When it was founded in 2005, Kilchoman distillery not only had the distinction of being Islay’s first new distillery in 124 years, but it is also the first (and only) Single Farm Single Malt. That means that every stage of the whisky-making process is done at Kilchoman, from barley grown in the fields around the distillery to bottling on site — a rarity in today’s whisky-making world where barley are sourced from other farms, maltings are done on industrial scales, and bottling is carried out hundreds of miles away from the distillery, often near Glasgow.
All this fuss about locality adds up to one thing for the whisky geek: the chance to experience what a ‘pure’ Islay single malt is about. This isn’t a knock on other Islay distilleries, but rather it emphasises the uniqueness of Islay by using barley grown on the island, which is notoriously difficult given its relatively harsh conditions; and ageing in local warehouses near the coast.
So with that in mind, we looked to Anthony Wills, the founder and Managing Director of Kilchoman, to talk us through the making of Sanaig, a core offering is made from a vatting of sherry and bourbon casks. Unlike the ex-bourbon heavy Machir Bay, however, Sanaig has a higher proportion of Oloroso sherry influence, adding balance of dried fruits and spices to classic Kilchoman citrus sweetness and peat smoke character.