The first time I tasted Kilchoman Sanaig I felt rather “meh” about it and didn’t bother picking up a bottle. Then, at a tasting, I had some from a friend’s bottle that had been open for a while and I changed my tune. I went from “meh” to “pretty good” that night and decided to pick up a bottle and dig into this funky little malt a bit more.
In Kilchoman’s Words: Kilchoman Sanaig
“Sanaig, a small rocky inlet North West of the distillery is the name given to this continuously available release. Sanaig has a predominantly sherry cask influence owing to the significant time spent in oloroso sherry Hogsheads. These aged oloroso casks contribute a drastically transformed depth of colour and character compared to the mostly Bourbon cask matured Machir Bay. “A beautiful marriage of bourbon and sherry maturation balanced with classic Islay peat smoke and light citrus sweetness” Anthony Wills, Founder. Sanaig was awarded Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Non Age Statement at the IWSC 2016.”
It’s not wholly accurate to say that it’s the exact opposite of Machir Bay which is 90% ex-Bourbon and 10% ex-Sherry, but it’s also not far from the truth. I’ve been told different estimates that range from 70-80% ex-sherry and 30-20% ex-Bourbon with the sherry being a mix of first-fill and refill hogsheads. Could be purposeful masking, could also be it changes a bit year to year.
On to the Kilchoman Sanaig review!
Kilchoman Sanaig Info
Region: Islay, Scotland
Mashbill: 100% Malted Barley
Cask: ex-Sherry (majority) & ex-Bourbon (minority)
Non-Chill Filtered | Natural Color
Kilchoman Sanaig Review
Burnt cocoa, raisins, peat, apples, roasted malt, minerality, spice and a touch of cinnamon oil and hazelnuts.
Char, dark fruit, peat, minerality, orange peel, smoked meat, floral and a bit of saline.
Long fade of char, cocoa, peat, dark fruit and spice.
BALANCE, BODY & FEEL
Decent balance, medium body and a smooth easy feel.
You have to let the Kilchoman Sanaig breathe. When it first rolls out it’s an unruly ball of char and smoke, but let it catch its breath and good things begin to happen. Sweetness, oils and earthier notes arrive and get pinned together with the peat. It’s an exercise in patience.
This is a good whisky after it’s had a moment to wake up and realize it’s about to be drunk but all things considered it doesn’t blow me away like the rest of the standard Kilchoman lineup. A lineup which is one of the most complex and stunning of anyone’s out there. It’s truly a marvel of what they’ve achieved and for the Kilchoman Sanaig to be their lowest performer, that’s saying something.
SCORE: 85/100 (B)
Kilchoman Sanaig Review - Score Breakdown
- Nose - 85
- Palate - 85
- Finish - 85
- Balance, Body & Feel - 85
Kilchoman Sanaig is not bad, not great, but on the upside of OK.