Where There's Smoke, There's Peat
Kilchoman is a small distillery on the famed Hebridean whisky island called Islay. These folks have the distinction of being the first new distillery on Islay in 125 years and they are taking the responsibility very seriously. Recently, the Jack Rose Saloon in our nation's capital hosted an amazing 10th birthday party for the whisky and the ticketed event attracted about 150 enthusiasts to share in tasting a staggering 13 different expressions of this young and feisty Islay malt with an additional 30 available for purchase! James Wills, the son of Kilchoman's founder, and Jared Card, a representative of the brand's importers were on hand to educate and to charm us all. Besides being the newest member of the storied family of Islay distillers, Kilchoman is offering a malty addition to the growing movement of farm to table producers. Much of their whisky is made from barley grown on their family owned farm. The water is, of course, local and the production is pure Islay. These whiskies are smokey, peaty and delicious! As we moved from bottle to bottle to experience the breadth, depth and creativity expressed in each dram, we found ourselves making new friends and delving into discussions that would drive the uninitiated into either boredom or fits of mirth (ah.. this one has a citrus note that gives way to a hint of campfire s'mores before finishing in a burst of peat reek).... So.... I'm wandering about in a malt fueled wonderland in a bar that allows smoking, and while much has been made of whisky/cigar pairing, much less has been made of whisky/pipe combinations. I decided that I would give it a go out in public to see if my fellow imbibers would notice. I pulled out one of my trusty Conductas packed full of Dunhill's famous 965 and set fire to leaf. The result was immediate and startling. Within 5 minutes I had a small group of men and women half my age gathered around asking questions and marveling at my pipe. I soon found myself showing it around for inspection and then, as if in some latakia and malt inspired flashback, I found that my little group of whisky geeks were puffing on the pipe and passing it around the table! Now this may seem horrifying to some and funny to most, but really what we had was a new community forming around two very old endeavors and I was actually a bit pleased. I am also pleased to announce that everyone loved the experience and that the pipe survived it admirably. As far as I know, no one has contracted any exotic diseases. Oh, and I should mention that Dunhill's 965 when paired with a Kilchoman single cask and smoked in one of Rolando's Conductas creates a marvelous synergy where the rich smokiness of the latakia and the tart sweetness of the Virginias wrap themselves around Kilchoman's signature crisp and salty sea spray profile.... Slainte!
James Wills, Warren Wigutow and Jared Card Photo credit: Larry Davidson