From Barley to Bottle

It’s raining horizontally. The wind is so strong it drives the rain into every last dry crevice.

English: rain

The gloomy gray clouds cover the sky, unrelenting as they belch out another round. There’s a hole in my boot.

I’m on vacation.

And loving it.

Nowhere else in the world will you find me with a smile plastered from ear to ear in these very conditions … unless it is Scotland.

In particular, Islay.

I love the place so much I find myself scribbling the name on every dusty truck hatch and barn window. I’ve attempted to christen certain parts of the mountain top with the name. I pleaded with the family to let us name one of the animals Islay—except that they all possessed names already. And no one was that keen to retrain.

In the end, they settled for a slide show.

I was sent to this magic land to learn the art of spirit making. To stand at the sides of master distillers as they tinkered with knobs and stirred the vast cauldrons, sniffed at their potions and tasted elixirs. It was the Hogwarts of Scotch.

Drum roll please. I went to the Bruichladdich Academy. (Insert giant cymbal crash here.)

Now, if you want to find out all that happened there—this birthday present of a lifetime escapade, you’ll have to come back for it later. Because today I am reviewing a different Islay treasure. Kilchoman.

Built in 2005, Kilchoman is the first distillery to be bred from Islay soil in almost 125 years. It’s a sweet little farm where the equipment used in the facility looks like dollhouse versions in comparison to her massive big run counterparts. Tiny mash tuns, itty bitty wash backs, miniature copper stills. Big dreams, huge effort, massive success.

The thing I love most about this distillery is that everything—from barley to bottle—is credited to them and their efforts. And the proof that good things come to those who work their arses off is bottled and labeled as the Inaugural 100% Islay 2011 Release. (click here)

Color: Like that of a fair Disney maiden.

Nose: Citrus, vanilla, Islay breezes.

Palate: Buttery shortbread and a sliver of peat smoke.

Finish: I hope it never does.

Everyone tastes something unique to their tongue, the nose, their memories. Try not to let a book or a bottle tell you what’s what. My advice to you is not to spend the thousands of dollars and thousands of hours it takes to make your way to Islay in order to tour the tiny distillery farm of Kilchoman. It takes 45 minutes.

great  rain skirtInvest the money in buying a bottle and bring the distillery to you. Again and again and again.


Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what I’ve been blethering on about this week in the main post (here).


8 thoughts on “From Barley to Bottle

  1. am i the only whiskeyO-haullick who roams the W library? will try to find 100% Islay 2011. but azzyoo-know, i reside in the desert. a friend calls where-ever we are “the grate amerikin mind desert”

    • Sadly, yes. Although perhaps there’s some wonky porthole that only you and a sprinkling of others have stumbled upon. I do believe we are saturated with much too much to read these days and getting heard above the noise is a true and sometimes impossible challenge.
      The whisky bits I write because I adore the craft and storytelling of it–just about as much as I enjoy the sharing of the real deal.
      Marketing efforts are being exhausted on my other writing endeavours. One must prioritise.
      Makes me happy to see you’re spending the time though, Jay. A million thanks for that. 🙂

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