Review: Kilchoman Machir Bay

Like the jagged remnants of The Wreck of the Patti in Machir Bay, the nose of this Kilchoman pokes its head defiantly above the rolling waves of whisky as I swirl the liquid around. Aromas of peat and ocean waves come unforgiving like the sea itself, long before I nose the glass. A trickle of hope flutters into my mind, will this be a peat-full wonder that has not yet gone up massively in price?

Let’s dramble on and find out!

Tasting Notes: Kilchoman Machir Bay

Stats:

ABV: 46% (92 proof)

Age: NAS

Distillery: Kilchoman Distillery

Owned by: Anthony Wills (family-owned)

Category: Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Awards: IWSC Gold (2022), IWSC Silver (2017), The Spirits Business Gold (2019, 2022) International Spirits Challenge Gold (2022)

Chill-Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Setting:

An eventful day behind me, it’s finally time to sit back and relax. What better way to do just that than with a nice dram! Jacob Banks is playing in the background while I’m lounging back in my chair, keyboard on my lap. I’ve poured two ounces of Machir Bay neat into my Glencairn, ready to dive into this wee review of mine.

Nose:

You can’t see the bogs for the peat with this one at first. Thick whisps of it come pouring out of the glass, as if it’s warning you to approach with caution. But like most things that bark, it doesn’t bite. As you approach you start getting softer tones of vanilla, thick custard, and honey from the comb. There’s some caramel fudge hidden in there as well and I find that the more I go back to the glass, the less peat I pick up. I seem to become more tuned in to the sweeter side of this dram. A drop of water reveals some moss and the earth underneath. A smell reminiscent of playing in the forest as a child, right before the morning dew wore off.

Palate:

The sip lands gently on the tongue, with the flavours subtle and subdued. There’s vanilla, a very mild apple, and a hint of black pepper on the sides of the tongue. But as you start to bring it into motion (by swirling it around in your mouth), the flavours seem to come alive. All the previous notes get tuned up and sea spray and peat start to pop up their heads. And as you swallow, it roars like the rolling of the waves. It’s the calm and the storm, all-in-one. A drop of water seems to turn the volume up on the pepper a bit and the salty note becomes more present as well.

Finish:

The first things that pop up on the finish are liquorice and bay leaf (we have a bay leaf liquorice here in the Netherlands that comes very close flavour-wise). A little bit of the pepper lingers here as well and there’s a citrus note (lemon) that I did not pick up on before. The longer you wait, the more the once bay leaf liquorice becomes salted liquorice. And some Fisherman Friends also comes to mind. It’s almost as if I’m delving into my grandparents’ pockets in church again to see if they still have something to snack on while I wait for the sermon to end. The finish is quite long, but its intensity does wind down quite rapidly. However, that does not make it any less pleasant. A drop of water does not seem to change it all that much, aside from making the flavours a little more present.

Verdict:

Let’s not say it too loudly, but this is a very nice peated Islay. And unlike many of my other favourite Islay’s, this one has not yet exploded in price. You can find this for under 40 euro most of the time and while it might not be the most complex dram, at that price it’s very good value. There’s a nice balance between the ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso Sherry butts going on and while you might be able to pick up on its relatively young age, it blows many a competitor in its price range out of the water.

I’d strongly advise you to pick one up if peat is what you’re looking for. But if you like that very same peat mellowed out by a little more sherry influence like a Lagavulin… Kilchoman do have other offerings that might suit you more. It might not be a peat-full wonder, but it’s a very nice peated dram for a fair price, nonetheless.

Rating:

86/100

Value:

B+ (the plus because other peated Islay’s have gone up so much in price)

Click here to learn more about how I come up with my tasting notes and how I determine rating and value.

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