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Kilchoman Distillery | Islay’s Only Farm Distillery

Last Updated: September 7, 2023

Opened in 2005, Kilchoman Distillery was the first distillery to be built on Islay since Bunnahabhain in 1883. As a relatively young distillery, Kilchoman released their first single malt in 2009 (the 3-year-old Inaugural Release). In 2015 Kilchoman Distillery became fully integrated as a Farm Distillery, with the acquisition of neighbouring Rockside Farm. Thirty per cent of Kilchoman Distillery's barley is grown on Rockside Farm and goes into producing their 100% Islay Barley Whisky.

A visit to Kilchoman Distillery provides an excellent opportunity to visit one of the few Farm Distilleries in Scotland.

Sepia toned photograph of Kilchoman Distillery Malt House, and Kiln with Pagoda Stack.

Sepia toned photograph of Kilchoman Distillery Malt House, and Kiln with Pagoda Stack.

How to Pronounce Kilchoman

Pronounced 'kill-ho-man'.

Kilchoman Whisky

Non-chill filtered and natural coloured (no E150a), Kilchoman's core range consists of:

Both of these whiskies are available in a handy gift pack.

Kilchoman Distillery was awarded a Gold and Silver medallion from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2019; Sanaig won Gold for "being an exceptional spirit that is near the pinnacle of achievement and sets the standard for its category", and Machir Bay was awarded Silver for being "an outstanding spirit that shows refinement, finesse, and complexity as well as being amongst the best examples of its category".

Kilchoman whisky is not as widely distributed as some of the other Islay whiskies - if you're in Australia for instance, have a look at Nicks.com.au as they have an excellent range available.

The 2014 Loch Gorm has a "mature arrival for such a young whisky" but not a lot of complexity. Ralfy recommends adding at least 1/2 a teaspoon of water (he adds one) which results in a dram that is "still spirity but extended now, bigger, more voluminous, more complex ... then latterly get a little bit of brown sugar, sultana, vanilla, and additional honey coming through from the cask".

Where is Kilchoman Distillery?

Kilchoman Distillery is on the west coast of Islay, Scotland, 11.7 miles (18.8 km) from Bowmore, and 19.8 miles (31.9km) from the Port Ellen Ferry Terminal.

Kilchoman Distillery Tours, Pricing & Bookings

The visitor centre and cafe are open 7 days year round from 9.45am – 5pm. Tours are available 7 days (Monday to Sunday) during summer months, Sunday to Friday from 1st September to 31st October, and Monday to Friday only from 1st November.

Classic Tour

Classic Distillery Tours run at 10:00 am and 1:30pm , costs £10 per person over 18 years and £5 per child aged 8 to 17. The Classic Tour takes approximately 1 hour and includes background information on the distillery as well as an explanation of the complete whisky making process that you will see as you move through the distillery, from the malt floor through to the bottling line. The tour includes a tasting of two Kilchoman whiskies and a Kilchoman glass for you to take home. Drivers drams (takeaway samples) are available on request. Children under the age of 8 years old are permitted on the tour but you'll need to let the distillery know in advance of their attendance. Online bookings are available.

Limited Edition Tasting and Tour

Premium Distillery Tours run at at 11:00 am, costs £40 per person (18 years and older only) and takes approximately 2 hours. The Premium Tour includes a more in-depth look at Kilchoman's Farm Distillery philosophy, what makes their single malt so unique, and what plans they have for the future. A tutored tasting of the core range is provided afterwards, and a lunch package can also be booked for group sizes of six (6) or more. Online bookings are available.

Roving Tasting

A moving tasting experience and tour - sample a different Kilchoman whisky in each of the main distillery production areas, including the Malt Floor, Kiln and Warehouse, then head back to the visitor centre for a dram of the latest distillery only (limited edition) single cask release. The Roving Tasting Tour runs at 2:30 pm, costs £25 per person (18 years and older only) and takes approximately 90 minutes. Online bookings are available.

Group Bookings

Group bookings for 12 or more persons can be booked privately, and lunch packages can also be arranged.

View the Kilchoman Distillery Booking Page for more information.

Kilchoman Distillery Images

Buffalo Trace whiskey casks for filling at Kilchoman Distillery, Islay, Scotland. Black and white photograph

Buffalo Trace whiskey casks for filling at Kilchoman Distillery, Islay, Scotland.

Buffalo Trace Casks in the Kilchoman Distillery courtyard, awaiting filling.

Buffalo Trace Casks in the Kilchoman Distillery courtyard, awaiting filling.

Auger conveyor built into Kilchoman's Malt Floor to help move the malted barley from the floor to the grain silos. Kilchoman Distillery grow and malt 30% of their barley (200 tons annually), and the remainder is obtained from Diageo via the Port Ellen Maltings. Kilchoman malt 2 tonnes of barley every week, though they're looking to increase production with additional malt floors.

The kiln at Kilchoman Distillery. The peating process takes roughly 10 hours, bringing the peatyness of the barley up to around 20-25 ppm. Unpeated hot air is then used for a further 40 hours to thoroughly dry the grain. After drying in the kiln, the barley will be stored for at least 2 weeks prior to milling and mashing.

One of Kilchoman's Mash Tuns - it holds 1.2 tonne of grist. Up to 4,600 litres of water is added at a time over 3 mash cycles, producing 6,000 litres of wort. A second mash tun was added in 2020.

Kilchoman Distillery were able to procure a Porteus Patent Malt Mill from an old Yorkshire brewery. It's quite a bit smaller than the mills you'll find at Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain. Black and white photograph

Kilchoman Distillery were able to procure a Porteus Patent Malt Mill from an old Yorkshire brewery. It's quite a bit smaller than the mills you'll find at Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain.

Black and white photograph of four of the sixteen washbacks at Kilchoman Distillery.

Four of the fourteen washbacks at Kilchoman Distillery. Each washback holds 6000 L. The fermentation time of the wort is around 84 hours.

The original Spirit safe and spirit still at Kilchoman Distillery. The spirit still is charged with 2000 lires of low wines and produces 300 litres of 'heart' - roughly 1700 litres of foreshots and feints are re-distilled with the low-wines from the wash still. Black and white photograph

The original Spirit safe and spirit still at Kilchoman Distillery. The spirit still is charged with 2000 litres of low wines and produces 300 litres of 'heart' - roughly 1700 litres of foreshots and feints are re-distilled with the low-wines from the wash still. A second pair of stills were added in 2023.

The original Spirit safe and spirit still at Kilchoman Distillery. The spirit still is charged with 2000 lires of low wines and produces 300 litres of 'heart' - roughly 1700 litres of foreshots and feints are re-distilled with the low-wines from the wash still. Black and white photograph

The original spirit still at Kilchoman Distillery. The spirit still is charged with 2000 litres of low wines and produces 300 litres of 'heart' - roughly 1700 litres of foreshots and feints are re-distilled with the low-wines from the wash still. A second spirit still was added in 2023. Annual production is now around 900,000 litres per annum.

Open wash still steaming at Kilchoman Distillery as the pot ale waste liquid drains away. It will be re-used as fertiliser on the Kilchoman Distillery farm.

Open wash still steaming at Kilchoman Distillery as the pot ale waste liquid drains away. It will be re-used as fertiliser on the Kilchoman Distillery farm.

View inside the wash still at Kilchoman Distillery as the waste liquid (pot ale) drains away. It will be re-used as fertiliser on the Kilchoman Distillery farm.

Video view inside the wash still at Kilchoman Distillery as the waste liquid (pot ale) drains away. It will be re-used as fertiliser on the Kilchoman Distillery farm.

Cask Number One at Kilchoman Distillery - conceived December 14, 2005.

Cask Number One at Kilchoman Distillery - conceived December 14, 2005.

Purple toned black and white photograph of a 2009 Kilchoman Distillery Cask, decanted 28 Sept 2017.

A 2009 Kilchoman Distillery Cask, decanted 28 Sept 2017.

Sepia toned photograph of racked 2017 Kilchoman Distillery Casks

Sepia toned photograph of racked 2017 Kilchoman Distillery Casks

What Else Is Nearby

References & Further Reading

malt whisky yearbook 2023

Ingvar Ronde's annual guide to all things Scotch whisky, The Malt Whisky Yearbook is your go-to guide for distillery facts and stats. With comprehensive and up-to-date distillery summaries, editorials on the state of world whisky, profiles on global whisky trail blazers (the people having the most impact on the industry), the Malt Whisky Yearbook packs in a lot of facts and figures and is an essential Almanac for whisky fans.

Front cover image of the book Whiskies Galore : A Tour of Scotland's Island Distilleries by Ian Buxton

Whiskies Galore is not your average whisky book. It is not simply a catalogue of distilleries, but a story of discovery and adventure. Join Ian Buxton on a personal journey across Scotland's islands, combining his expert knowledge of whisky with his fondness for anecdote, as he provides a special treat for all who love Scotland's islands and their drams.

book cover of Charle's macleans spirit of place showing black and white phograph of whisky barrels in front of twin pagoda roofed kiln houses

Spirit of Place by Charles MacLean, with photographs by Lara Platman and Allan Macdonald, is a unique addition to the literature on Scotch whisky, from the world's greatest expert on the subject. The perfect gift for anyone planning a tour of Scotland's distilleries, a souvenir for anyone who has visited them, and simply the perfect companion to a dram at home.

About the author

Amanda

Amanda is an Australian-born photographer, digital nomad and whisky lover. Her passion for travel and whisky lead her to Islay, where she fell in love with an Ileach (an Islay native). Amanda and Roddy now share their Spirited Adventures.

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