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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Kilchoman

Join our Islay celebrations on Instagram Live!

Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of…

Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of interviews with the island’s distilleries that features tastings, chats and Q&As.

This is usually the time of year where we would pack our travel bags, camera kit and 10-litre bottles of midge insect repellent to head north to the beautiful Scottish island of Islay to revel in one of the highlights, if not the highlight of the whisky calendar. The week-and-a-bit from 22-30 May was sure to provide all the whisky-dipped merriment you could shake Dave Worthington’s pipe at.

But we have no intention of letting this period pass by without some recognition of an island that is home to some of Scotch whisky’s finest distilleries. Which is why we’ve put together the next best thing. Through the wonderful medium of Instagram Live, we’ve created our own virtual festival by teaming up with the island’s distilleries (and the fab folk at Jura, of course). We’ve put together a programme of tastings, chats and Q&As with your questions, comments and tasting notes to keep the Islay spirit alive and your tasting glass full from the comfort of your own home.

We thoroughly hope you enjoy our virtual Islay celebration. The schedule for the Instagram Live shows is listed below, complete with accompanying dram. Don’t forget, you can always embrace the Islay spirit whenever you like with Drinks by the Dram’s Islay Whisky Tasting Set! Why not order one for you and a pal and set up your own Zoom tasting?

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old

Day One

Who’s joining us? The Character of Islay Whisky Company and its head of whisky, Sam Simmons for a tasting. What a way to kick off proceedings!

What whisky will we be tasting? Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old, Green Isle, Grace Île and Fiona Macleod.

When is it? Friday 22 May at 7:30pm

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Lagavulin will be joining us on day two

Day Two

Who’s joining us? Lagavulin and its distillery manager Colin Gordon for an evening dram and a chat. Grab a tasting glass and get your questions ready for Colin!

What whisky will we be tasting? Lagavulin 8Lagavulin 16.

When is it? Saturday 23 May at 8:30pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Head distiller Adam Hannett will join us for a tasting and Q&A

Day Three

Who’s joining us? Bruichladdich and its head distiller Adam Hannett for a tasting and Q&A. Bruichladdich also has its own Laddie Lock-In, while its ballot system to decide who can get their hands on its alternative festival bottling, Port Charlotte 16, has now concluded.

What whisky will we be tasting? The Classic Laddie.

When is it? Sunday 24 May at 6pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Caol Ila Distillery, as seen from the skies.

Day Four

Who’s joining us? Caol Ila and its distillery manager for an evening dram and a chat with Pierrick Guillaume.

What whisky will we be tasting? Caol Ila 12.

When is it? Monday 25 May at 8:15pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

We’ll be spending lunchtime with Laphroaig

Day Five

Who’s joining us? Laphroaig for a lunchtime taste and learn session with distillery manager John Campbell. It will also be hosting its own celebration, #LaphroaigLive from 18:15pm.

What whisky will we be tasting? Laphroaig 10.

When is it? Tuesday 26 May at 1pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The beautiful Bowmore Distillery who will join us on day six

Day Six

Who’s joining us? Bowmore for another lunchtime Live, with time with distillery manager, David Turner. We’ll have a chat about all things whisky, so ready your questions!

What whisky will we be tasting? Bowmore 12.

When is it? Wednesday 27 May at 1pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Kilchoman founder Anthony Wills will stop by to kick-off our Thursday with a bang

Day Seven

Who’s joining us? Kilchoman and its founder Anthony Wills will be kicking off the day with us. The distillery also has quite the online festival Programme, complete with live tastings and a distillery tour.

What whisky will we be tasting? Kilchoman Machir Bay, Loch Gorm 2020, the new Am Burach, 100% Islay 9th Edition, and the official Festival Bottling!

When is it? Thursday 28 May at 10.30am.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà

Day Eight

Who’s joining us? Bunnahabhain and its global brand director, Derek Scott, who will host a tasting with a very delicious dram, usually distillery-exclusive dram (it will also host its own 8pm tasting, ‘Fèis at home‘). 

What whisky will we be tasting? Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà, Bunnahabhain 25-Year-Old, and the very exciting Bunnahabhain 2003 Amontillado Finish, which is usually only available from the distillery.

When is it? Friday 29 May at 5pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The scenic Jura Distillery makes delicious and subtle smoky whisky

Who’s joining us? Jura and Whyte & Mackay’s Gregg Glass, who will be online with us for an evening tasting. 

What whisky will we be tasting? Jura 10 Year Old.

When is it? Friday 29 May evening.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The stunning Ardbeg Distillery at night

Day Nine

Who’s joining us? Ardbeg and Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks for Ardbeg (and sister distillery Glenmorangie) ,for an Ardbeg Day tasting. You can also join the distillery at 7pm on Facebook for its first-ever online Ardbeg Day!

What whisky will we be tasting? Ardbeg 10An Oa and Blaaack. 

When is it? Saturday 30 May at 3pm.

 

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Everything you wanted to know about peat

It’s been a smoky week on the blog with news of the expansion at Kilchoman and a new release from Ardbeg. Therefore, we thought it would be a good idea to take…

It’s been a smoky week on the blog with news of the expansion at Kilchoman and a new release from Ardbeg. Therefore, we thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at the ingredient that gives them their unmistakable flavour. So, here’s every question you’ve ever wanted to ask about peat, answered by whisky experts…

Ah, heavily-peated whisky. The great divider. The Marmite of the spirits world, if you will. For every die-hard Islay aficionado with a penchant for eye-wateringly medicinal, TCP-esque drams, there’s a bourbon connoisseur who wouldn’t clean their boots with the stuff. Such is life, and such is whisky.

Whatever your personal preference, you’re likely to have a few burning (ha) questions about the peat, specifically the mechanics involved in flavouring whisky with it. So, to quench your thirst for knowledge, we approached a selection of whisky experts to get the 4-1-1 on what is, essentially, thousands of years’ worth of decaying vegetation. Behold!

The floor malting at Benriach

Where does peat come from?

Peat is formed in cold wetlands from partly decomposed vegetation – shrubs, heather, bog myrtle, forests – over thousands of years, explains Dr. Rachel Barrie, master distiller at BenRiach Distillery. It tends to be found close to the coast, “having formed when seas flooded the landscape, trapping the vegetation,” she explains. “Cellulose, lignin and other plant components decompose slowly over a seriously long time, due to the lack of oxygen being trapped underwater.” Grass, wood and moss break down in the peat, making it a very good fuel, as well as a source of smoky aromatics. Peat is found all over the world, “but is especially prevalent in the Northern hemisphere in places like Canada, Siberia and in particular Ireland and Scotland,” adds Cameron Ewen, bar manager and senior whisky ambassador in Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel.

Does peat exhibit terroir?

Peat exhibits the ‘terroir’ of the plant material trapped and compressed under swampy wetland, decomposing over thousands of years, says Dr Barrie. “As well as plant material, it’s influenced by the water that flooded the land,” she continues. As such, the peat found in the north east of Scotland differs to peat found on Islay, due to the higher proportion of forests and less wetlands. Not only do the Western Isles feel the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, says Ewen, but the peat on Islay also has a higher proportion of seaweed. By contrast, “northern peat tends to be more floral with decomposing heather and gorse playing important roles in this peat,” he explains. “This will usually give the whisky a drier smoky character more akin to a bonfire. The peat dug from mainland Scotland is composed mostly of leaves, grasses and woods. This usually lends a very soft smoke to the whisky often due to the amount of peat being used.”

Peat cut in the Scottish Highlands

How is peat harvested?

Traditionally, peat has been dug by hand, says Anthony Wills, founder and managing director of Islay’s Kilchoman Distillery, with machines introduced more recently as demand has increased. First, the top layer of turf would be peeled away, and then a trench anywhere from 0.5 metres to 2 metres deep would be dug, says Ewen. “Peat was then cut out of this trench and stacked in the fields to dry,” he says, usually for about six months until it became brittle. “This peat is then used in traditional kilns – oven-like structures capable of holding tonnes of damp barley – and the peat is burned to produce an aromatic smoke that dries the barley and gives the final whisky its distinct quality,” Ewen adds.

How and when are ‘phenols’ released?

The phenols are released when the peat fire is burning and the smoke impregnates the moist barley grains lying on a floor above the fire, Wills explains. The phenol level is measured in parts per millions of phenols (PPM). How long the fire is lit determines the level of PPM in the final malt. “In the old days peat was used to dry the malt down to 5% moisture, but the result was a very peaty, salty, phenolic whisky that wasn’t very refined,” says Wills. “Peating levels have now been refined by distillers, and peat is only used at the first stage and then switched to a warm air drying system.” As those who have tasted Bowmore and Laphroaig liquids side-by-side, each distillery usually has a preferred peating level they require for their malt. However, this measurement is not entirely accurate by the time the whisky is bottled, because the PPM reduces over the course of the whisky-making process, Ewan explains. “At every stage some of the phenols are lost – this is most noticeable in the distillation and maturation phase,’ he says. During maturation, “some of the phenols are absorbed or evaporate off”, while other notes mellow out over time.

Kilchoman Islay

Burning peat at Kilchoman

Where does the peat burning tradition originate?

Historically the practice of using peat in whisky started through necessity, says Ewan. “Many distilleries were in remote parts of the country and as such, it was often impractical and not financially economic for distillers to use coal or oil in whisky production,” he explains. Peat had been used for centuries to heat bothies and blackhouses – traditional farmhouses – and this led to the practice being adopted by Scottish distillers. Those based further inland tended to use a mixture of coal, anthracite and peat, adds Dr Barrie, though the exact composition would have varied according to location, geography and terroir. That all changed in the 1970s, when natural gas was discovered in the North Sea and a boom of commercial barley maltings were built in the north and east. “With the readily available supply of natural gas, the larger commercial maltings rapidly became the most efficient, cleanest and scaled-up way to malt the barley,” she explains. “Without natural gas on Islay, peat continued to be the dominant source of fuel.”

In what other ways are distilleries using peat to flavour their spirits?

You don’t necessarily need peated barley to give your spirit a smoky taste. In fact, if you’re Daniel Szor, founder and CEO of England’s Cotswolds Distillery, you need only obtain an empty cask. “Our production director Nick and I went to visit our friends at Penderyn and were fascinated by one of their whiskies, which had been aged in a ex-Laphroaig quarter cask,” he explains. “As soon as we returned to the distillery, we ordered one from Speyside Cooperage and filled it with our unpeated new-make Cotswolds spirit.” After a year, says Szor, they were smitten. “ The cask provided just the right amount of phenols without overwhelming our delicate spirit, and the slight smokiness married perfectly with our rich and fruity Cotswolds spirit,” he says. 

 

 

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Kilchoman’s new stillhouse and visitor centre are open

Islay’s eighth distillery Kilchoman has doubled its production capacity with a new stillhouse extension that opened this week. We managed to grab a quick chat with founder Anthony Wills about…

Islay’s eighth distillery Kilchoman has doubled its production capacity with a new stillhouse extension that opened this week. We managed to grab a quick chat with founder Anthony Wills about the effect the improvements will have, how he replicated the Kilchoman character and why legacy is key.

On Friday 21st February, family, friends, colleagues and local businesses gathered at Kilchoman Distillery on Islay to celebrate the opening of its new stillhouse and visitor centre. Unfortunately, terrible weather meant that we couldn’t be there in person, but over 150 guests did manage to witness the new developments, which began in 2018 with the completion of a new malt floor and kiln. These founder Anthony Wills says have allowed the distillery to malt twice as much of its own barley. “We’ve gone from four-tonne batches instead of two. In future, this will allow us to share more of our flagship expression, Kilchoman 100% Islay”.

The £6 million project entailed creating a new stillhouse by extending out from the gable end of the original. It contains two new stills, a new mash tun and six additional stainless steel washbacks which doubles the capacity to 480,000 litres of pure alcohol annually, though the distillery has not yet decided what production level it will settle at.

Kilchoman Distillery new stillhouse

The new stillhouse in all its glory

The new stillhouse had become a necessity in recent times due to the continued increase in demand for Kilchoman. Without an increase in capacity, Wills says, Kilchoman would be heading towards a situation where its whisky would be sold purely on allocation. “We wanted to continue building on the success of the last 15 years without the risk of running out of whisky. I’m a great believer that if you are standing still in business you are going backwards,” he explains. “With my three sons very much part of the business, I wanted to make sure we had enough Kilchoman single malt to share with consumers around the world. In the first 10 years, we had proved that Kilchoman had a following and I didn’t want to be in the position of allocating our single malt going forward”.  

The investment amounts to almost an entirely new distillery in itself, however, Kilchoman was keen that the new equipment was a mirror image of the original stillhouse to ensure that signature Kilchoman character and strong island provenance was retained. “I spoke to Jim Swan before he sadly died and he was adamant that the only way not to compromise on the character and style of our new spirit was to build a replica of what we had before,” says Wills. “So we set about copying all the production equipment we started with in 2005. Two more stills, a mash tun and six new washbacks. This was the only way we were going to get exactly the same spirit character.”

One particularly exciting aspect of this development for nerdy whisky fans (our people) is that the new equipment will allow more experimentation during the malting and peating phases. “With the new production up and running we have started experimenting with sowing different barley varieties on the farm, processing unpeated, lightly-peated and heavily-peated malt, using different yeast varieties, different spirit cut points and isolating the spirit from each different run,” Wills explains. “We are excited to see how it affects the character of the spirit and I’m especially interested in the way different yeast varieties affect the character of the spirit”.

Kilchoman Distillery new stillhouse

Founder Anthony Wills at the opening of the new stillhouse and visitor centre

Two more bonded warehouses have also been built to allow greater room for cask maturation. The distillery has had to rely on using space in predominantly dunnage warehouses owned by Bruichladdich, Bowmore and Port Ellen, but Wills confirms that Kilchoman will continue to build more warehousing as demand dictates, commenting “I want to mature all our stock on Islay. This is important to our USP”.

The final phase of the current expansion project has been the completion of a new open-plan visitor centre that encompasses a shop area selling whisky and branded goods, glass windowed tasting rooms, a bar to enjoy your drams around a log burning stove and a café. In 2019 Kilchoman Distillery welcomed some 30,000 visitors and each year this number is rising, which is why Wills felt it was important for the distillery to have space to accommodate the increasing number of people making the trip. ““We needed to create a better experience for our visitors so we decided to build a purpose-built building behind the café,” he says. “We are very happy with the end result as we’ve managed to retain many of the original features of the stables. The new visitor centre will be open 7 days a week from the end of March so make sure to come and visit us soon!”

The developments couldn’t have come at a better time as far as Wills is concerned. “He believes the future of whisky and especially Islay malt is very positive. The category is still seeing growth and we are confident this will continue,” Wills says. “However, the recently implemented tariffs in the USA and coronavirus will present its challenges. I’m delighted we launched Kilchoman 15 years ago when very few new distilleries were being opened. The challenges are much greater for all the distilleries around the world that have recently started.

Kilchoman Distillery new stillhouse

Guests enjoyed the new visitor centre at the opening event

Wills had mentioned in the press release that these changes came at a time when he thought he might take a step back. It’s notable that these developments have taken place as his sons take on a greater role and the family presence increases. “The big thing for myself and my wife was about leaving a legacy for my sons to take to the next level. I believe family-run businesses have more of a connection with their customer base and I would like to see Kilchoman growing as a family business well into the future,” Wills explains. “Kilchoman was always about growing a business and leaving a legacy to my three sons to take on when I eventually step back….that isn’t happening anytime soon!”

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Ronnie Lee – the man who mends mills

This week Ian Buxton celebrates a true whisky hero, a Welshman without whom Scotland’s distilleries would literally grind to a halt. What about those malt mills, eh? They’re just about…

This week Ian Buxton celebrates a true whisky hero, a Welshman without whom Scotland’s distilleries would literally grind to a halt.

What about those malt mills, eh? They’re just about the first thing you see on any distillery tour but, once you’ve heard the guide’s regulation story about their age and how they outlived the company who made them, you move on.  

It’s a shame. Painted, usually, in that distinctive shade of dark red, sturdy, planted four-square in the mill room, ready to receive another load of malt, these quiet occupants of an unobtrusive corner of the distillery just do their job in a modest and under-stated way.  A malt mill would never shout or draw attention to itself you feel, happy to do an honest day’s work and then await the next consignment to be turned into grist.

But if you take a second, harder look you might see a simple plaque discreetly fixed to the side with the legend RONNIE LEE, MILLWRIGHT and a telephone number.  One day I couldn’t bear it any longer; I was puzzled and intrigued; I had to ask: “Who is this bloke Ronnie Lee?” 

R. Boby

Plate from an old Boby mill

“I have no idea,” was my host’s honest, if unhelpful reply (but then he was a marketing type). I began asking production folks – real whisky people. To a man, they smiled.  “Ronnie Lee,” they said. “You must know Ronnie Lee.” Embarrassingly, I didn’t and the more I learned the worse I felt. So, I set to tracking him down because everyone told me that, though he wasn’t their employee, Ronnie Lee was a vital part of their team. From Diageo to Kilchoman, Chivas Brothers to Rosebank, he keeps the mills running. Without his unique service those antique rollers might seize up and fail, whisky could not be produced – indeed, a great national disaster would befall Scotland.

So I called the number and found myself on an industrial unit alongside a chicken farm in Chepstow – about as far from the glamorous world of luxury seen in whisky’s current imagery as may be imagined. This is where old-school engineer Ronnie and his two sons are based and where the world comes when a mill – possibly more than one hundred years old – needs some TLC. 

These fine pieces of machinery, be they the familiar Porteus design or that of their less well-known rival Boby, were built to last.  Their solid construction and simple, yet well-proven design has stood the test of time and, entirely fortuitously, speak to our present-day concerns about sustainability and the responsible use of resources.

A beautifully-restored Porteus

A beautifully-restored Porteus mill

But how long can they continue to run? The answer may well surprise you. I was certainly taken aback when Ronnie proudly shared with me his latest project: the restoration of a Boby mill, found in an Australian brewery and saved from scrap, that he believes was manufactured around 1855-60.

It may well be the oldest surviving example of a malt mill anywhere in the world and, following 80-100 hours of skilled and experienced cleaning and restoration, it will certainly work again and looks good for another 150 years of service (though, strictly speaking, non-commercial use as it lacks the anti-explosion guard fitted to later models).  Perhaps it will become a display piece, tribute to some far-sighted Victorian engineers as Robert Boby Ltd of Bury St Edmunds.

And how has it happened that Ronnie has found himself in this highly specialised niche? He grew up near his present Chepstow home and, after school, was apprenticed to the motor trade, quickly passing through a dozen or more jobs before embracing self-employment.  Back in 1995 he was contracting to Buhler, a Swiss mill manufacturer, installing their larger systems in flour mills (there aren’t many in distilleries, though you can see a mighty example at Glenfarclas). 

Ronnie Lee with an old Boby mill

The man himself with an old Boby mill

By this time, Boby was being closed down and the old Porteus company was owned by Briggs of Burton (a name you’ll find on mashtuns and other larger pieces of brewery and distillery equipment). But the heyday of the Porteus mill was the 1960s and by 1972/73 manufacturing had ceased. Maintenance and spare parts became more and more of a problem and eventually Briggs were unable to support what was by now, for them, an obsolete product. 

Ronnie was able to acquire the original Boby plans and drawings (he could build you one from scratch) and armed with these and Porteus’ withdrawal from the market, it was natural for him to step into this gap. His affinity with old machinery and his ability to coax new life from their aging cogs and gears has ensured his unique place in whisky. So, in a world which lauds distillery managers as rock stars, spare a thought and raise a glass to Ronnie Lee, the man who mends the mills and a true whisky hero.

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We put your Kilchoman questions to Anthony Wills!

Join us as we put your questions about Kilchoman to distillery founder Anthony Wills during Fèis Ìle 2019! Fèis Ìle 2019 was pretty rainy – but that didn’t stop whisky geeks…

Join us as we put your questions about Kilchoman to distillery founder Anthony Wills during Fèis Ìle 2019!

Fèis Ìle 2019 was pretty rainy – but that didn’t stop whisky geeks across the island having a great time. One of the soggy days was Kilchoman – we caught up with the distillery’s founder Anthony Wills!

For more videos from Fèis Ìle follow the tag on the blog, or keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We’ll be posting videos every day up until 28 June!

Kilchoman Anthony Wills

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Fèis Ìle 2019: Day Six, Kilchoman

Shiny new distillery expansion, cocktails galore, and more drams than you could shake a stick at. It can only be the Kilchoman Open Day at Fèis Ìle 2019! The sunshine…

Shiny new distillery expansion, cocktails galore, and more drams than you could shake a stick at. It can only be the Kilchoman Open Day at Fèis Ìle 2019!

The sunshine couldn’t last forever. Fèis Ìle 2019 Day Six dawned mightily murky, with no end in sight to the drizzle. It was the dedicated Kilchoman day, and Islay’s self-styled farm distillery seems to have little luck with the weather – as I recall it was the only grey day of the Fèis last year. But! Festival goers are more than prepared for the elements. A little bit of Islay sogginess wasn’t going to put anyone off.

We rose moderately fresh – last night’s activities involved a brief jaunt to the Lochindaal Hotel, only to discover festival-goers had quite literally drunk the bar dry. Beer was off. After a swift one, we decamped to the Port Charlotte Hotel for beers. (Don’t worry, Rinns residents – we were assured the Lochindaal was due to be restocked today!) By the time we arrived at Kilchoman, situated right out west, towards Machir Bay, we were ready for a dram (anyone else now alarmingly comfortable with sipping whisky at 10am?!).

Kilchoman Feis Ile

Behold, Kilchoman’s 2019 festival bottling!

First thing on the day’s agenda was an interview with Kilchoman founder Anthony Wills. Kilchoman was born out of Wills’s vision and started producing spirit in 2005. Fast-forward to 2019, and the distillery has big news! Last year, Anthony shared distillery expansion plans with us. Today we were itching to see the results of the project in the flesh! The only thing standing in our way was a tasting of the Kilchoman Fèis Ìle 2019 release, and 11 year old, 54.4% ABV expression! A delicious distraction. Wills chatted us through it, and you can watch it below!

After the tasting and a Q&A with Wills (we put your questions to him), it was time to give away t-shirts and drams. The shiny new stills would have to wait a little longer! We’ve seen a handful of t-shirt selfies – do keep sending them our way, we’re @masterofmalt on social. We want to get your thoughts and tasting notes on our All Islay Blended Malt, too!

The Kilchoman team really had thought of everything today. As well has covering the courtyard with gazebos (useful, as the rain was flat refusing to stop), they had also made a handy guide to proceedings, complete with a map of where you could nose your way round the distillery, and grab a dram in the process!

Kilchoman Feis Ile

Mapping out the day!

We headed over to the Comraich Blend Bar (so named after a distillery-only expression) for a refreshing sipper to accompany our plan-making. The guys from Blend Whisky Bar, off of actual Italy, were on it! We sampled a few, but particularly recommend the Machir Bay serve, made with green tea and Abbott’s Bitters. Green tea really is the cocktail ingredient that keeps on giving!

Kilchoman Feis Ile

Ciao, Blend Whisky Bar chaps!

Cocktails done, and we plotted our route, making our way to the Kilchoman stillhouse with haste. Last year, Wills said the plan was to knock down the end wall of the existing production space and create a carbon copy, almost like a mirror image. That’s exactly what’s happened! Production capacity has soared from 240,000 litres of alcohol a year to 480,000 litres. Still tiny compared to the likes of Caol Ila, which produces in the region of 6.5 million litres! There’s a brand new mash tun, two fermenters, and two very sleek and shiny new stills. And we got to taste the new new make! So fruity, deliciously oily, and with that characteristic waft of Kilchoman smoke. We approve.

Kilchoman Feis Ile

Gorgeous new Kilchoman stills!

After the stillhouse, we meandered our way through to Warehouse No. 1, where myriad casks are maturing. We then popped in to check out the malting floor, which opened last year (our mini-tour was not in production order, but who cares?!). We even tried our hand at turning the locally-grown barley, with only medium levels of success!

Kilchoman Feis Ile

Inside Warehouse No.1

We popped back outside, dodging the raindrops, to explore the full Kilchoman line-up on the dram bar. Punters could choose from a whole range of liquid, including distillery-only bottlings, and the 2019 festival release! Such a treat to be able to sample from such a wide range!

Kilchoman Feis Ile

Dram time!

As we’ve come to expect on a distillery day, there was not only ace tunes from myriad bands, but also a whole host of excellent doggos!

Kilchoman Feis Ile

So many excellent poochies!

Before heading back we zipped along to take in the sights and sounds (and accompanying sea spray!) of Machir Bay. Gorgeous in the sunshine, but still bleakly beautiful in the rain, Kilchoman has named an expression after the huge expanse of sand – and rightly so, it’s a defining feature of the area.

Kilchoman Feis Ile

Machir Bay!

Kilchoman truly knows how to do a distillery open day. As well as all the fun and games we took part in, the team had all kinds of tastings on offer, plus farm tours. The best bit was being able to explore so much of the distillery, dram in hand, at our own speed without waiting for an organised tour. It was brilliant. Job well done, team – thank you for a tremendous day, and congrats on the distillery expansion!

Next up: a tasting at Ardnahoe this evening, before checking out both Bunnahabhain and Jura tomorrow. We’re excited!

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Get ready for Fèis Ìle 2019!

Looking forward to Fèis Ìle 2019? Can’t get a ticket? Whatever your situation, our selection of some of Islay’s most sublime Scotch means that all can indulge and enjoy! The…

Looking forward to Fèis Ìle 2019? Can’t get a ticket? Whatever your situation, our selection of some of Islay’s most sublime Scotch means that all can indulge and enjoy!

The Islay Festival of Music and Malt approaches. The highlight of the whisky calendar. Probably the reason we even still bother putting up with May as a month (that and all the bank holidays, come to think of it.)

A hive of whisky-based geekdom awaits. From official distillery days to delightful drams, celebrity dogs and all manner of ridiculously wonderful people, Fèis Ìle really has got everything, and 2019 promises more of the same. If you’re one of the lucky attendees this year, then be sure to keep your eyes peeled, as members of the MoM team will be on Islay for Fèis Ìle 2019!

However, if you’re not able to make the trip this year, then don’t panic. Not only will there be all kinds of content, video footage and social posts from the week to come from MoM, but you’ve still got an opportunity to get your hands on plenty of Islay whisky – like this lovely lot that we rounded up, for example. So go on then, get stuck in and enjoy!

All Islay – Islay Blended Malt (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

This brilliant blended malt was created by us! That’s right, this year we decided to team up with That Boutique-y Whisky Company to celebrate our trip to Fèis Ìle 2019, and what better way to that than with whisky sourced exclusively from Islay distilleries? The “All Islay” name is something of a giveaway as to which distilleries contributed to this blend, as are those yellow markers on the label that appear to mark with the locations of every distillery on Islay releasing whisky today, including one iconic closed one…

What does it taste like?:

Buttered crumpets, coal fires, cut grass, some waxy peels, peat smoke richness, cooked apple, apricot, floral heather, peppery heat, damp oak and just a hint of leather.

Lagavulin 16 Year Old

If deliciously rich, intriguing and complex whiskies are your kind of thing, then Lagavulin 16 Year Old may be the dram for you. The pungent, peated and beloved expression is often held up as a benchmark of an Islay dram, for good reason. Oh, and if you’re on Islay, then be sure to order a Smokey Cokey (winner of Best Fèis Ìle Cocktail from last year’s awards). It might sound crazy to some, but you’ll just have to trust us.

What does it taste like?:

Lapsang Souchong tea, very concentrated smoke, iodine, sweet spices, mature Sherry, creamy vanilla, fruity sweetness, powerful peat, figs, dates and oak.

Ardbeg An Oa

An Oa became the first addition to Ardbeg’s core range in over a decade when it was introduced in 2017 to provide a more mellow, sweet and approachable dram to the distinctive distillery’s selection. Fans need not worry, however. An Oa (pronounced ‘an oh’ and named after the Mull of Oa) has still got plenty of that characteristic Ardbeg style we’ve all come to know and love.

What does it taste like?:

Butterscotch, fennel seed, tobacco leaf, Honey Nut Clusters, Everton mint, flourless orange cake, cigars, golden syrup flapjacks, sweet black tea, chocolate limes, smoky treacle and a little peanut brittle.

Port Charlotte 10 Year Old

A heavy-hitting, peaty powerhouse of a dram, Port Charlotte 10 Year Old has become a go-to for fans who desire a smoky Scotch. Introduced as the flagship Port Charlotte expression by Bruichladdich in 2018, this 10-year-old single malt was peated to 40ppm and drawn from a combination of casks including first-fill American whiskey, second-fill American whiskey and second-fill French wine casks.

What does it taste like?:

Salted caramel brownie, flamed orange peel, seaweed, oak-y smoke, salty sea air, Custard Cream biscuits, white grape, ginger snaps, rye toast and drying peat smokiness.

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2019 Release

Every spring we look forward to Kilchoman’s annual Loch Gorm single malt release, and it’s safe to say the 2019 edition is another belter from what was Islay’s youngest distillery. This year, Kilchomah has drawn spirit from 20 oloroso sherry butts, resulting in big helpings of sweet and dark notes that blend well with its peat smoke core.

What does it taste like?:

Spicy smoke, sherried peels, cinnamon cookies, dried fruit, salted butter, grilled citrus fruits, jammy damson and lingering dark chocolate bitterness.

Caol Ila 18 Year Old

Caol Ila 18 Year Old is a refined, balanced and delightful Islay single malt that doesn’t pack an overpowering peaty punch and makes for one of our favourite aperitifs. It was matured in a mixture of refill casks so the impact of the wood is tempered which allows all of that distillery and Island character to shine.

What does it taste like?:

Well-integrated oily oak, peat smoke, vegetal, herbal notes, gentle smoke and creamy malt.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask

An interesting and superb value bottling from Laphroaig Distillery, this whisky was aged for around five years before being finished in a quarter cask for several months, hence the name. Since its release in 2004, Laphroaig Quarter Cask has built a considerable and loyal following for its remarkably complex and punchy profile.

What does it taste like?:

Toffee, nuttiness, hickory, bicarbonate of soda, rum and raisin ice cream, fiery chilli heat, TCP, sweet cereals, custard, cigar smoke and a touch of cola syrup.

Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

The entry-level Bunnahabhain bottling is the perfect expression for those who want an outstanding, approachable Islay single malt without the trademark peat. In fact, it’s one of the least peated whiskeys produced on the island with just 3 ppm of peat (Ardbeg expressions tend to be peated to 55 ppm, by comparison). Instead Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old is a gentle, sweet and exceptionally pleasing dram that’s received plenty of plaudits over the years and its fair share of fans.

What does it taste like?:

Seaweed, sherry, almonds, juicy sultanas, mochaccino, herbal and with a balanced salty tang.

Bowmore 18 Year Old

If you want to know what the wonderful Bowmore Distillery is all about, then the sublime Bowmore 18 Year Old will prove well worth your time. An ever-popular dram, this well-structured whisky boasts an impressive harmony of sweet and savoury flavours from dark fruits to classic Islay smoke.

What does it taste like?:

Stewing fruit, plum jam, Seville marmalade, summer blossom, dark peat, hints of damp wood and very soft smoke.

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Explore Scotland’s whisky regions!

This week you’ll journey with us through the wonderful whisky regions of Scotland, stopping for a delicious dram or two along the way… I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone…

This week you’ll journey with us through the wonderful whisky regions of Scotland, stopping for a delicious dram or two along the way…

I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone by now that we do enjoy a dram or two of Scotch whisky here at MoM Towers. Some who share our passion may prefer to indulge in expressions from the same region, be it the Lowlands, the Highlands, Campbeltown, Islay, the Islands or Speyside. We, however, love all of them like children and, just like every parent you’ve ever met, we can’t wait to talk your ear off about how much we do.

So, whether you prefer the peaty powerhouses typically found on Islay, the sherried and sweet often associated with Speyside, the malty, fruity whiskies you’ll regularly see in the Highlands or all the above and more, then you’ll be happy to join us on a journey that marvels at the huge range of different styles of whisky that are produced all over Scotland.

Before we start, it’s worth checking out this Drinks by the Dram Tasting Set, which contains five 30ml samples that showcase the Regions of Scotland. Now, on with our adventure!

Bladnoch 17 Year Old California Red Wine Cask Finish

Region: Lowland

We start our journey at the fabulous Bladnoch Distillery, which started up production once again in 2017 following some periods of difficulty. Since its return, the brand has created some delicious and intriguing drams, such as the 17 Year Old California Red Wine Cask Finish. Originally matured into ex-bourbon barrels, this 17 year old single malt was then finished in Californian red wine casks to create a rich, rewarding and wonderfully fruity profile.

What does it taste like?:

Dried fruit, orange marmalade, coffee, cherries, toffee, vanilla, liquorice, shortbread, black pepper and sweet oak.

Glenkinchie 12 Year Old

Region: Lowland

Glenkinchie 12 Year Old is not only the flagship expression from the Glenkinchie distillery, but it makes for a fine introduction to all things Lowland Scotch. A creamy, sweet and smooth expression that’s ever-popular and incredibly versatile, it’s no surprise this expression was named the winner of the Best Lowland Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards in 2016.

What does it taste like?:

Light and aromatic with hints of barley malt, almonds, hazelnuts, stewed fruits, dessert wine, apple peels and manuka honey/beeswax.

Springbank 10 Year Old

Region: Campbeltown

We journey now to Campbeltown and its famed Springbank distillery, which is known for its distinctive, powerful whiskies and loyal following of enthusiastic, passionate fans. The brand’s 10 Year Old expression, a blend of both bourbon and sherry matured whiskies, is the kind of dram that makes you understand why. Quite simply a sublime introduction for those not familiar with the distillery or the Campbeltown region in general.

What does it taste like?:

Oaked aridity, rich peat, earthen rootiness, exotic fruits, salinity, cereal sweetness, dark nuttiness and whirling smoke.

The Glenrothes 12 Year Old – Soleo Collection

Region: Speyside

We venture now to arguably the most famous and certainly most productive of all Scotch whisky regions: Speyside! Glenrothes has been providing great whisky in this part of the world since 1878, but it’s only recently eschewed its famous vintages to make for age statements. This 12 year old single malt, released as part of the Soleo Collection, is one such example and you’ll find that this teaming with the kind of sherried deliciousness people love from a Speyside Scotch.

What does it taste like?:

Floral vanilla, galia melon, shortbread cookies, honey, banana, white chocolate, black pepper and cinnamon.

Strathisla 12 Year Old

Region: Speyside

This fruity, floral and sherry-rich single malt was distilled at Strathisla, which is not only the oldest continuously operating distillery in Scotland, but also one of the most beautiful. It’s currently owned by Chivas Brothers and much of the whisky is used for its blends, however, given its significance to Scotch whisky and the brand, it’s little surprise Chivas Brothers decided to honour the distillery with its own expression.

What does it taste like?:

Soft oak, candied peel, Danish pastries, cooked apple, malt, sultanas, cinnamon and allspice.

Caol Ila 2004 (bottled 2016) Moscatel Cask Finish – Distillers Edition

Region: Islay

We now find ourselves on the Isle of Islay, which is pretty much the closest we’ve got to a holy land for us Scotch whisky fans (don’t forget to make your pilgrimage for Feis Ile 2019 from 24 May-1 June). We know that some of you will have immediately scrolled when you saw this blog for the first thing that could be classed as Islay awesomeness in a bottle. Good thing you did, as the Caol Ila Distillers Edition bottlings are not to be missed. This edition is the 2004 vintage Distillers Edition, which was bottled in 2016 after it was finished for a period in a Moscatel cask. Expect smoke, expect sweetness and most of all, expect a truly sublime Scotch.

What does it taste like?:

Honey, subtly floral malt, a crash of sea spray, peat smoke, golden syrup, orange oil, jasmine tea, brown sugar, red grapes, cinnamon, cassia and a few touches of spearmint.

Kilchoman Machir Bay

Region: Islay

We’re now at Islay’s farm distillery Kilchoman for a delicious dram of Machir Bay, the flagship of the Kilchoman range. Named after the scenic beach on Islay, this excellent single malt Scotch whisky that was matured in both bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks and boasts a wonderful balance of peat, sweetness and zesty citrus. One to savour.

What does it taste like?:

Citrus zests, crumbly vanilla biscuits, elegant peat smoke, tropical fruit, dried raisin and cracked black pepper.

Deanston 18 Year Old

Region: Highland

Our next stop is the wonderful Highland region for a delightful dram of Deanston. All of the distillery’s whisky is distilled with Scottish-grown barley and the 18 Year Old expression served its finishing period in first-fill Kentucky bourbon casks. With just a hint of drying smoke and plenty of creamy, sweet characteristics, Deanston 18 Year Old is a fine expression that should not be overlooked.

What does it taste like?:

Earthy vanilla, Golden Grahams, honeydew melon, flint, lemon cheesecake, orange boiled sweets, oily walnut, stem ginger and beeswax.

Highland Park Valknut

Region: Island

The Islands, which are often classed as being part of the Highlands, are home to some classic names like Talisker, Tobermory and, of course, Highland Park, the latter of which is our final stop. It’s located on the island of Orkney, where you’ll find puffins, plenty of great Scotch and also puffins (did I mention Orkney has puffins, guys?). The brand’s expression Valknut is part of the Viking Legend series and features a small portion of Orkney-grown Tartan barley. This is a more smoky customer than you may be used to from Highland Park, but it’s still got plenty of that typical rich, succulent profile you’ve come to love from Scotland’s most northerly distillery.

What does it taste like?:

Warming peat smoke, fresh vanilla, thyme honey, toasted barley, fennel seed, flamed orange peel, gingerbread, BBQ char, nutmeg and sandalwood.

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #12: Kilchoman Machir Bay Single Malt

Time to take a peek behind the 12th door of the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar where you will find a dram from Islay’s youngest distillery. . ….

Time to take a peek behind the 12th door of the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar where you will find a dram from Islay’s youngest distillery. . .

If you like a bit of elegant smokiness (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) then you’ll love this next dram. It comes from Kilchoman, the first new distillery built on Islay in more than 120 years (another new distillery Ardnahoe, is just about to start production). It was founded in 2005 by Anthony Wills and family, and is based at Rockside Farm not far from Bruichladdich. The team produces a “barley to bottle” single malt whisky called 100% Islay where the entire process from the growing of the barley to malting, maturing and bottling, is carried out on the farm. Kilchoman also distills whiskies from bought-in malted barley like its bestseller, Machir Bay, our dram of the day.

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WATCH: Anthony Wills on Kilchoman distillery expansion!

During Fèis Ìle 2018, we caught up with Anthony Wills, founder of Islay’s Kilchoman distillery, who shared with us plans to double the capacity of the farm distillery. It’s almost…

During Fèis Ìle 2018, we caught up with Anthony Wills, founder of Islay’s Kilchoman distillery, who shared with us plans to double the capacity of the farm distillery.

It’s almost the perfect problem. You work hard to produce something incredible, people love it, and then you can’t physically make enough to meet the demand. It’s a paradox not unfamiliar to the whisky industry, but for Islay’s Kilchoman distillery, which has always been a small-volume farm producer, it represents something of a dilemma.

When Anthony Wills first filled a cask back in 2005, it seemed almost impossible that he’d need to double his stillhouse in a such a short period of time. Yet the signature Kilchoman smoke paired with its strong island provenance has proved an alluring combination and whisky fans can’t get enough of the island drams.

Here Kilchoman distillery founder Wills chats us through the dilemma and shares details of the project to double capacity at the site…

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