[Trips] Islay Trip - Part 2 - Kilchoman distillery and evening in Port Ellen

Back on the road for the second part of my visit to Islay. We left Bruichladdich at around 3:15 to head to Kilchoman (pronounce “kil-homan”) for the 3:30 visit. 15 minutes to cover 5 miles should be plenty but again, the road to get to Islay’s farm distillery is not the best and we arrived just after 3:30. Unlike at Bruichladdich were the tour was fully booked up, there were only 3 other people on our tour, but I would still recommend you book in advance to avoid any surprise. Kilchoman is Islay smallest and most recent distillery as it only opened in 2005. It is also one of the most authentic as most of the production happens on site, from growing the barley to bottling the end product.

the Malting floor
Peat and Kiln

One of the specificities of Kilchoman is the fact that they still malt some of their own barley on site. Only 7 distilleries have kept a malting floor, 3 of which are on Islay (kilchoman, Bowmore and Laphroaig) The barley they malt is the one they grow and then transform into spirit for their 100% Islay bottling. The distillery is also one of the 2 on Islay -with Bruichladdisch- to have their own bottling facility, with staff filling each bottle by hand. (the other 6 distilleries send their spirit to mainland plants to be bottled before exported) Whilst visiting Kilchoman, you really have a sense of close community between passionate people. Even Anthony Wills, the founder of the Kilchoman distillery, is fully hands on, operating the forklift outside!

Anthony Wills, the founder of the distillery, checking out hand bottling 
We finished the tour in the very nice tasting area where we were presented 3 bottles from which we could select 2 drams: Machir Bay (their standard edition) 100% Islay (apart from the yeast!) and Loch Gorm (a sherry-cask matured version). I tried 100% Islay and Loch Gorm which were both nice for different reason before asking if I could try the Madeira Cask edition I had bought a week ago. And I am glad I did buy it as it tasted fantastic!

Finally, I decided to purchase a bottle of the 10th Anniversary edition as they still had a few left in the shop and got it signed by Anthony Wills himself who spared 10 minutes of his time to have a chat about his product and their plans for the distillery. They have just bought the farm next door to them and are in the process of planning their expansion (keeping it realistic and as authentic as possible of course!). I also asked about this year’s replacement to the Madeira, and it could well be a Cognac edition… Interesting!

Despite being a bit out of the beaten tracks and only a small distillery, Kilchoman is in my opinion definitely worth a visit, and purchasing a bottle for your whisky cabinet (provided you can find one!)

Askernish B&B and the Islay hotel
After a great first afternoon, we headed back to Port Ellen for some food and drinks. Joy, the B&B owner recommended the Islay hotel next door and that is where we decided to eat. The food was good and reasonably priced (around £12 for the burger or fish and chips), the atmosphere too and the whisky menu rather impressive as you can see…

We finished the evening in the Ardview inn which had a much more local vibe to it, with a mix of tourists and distillery workers. The drams on offer seemed to be cheaper than at the hotel too! (£9 for a Bunnahabhain 18 compared to £18 at the hotel…)

All in all, a very good first day on Islay, ready for Bowmore tomorrow!


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