Kilchoman (pronounced kill-ho-man) is one of the newest distilleries in Scotland, and the newest distillery on the island of Islay (until Ardnahoe opens its doors this May). Founded in 2005 by former-independent bottler Anthony Wills, Kilchoman is a true “farm distillery”. Situated on Islay’s Rockside Farm, Kilchoman has a couple thousand acres of farmland leased that it cultivates and grows its own barley on to use for distilling. This means that along with all the regular distillery trappings (malting floor, still room, kiln, bottling plant, visitor’s center, etc) you will also find a large cow shed (filled with cows) and lots of farm equipment on site. Kilchoman’s goal is to be 100% self sustained – from growing the barley onsite all the way to bottling onsite. At this point in its young career it is very nearly there; to meet supply needs, Kilchoman sources a small percent of its needed barley from Port Ellen, and while its current warehouses are under construction it is borrowing warehouse space from its other Islay neighbors to age its stock.
In typical Islay fashion, Kilchoman produces peated whisky, although it is not as heavily peated as the likes of Ardbeg or Lagavulin. The barley that is grown onsite is peated in Kilchoman’s kiln to 20-25 ppm, while the portion that is sourced from Port Ellen is peated to a more traditional 40-45 ppm (the same level as Ardbeg). Kilchoman ages about 80% of its spirit in first fill ex-bourbon barrels sourced from Buffalo Trace, with much of the remainder aged in first fill Oloroso sherry casks sourced from Miguel Martin in Jerez. Kilchoman also experiments with a number of other cask types such as port, sauternes, and madiera, which are released time to time as limited edition or single cask bottlings. From a production capacity standpoint, Kilchoman is tiny. They operate just one wash and one spirit still, both of which are relatively small, churning out less than 200,000 liters/year (by comparison, Ardbeg has the next-lowest annual output on Islay and is over 1,000,000 liters).
Kilchoman has three core continuous-release whiskies, which are differentiated by their cask type composition:
-Machir Bay: Predominantly ex-bourbon with some ex-sherry
-Sanaig: Predominantly ex-sherry with some ex-bourbon
-Loch Gorm: 100% ex-sherry