Sitting in The Dock With A Bay

Taste Review #83 – Kilchoman Sanaig

Very recently it seems as though we have been stuck in a regional rut. It has been noticed that I have only been reviewing blends or single malts from the Highland or Speyside region. While that could be down to the fact that the majority of whiskies in Scotland come from these two regions, it is important not to ignore the other three Scotch Whisky Regions.

It has been some time since I reviewed an Islay Whisky, going back to the start of the year in which I reviewed a 15 yr old Bowmore. We have to go back even further until I find the last time that I reviewed a Kilchoman Whisky, the NAS Machir Bay. This whisky seems to be named after the Sanaigmore Bay to the north of the Kilchoman distillery, and is probably called the shorter name to avoid bay confusion with the Machir release. I’ve had to look back my notes on the Machir Bay, as from what I remember it wasn’t to my taste, although many people like it. Bit like pineapple on a pizza, but I’m proud enough to say I embrace that, but wasn’t so sure that I liked the whisky that tasted like a young Ardbeg.

Kilchoman Sanaig

As I said in my last review, (click here to read) the Kilchoman Distillery sits on the west coast of Islay, and is one of the few distilleries in Scotland that still utilise a traditional floor malting. They also use barley from Islay in their 100% Islay bottlings which is peated to around 20ppm, whereas the standard peat level is around the 50ppm level. Malted barley is also bought from the nearby Port Ellen maltings.

As Machir Bay concentrated mostly on Bourbon casks, I was certain that I may enjoy the Sanaig more, which leans more towards the sherry casks. With no further ado, lets see if this was the case.


Kilchoman Sanaig

Region – Islay Age – NAS Strength – 46% Colour – Deep Copper (1.0) Cask Type – Mostly Sherry Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – sweet peat smoke. More like a Highland peat rather than Islay, Burnt Wood, ashes, Toffee, vanilla, dried fruit, antiseptic. Palate – Quite sweet smokey peat, spicy on the arrival with a fizz on the tongue. A hint of brine, then the sweetness increases with a note of green apples, caramel, powdered chocolate. There is always the medicinal peat note in the background. Finish – Medium. the burnt wood comes out again, tempering the medicinal notes. The brine comes into play a bit more with a sour citrus note. 

The Dram


My suspicions were quickly confirmed that I would enjoy this whisky more than Machir Bay. Like the Machir Bay, the whisky does seem a little on the young side, and I would guess around 5 years. Now this doesn’t make a bad whisky and I felt the Sanaig was a little bit more balanced than the Machir Bay. Adding water killed a lot of the spicy notes for me, and gave a clingy mouth feel, almost syrupy.

While I did indeed think more of this whisky, it still wasn’t for me. It was a decent dram, but not to my taste. I am wondering why this is, as I like Sherry, I like Peated Whisky and young whisky doesn’t phase me. Perhaps I need to try other Kilchoman editions. I have no doubt that this will find appeal with others, but like pineapple with pizza or jam and cheese sandwiches, it isn’t necessarily for everybody.

Is this good value? A full size bottle will cost about £50 and to me, that is the upper price I will pay for a young NAS whisky. I would suggest other whiskies from Islay may produce better value. The miniature that I bought from the Whisky Shop Dufftown cost about £8 which while expensive for what it is, presented me with a good opportunity to try this whisky without committing with to the whole bottle.

Yours In Spirits


Index of tastings here

Index of articles here

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Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

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