The island of Helgoland is a popular holiday destination for German drammers. Since it is located in the open sea, the taxes on tobacco and alcohol are not as high there as they are on the mainland. Therefore, you can score all kinds of awesome bargains in Helgoland’s many liquor stores. One address that no whisky-loving traveler to Helgoland should miss is Heiner’s Duty Free Shop (AKA Helgoheiner) on the so-called “Oberland” (which is the part of the island with the highest altitude). Specialized in independent bottlings, it carries an amazing assortment of limited editions and single cask releases. In addition to the products of other whisky companies, the store’s owner Heiner Stepper also sells his own exclusives. When I visited him yesterday, I instantly fell in love with a 4-year-old Kilchoman 100% Islay from a PX sherry cask. It was bottled in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Heiner’s Duty Free Shop. Previously, I had never stumbled upon a single cask bottling from the 100% Islay range; let alone one that was drawn from a sherry cask! To me, that alone is already a good reason to make a purchase. But it is not the only reason, of course. Cause this young Kilchoman is nothing less than tongue-pleasing, mind-baffling Islay magic in a bottle. The only hurdle: It is exclusively available at Heiner’s Duty Free Shop. If you happen to go to Helgoland anytime soon, be sure to try a dram. And if not, keep your eyes open for other single casks from Kilchoman with similar details and characteristics. If they developed anyway near as good as this one, you can buy them blindly.
Eye: Sandy-brown with a tint of bronze.
Nose: A beautiful interplay of sweetness, fruitiness and smokiness: Imagine creamy strawberry bonbons enshrouded in cold cigarette puff. Other aromas include sweet vanilla milk, charred chimney wood, fresh tree bark and soft, brown bananas. The nose is so good that I was already in love with this whisky before I had even swallowed a single drop of it.
Palate: At first, I get an intense raisin and berry sweetness. Hello, PX cask! Then follows a refreshing lemon juice spritzer. Underneath, sweet malt, crisp barley and chocolate-larded cereals form a solid foundation. The ashy smoke is less strong on the tongue – rather than taking the lead, it plays an accentuating role here. Additionally, I also get a peculiar (but awesome) note that reminds me of wet cellar walls. The whisky’s youth is barely noticable (if it is noticable at all). In a blind tasting, I would never have taken Heiner’s single cask release for a 4-year-old. Which is not surprising, given the fact that Kilchoman have completely mastered the art of maturing whisky way beyond its actual age.
Finish: How can a young, peated Islay malt with nearly 60 per cent ABV leave the oral cavity THAT smoothly? To be honest, I have no idea. But still: This Kilchoman 4yo from a PX cask has an immensely gentle finish. Its final notes are those of cigarette butts, bramble jelly, mushy peaches, toasted raisin bread and bonfires by the beach. Thankfully, these tasty flavors remain present on the tongue for a good while.
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Region: Scotland (Islay)
Age: 4yo (2015/2020)
Alc. volume: 58.3 per cent
Bottle size: 0.7 litres
Price range: ~80.00 Euro
Limitation: 342 bottles
More info: http://www.kilchomandistillery.com (Distillery)