cross to Islay next morning. The week began on Arran where the Lochranza Distillery was closed and Lagg would have been closed by the time we got there. Been to Lochranza several times and it‘s well worth a visit but had hoped to have a first look at Lagg since it opened as I rarely get to Arran. Both distilleries are still closed on a couple of days each week.

In Campbeltown, a quick hello at Springbank let me discover their new Washback Bar (pic from The Campbeltown Courier). It opened only very recently and they haven‘t publicised it much – just asked visitors and local invitees to feature it in their social media postings. It‘s a lovely space and doesn‘t just offer whisky flights for tasting but also offers food as well as soft and hot drinks. I did wonder if the food aromas might get in the way of some whisky nosing but it depends on how seriously you take your nosing activity. The menu does seem to have thought of that with no particularly pungent hot dishes. No time to visit Glen Scotia or Glengyle. This was a one night stop with a departure right after breakfast to get the Islay ferry. Next time, I hope. This was a treat as I don‘t normally get to Campbeltown. In this neck of the woods I‘m always zooming to Kennacraig near Tarbert for the Islay ferry or rushing to get home on my return.

While sitting on the ferry to Islay I received an e-mail from Laphroaig manager, John Campbell, telling all Friends of Laphroaig that he is leaving the distillery after 16 years as manager and more years working there before that. He‘s achieved so much there with all the staff and will be a major loss so I hope they‘ll choose a worthy successor. I did call in while on Islay but John had gone in the opposite direction – to Glasgow for meetings. He is returning to the mainland permanently to be able to see his family more as that‘s not been so easy this last 18 months and his new job is with an independent distiller. More news awaited. I can make a few guesses as to who that might be but it‘s not usual to say where you‘re going till you‘ve left the current place. He finishes up at Laphroiag in November.

On Islay a quick drive-by look at Islay‘s only rum distillery. No one home but I‘m told by HQ that stills are in, electricity supply awaited. At other distilleries they are open for shops and tasting facilities. Everyone should see Islay in this weather – dry and sunny but cool (14/15C) and quite windy. It can be similar, but colder, in February. Islay doesn‘t have to be a spring and summer destination but in late autumn and winter you are more at the whim of the weather as to transport over – and back. There can’t be many better places for a whisky fan to get stuck…

Mull – Inside Tobermory at last, I hope! I get to Mull even more rarely than Arran so this is a treat too. Before I left to start this trip, I‘d arranged an interview with new distillery manager Cara Gilbert and, if all goes as planned, that will feature in October.

Also, for October there‘s certainly one, maybe two, new expressions from Douglas Laing & Co. to look forward to.

Meantime, as ever, happy dramming and I‘ll be back soon.



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