Kilchoman Comraich

Kilchoman Distillery

When Kilchoman launch a new whisky, there’s usually a lot of fan boy/girl posts on social media feting the new releases and a frenzied mob descending on every online retailer’s website as soon as the bottles are available. You might, therefore, be surprised to hear that a 10 year old cask strength expression called Kilchoman Comraich has launched, and you never even heard about it. It’s actually not that surprising, since the whisky is only going to be available in three bars in the UK and… that’s it. Let me explain.

Not far to the west of Kilchoman distillery sits the ruins of Kilchoman Church, a relic of centuries past which nestles at the feet of the Creag Mhòr cliffs. Within these ruins stand several Comraich stones, or ‘sanctuary’ stones. It is within the boundaries of these stones that one was safe from harassment or arrest, regardless of what treacherous act one might have committed. Taking inspiration from these ‘safe havens’, Kilchoman has released an expression which is only available in a few exclusive bars around the world which it deems as being a sanctuary from the outside world, away from the hubbub and million-miles-an-hour pace of the 21st century lifestyle. In Scotland, that sanctuary is SCOTCH at The Balmoral.

A couple of weeks ago I went along to SCOTCH with The Drinks Lady to a tasting hosted by James Wills where he showcased a number of Kilchoman whiskies, and gave us an exclusive preview of Comraich. It’s a vatting of one oloroso sherry butt and two bourbon barrels which were all filled in 2007 and bottled late last year at around 10 years old at a cask strength of 55.5%. Here’s my thoughts.

2007 Vintage
Two Bourbon barrels & one Oloroso Sherry butt
55.5% ABV
Available only in selected bars

Nose: Really quite medicinal – camphor, menthol, herbal, dried heather, faint mint, and first aid box. Then the coastal notes come through with wet sand, flint, salted limes, smoked prawns, dried seaweed. Finally, there’s just a touch of peat hearth and bonfire embers.

Palate: Mentholic and mineralic initially, with heather, bracken, gorse, flint and wet slate. Then the sherry casks make themselves known – smoked ribs, clove, glazed ham, currants and sultanas and a touch of tea leaf, black pepper and tobacco.

Finish: Twigs, embers, rolling peat smoke and a little dry leather.

Overall: Oh my days. The medicinal notes show quite a different side to Kilchoman which I hadn’t really seen before. Given blind, and purely on the nose, you’d be forgiven for guessing it’s a lightly peated Laphroaig or Ardbeg. The signature clean, coastal notes are there and are backed up wonderfully by the savouriness and richness of the sherry casks. It’s a superb whisky, and if you’re a Kilchoman lover, it’s certainly one you should seek out at one of the few bars it will be available in. For a full database of Comraich partner bars, check the Kilchoman website as they’ll be making them public in the next month or so. I must add that this is just Batch 1 of Comraich and that further batches, featuring different vintages and cask types, are in the offing. I, for one, cannot wait.

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