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Kilchoman 2012 100% Islay ‘unpeated’ (2012/2020, OB for Royal Mile Whiskies, 56,4%)

A month ago the internet was invaded by photos of this space-time paradox: an ex-Bourbon single cask from Kilchoman, the most farmy distillery in Islay, famous for making heavily peated whisky (50ppm for the standard versions, 20ppm for 100% Islay); an exclusive release for Royal Mile Whiskies, a shop on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile that sold us the two bottles that then ignited the spark that brought us here, to write our bull***t for twenty-five readers sharing the same perversion. Oh well, however – you may say – where is the strangeness, why should this bottle be a paradox? Kilchoman makes a lot of single casks! Well done, you’re attentive: but this is a Kilchoman 100% Islay… unpeated!, which means that’s not supposed to be a peaty whisky: the result of a period when the kiln distillery was broken, back in 2011. A friend whose passion is as great as his waist didn’t wait an instant, and ordered a bottle immediately: today, thanks to his voracity, we review.

N: perfumed, with notes of resinous wood and pine cones. There is a coherent dimension of… sauna, a scent of ylang ylang, or sandalwood. Then – as in the sauna – that thread of smoke like hot stones comes out: a bit of peat is there (and on the other hand, if you don’t wash the receivers…). Behind this mist is bourbon: a pastry with custard and a slice of mandarin, flambé banana, vanilla. Two drops of water refresh it: green apple and aloe.

P: soft, again mandarin and a little medlar. Barley – as is often the case with Kilchoman – can be felt, clearly. It remains that peaty thread, light but still irreducible. The island’s DNA is added, with something savoury and coastal. The barrel is beautifully loaded and continues on the notes of yellow fruit and vanilla (all present but all sober, light) and mint, which with dilution is even more evident..

F: again mineral peat, bourbon sweetness and olive oil. Long.

Pleasant, not particularly complex but very solid. Malt, bourbon and sea peat, the perfect match… A whisky without flaws, very fresh, with an unusual resinous note that intrigues. Of course, if you expect a totally unpeated malt (which according to the label was a legitimate expectation…), you will be disappointed. As is often the case with unpeated Caol Ilas, the result is never 100% free of the influence of peat. Here too ppms, however slight, can be felt. And maybe that’s good, because they add a lovely depth. 87/100.

Recommended soundtrack: Steve King – Satan is her name.

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