Whisky Magazine Issue 21
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Gavin Smith takes a stroll by Kilchorman, the first new distillery of the millennium-and the first on Islay since 1883
The timetable is tight, but if all goes to plan, visitors to the Islay Whisky Festival in May 2002 will be able to witness spirit flowing at Scotland's first new distillery of the 21st century.
Kilchoman Distillery, as it is to be known, is situated on the western coast of the Hebridean island, close to the celebrated beach of Machir Bay, and just a couple of miles west as the wild goose flies from the rejuvenated Bruichladdich Distillery, near the village of Port Charlotte. Until now, Kilchoman has been best known for its splendid Celtic cross, which dates from around AD1400 and regularly attracts historians and pilgrims.
Pilgrims of a rather different sort can be expected at Kilchoman in future, and the innovative micro-distillery will be the eighth in production on Islay. It is the first to be constructed since Bruichladdich in 1883, but whereas Bruichladdich was structurally innovative as it was built from a relatively new material called concrete, Kilchoman is being designed to blend into the landscape as much as possible. It is also intended to be the most traditional distillery in terms of operation in the entire country.
It is situated in redundant buildings on the French family's Rockside Farm, where Mark French is in the process of diversifying from traditional agriculture. Prior to the distillery venture, he had already launched a gourmet range of smoked beef and lamb, under the Islay Fine Food label, while his wife Rohaise runs a trekking centre from the farm.