By Father John Rayls
Kilchoman Sanaig Islay Single Malt Scotch is named after a rocky inlet North West of the distillery. According to the distillery manager, John MacLellan, “Sanaig is a bold marriage of sherry and bourbon cask maturation. It is both a continuation of the classic Kilchoman style people know and love as well as a development fans of Kilchoman have yet to experience.” Kilchoman is Islay’s smallest distillery, but it has worldwide aspirations. This particular offering is comprised of Scotch aged 4 – 5 years with 50% in Oloroso sherry casks and 50% in bourbon casks (without chill-filtering and no color added) and bottled at 92 Proof. However, the label does not show its age and it’s offered as an NAS whisky. The distillery plans on this being a permanent offering along side of its Machir Bay. In the beginning, it was released in France before being offered to the world in 2016. Kilchoman was founded in 2005, but not facing the sea. It’s located inland and “disguised” as a farm distillery. With a maximum capacity of about 23,800 gallons, all distillery operations are done locally in a true craftsman style. In an interesting twist, the distillery plans to let their Sanaig Whisky evolve as their offerings continue to age.
The look in the glass is of a dull Fall oak leaf color of golden yellow with just some tint of copper. Bright light brings out the brass highlights. The legs are thin and somewhat loose. The sherry influence is apparent but reserved. On the nose, there are notes of light fruit and floral over the obvious light smoke. It creates a medicinal experience that is still subdued, but medium in intensity overall.
Sanaig has a lightly creamy mouthfeel with most of the action taking place at mid-mouth while activating the entire back of the mouth both top and bottom. On the palette, it is a very short experience with light floral and reticent fruit immersed in an overall medicinal experience. The smoke is always present but it’s not overpowering. The finish kicks in almost immediately and is medium to long. It continues with the medicinal theme with some white pepper adding some serious punch. It finishes with some real heat and encompasses the entire mouth even out to the lips. It comes in a few waves which definitely keeps your attention. Smoke is present throughout the finish and comes with some light sweetness that is just slightly off center with some ashiness. It is a bit dry and you experience it even down the throat.
The Kilchoman Distillery is definitely one you’ll want to keep your eye on. This is an interesting sipping opportunity, particularly if you enjoy the whole peat experience (and I do!). It’s now available from $63.00 to $75.00 from various retail outlets. I would encourage you to consider experimenting with various food pairings and especially with some dark chocolate. You may be greatly surprised by how Scotch is not just for after dinner.