The newest distillery on the island, Kilchoman sprung up in 2005 at Rockside Farm. It is the second operating distillery in the Rhinns of Islay, the western peninsula of the island, and is a modern take on the farm distiller – it grows grain, malts it, and uses it to make whisky, all on the same site.
The grain from the farm cannot fulfil all of Kilchoman’s needs, so grain malted at the distillery is mixed with smokier malt from Port Ellen for most production. However, being in the unique position of being able to handle every part of the whisky-making process, Kilchoman produces a small amount of 100% Islay whisky, with every step of the process up to, and in some cases including, bottling done on site.
It is not only the location that harks back to the golden age of farm distillers. Kilchoman is also old fashioned in its production methods, using long fermentations and slow distillation to maximise flavour in its new-make spirit. From the outset the intention was to bottle the whisky when relatively young, and this further ties in with the historic style and approach – Kilchoman is a intense and smoky dram that would not feel out of place in the 1800s.
However, as the distillery’s oldest stocks have now broken the 10-year maturation mark, more elegant and well-aged drams are also on the cards – there is definitely more to come from Kilchoman.
The entire set-up at Kilchoman is designed to create a rich, fruity and smoky whisky that is good to drink young. The combination of fermentation times of around 120 hours and small stills with long lyne arms gives a background fruitiness to the new-make. The majority of the malt used comes from Port Ellen and is peated to around 50ppm.