A week at Kilchoman Part-1

Posted by Leo | Posted in , , , | Posted on 16:21

Kilchoman is a new farm distillery on the west coast of Islay that has just released it's inaugural 3yo single malt. I was lucky enough to spend a salubrious week there in early September 2009, learning how the 'Tasty tasty whisky' is made!
The following is a brief rundown on what I got up to whilst at that fine establishment!

My first view of Kilchoman from the carpark out the back. The main structure in the centre contains, the malting floor below and the kiln in the tower above. To the right of the picture you can just see the warehouse where a number of the maturing barrels are stored.

Peaty water is taken from the big white holding tanks and combined with the barley in the stainless vessel above, in a process called steeping. The barley is steeped three times for 8-10 hours each then spread out over the malting floor.

During this time the barley germinates (starts to grow). It is left on the floor for 5-7 days depending on the temperature and turned regularly so as to not heat up to much. At the end of this time it is carried up to the kiln floor in a series of mechanical buckets, though some mug has to shovel it in to the chute. It's fun for a while but the novelty soon wears off!

The kiln is then stoked up with a load of peat and the ensuing fire imparts the characteristic smokey Islay style, whilst drying the malted barley. Ten hours of drying imparts about 35-40ppm of phenols into the barley.

The dried malted barley is then 'milled' in a large industrial style mill. This one used live in a brewery on the mainland. The barley needs to be ground to a very specific consistency to enable the maximum amount of sugars to be extracted. At Kilchoman the makeup is 18% husk, 70% middle or grist and 12% flour.

Stay tuned for Part-2 (when I get motivated), where we will look at the mashing and distilling processes...............................................................................

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