Kilchoman 100% Islay The 5th, 6th and 7th Editions - Which is the best?

Kilchoman 100% Islay The 5th, 6th and 7th Editions - Which is the best?
The Kilchoman 100% Islay 5th Edition, which was released back in 2015 at five years of age, has been readily available here in Israel for some time. Last year, for my annual pilgrimage to Scotland, I brought back the 7th Edition (released in 2017 at seven years old), to compare with my 5th Edition. I have been meaning to write a comparison review for some time now but had just not got around to it. A few weeks ago I was walking around Talpiot, south of Jerusalem and popped into the large wine store there, just by the entrance to the industrial zone. There I spied a bottle of Kilchoman 100% Islay. Assuming it was the 5th Edition, I picked it up in order to check the price but to my amazement, saw that it was in fact the 6th Edition! I decided to purchase a bottle to add to my comparison review. Now I had the opportunity to compare the 5th, 6th and 7th editions.
The Mystery of Israeli Importers

I am frankly baffled as to how the 6th Edition which has been available in the UK for two years with stocks running low there, suddenly makes its appearance here in Israel? Where did these bottles come from? Are we going to get the 7th Edition next year when this is also two-year-old and almost sold out in the UK? While we are on the subject of imports, I noticed that some stores in Tel Aviv are advertising bottles of the limited edition - Lagavulin 12. Prices in the UK are around £90-100. Yet here in Israel, I’ve seen the 2015 Edition (and only this edition) being sold in a few stores in the central region for around 500 shekels, roughly the same price. Then I saw the same 2015 Edition being advertised in a Rosh HaAyin store (Yayin Ba-Irr), for 409 Shekels (£85)! naturally I bought two bottles. The question is why this 2015 Edition (and it hadn’t escaped my notice that both the Kilchoman 5th Edition and the Lagavulin 2015 were bottled in the same year), should now, in 2018, be available in the wine stores here in Israel. I wish I could understand what was going on.

The 8th Edition, bottled in 2018
Kilchoman have announced the 8th edition of Kilchoman 100% Islay. What should have been a reason for celebration has turned into bitter disappointment because, this edition is no longer entirely matured in Ex-Bourbon casks. Kilchoman has stated that there is a significant percentage of 1st Fill Ex-Sherry matured whisky in the vatting which means it will not be appearing on my Kosher Single Malt Scotch Whisky List. Ah well, I’m just going to have to stock up on the earlier editions before they disappear from the shelves.

*UPDATE* it 25th February 2019. It seems the importers have completely bypassed the 7th edition and the 8th edition is popping up in a few places.
Now with Official Vintage Statement

A major difference between the status of the 5th Edition and subsequent ones is that they have reformatted the text of the packaging to be in line with SWA regulations for Vintage statement whiskies. The front text now includes an area where Distillation and Bottling years are stated close together. This then turns the Kilchoman 100% Islay from being a NAS (Non Aged Statement) whisky into an official Vintage statement, just like Balblair or GlenRothes. However, they have done it in such a way that you would hardly notice the difference.
A Criticism on Packaging:

Apart from this very subtle Vintage details change, the 5th/6th/7th Edition boxes, sitting side by side on a store shelf, look identical which is, in my opinion, a very big mistake. There is a tiny diagonal strip with the edition number in tiny text but you would not notice this unless you were, like me, specifically looking for it.


Why did they not want to make a clear differentiation between editions? In my opinion, this is a big marketing mistake. Why discourage Kilchoman lovers from purchasing and collecting the different editions? The near identical packaging conveys the message that they are all more or less the same whisky, which, as I am about to describe, could not be further from the truth!

I have reviewed the 5th Edition in an earlier blog so I’ll simply recap here on the basic tasting notes. As I mentioned back then, the 4th Edition which I sampled at the distillery was too young and new make spirit immature. Promising but not quite ready and not worth handing over cash for. The 5th Edition, just 12 months older, simply blew me away with its huge character and complexity and only 5-years-old!  This has become one of my all-time favourite single malts.
The baseline Flavour Profile

All editions are bottled at 50% abv, Non Chill Filtered and Natural Colour.
The Kilchoman 100% Islay flavour profile incorporates a powerful sweet wet earthy peaty smoky nose. Heather honey and buttery freshly baked wet apple pie, Horlicks Malt drink made with milk. White wine and Sea Salt granules. Fresh wood spices with a touch of burnt saw dust. Creamy Porridge, cooked with milk, lime juice and more Sea-salt crystals sprinkled on top. There is a touch of slightly burnt oat and treacle cake, poured into a granite bowl that still has some granite dust left on the bottom. Richly brewed English tea with milk made with a touch of fresh sea water.

With water added it becomes fruitier and creamier. Lemon and BBQ Banana Meringue pie filling. Finish has loads of soft heather honey, roasted citrus and banana on a barbeque with a generous sprinkling of a variety of dry spices, oat cake and sea-salt crystals.
The 6th Edition has the same baseline flavour profile as the 5th Edition but with a different emphasise on each flavour. The earthiness has been toned down along with the creamy porridge and the fruitiness flavours enhanced. The 6th is lighter in character with some lovely white and yellow fruit sweetness. Direct comparisons between the 5th and 6th Editions leads me to the conclusion that, as much as I love the 5th Edition, I love the 6th Edition even more. It seems more balanced. I also feel that the 6th Edition is more approachable as some people might be put off by the 5th Edition dominant earthy soil peat flavours. These are still present in the 6th Edition but they are presented in a politer fashion. The finish of 6th Edition is shorter, yet is less feisty and shows more fruit, wood and honey.
The 7th Edition, only a year older than the 6th, is lighter still. Delicious as it is, those creamy porridge and earthy peaty flavours I personally so much love in the previous editions, are almost entirely missing now, leaving dominant but elegant fruitiness and wood spices. As delightfully tasty as it is, I miss the heavier flavour notes of the 5th and 6th Editions yet, this 7th Edition could possibly appeal to a wider audience, those not into the heavier peat monsters.
Blind Smelling Test Game Party Piece

So confident was I of the differences between these three expressions of the same whisky that I devised a simple blind tasting test for myself.
I placed these three editions on the table with three Glencairn glasses, namely Aberlour, Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila, (A, B and C), so as to make it easier for the tester to remember the order. I left the room and the tester poured the three editions in random order. I was then told to return. I added a drop of water to each glass and then smelt each one. The difference is as clear as night and day. The strongest and most pungent earthy peaty aroma and heaviest of the three was quite obviously the 5th edition, without any doubt at all!
The one with slightly less earthy peaty smell but nonetheless, still very much present, with a lighter and fruitier and floral aroma was obviously the 6th edition. This left by default, the lightest of the three, the 7th edition. You can tell within seconds. I am not exaggerating in the slightest. It really is that easy.
Conclusion: The 5th, 6th and 7th Editions - Which is the best?
Which one do I like best? Well, the 7th comes in last. It’s delicious but a little too flavour light in my opinion. The 5th edition may be a wee bit too overpowering in earthy burnt oily butter flavours for many but Peat Heads will surely love this. I really love the 5th Edition and I mean, really love it. It’s been on my top five all-time best whiskies for years. But you know what? The 6th edition might just have pipped it to the post. It maintains that earthy, burnt buttery creamy porridge flavour but it’s lighter and shows more of a spicy wood cask influence. The 7th is really delicious but compared to the earlier editions, has gone too far and is lacking a lot of the Kilchoman peat influence.
Time to nail my colours to the mast. My personal favourite of the three expressions is the 6th edition. However, perhaps the 7th Edition will appeal to a wider audience. The 5th Edition is for the peat heads like me who enjoy a full In-Your-Face raw peaty burnt earthy heavy whisky experience.
The Kilchoman 100% Islay is currently my all-time favourite single malt. True, it doesn’t have the rich wood influence which can only come from more matured single malts like the Laphroaig 18, Caol Ila 18 etc… but for complexity, character and sheer whisky enjoyment, the Kilchoman 100% Islay does it for me more than any other single malt, at any price!


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