Kilchoman’s founder explains how he could have lost everything chasing an Islay distillery dream.
Thirteen seconds! Anyone watching Conor McGregor’s takedown of Jose Aldo this weekend was either thoroughly disappointed by the brevity of the fight or left gaping at the power and accuracy of the Irishman’s left jab. Or both.
After just 13 seconds McGregor walked away as the new UFC featherweight champion, chalking up a claim to the fastest UFC championship victory, and an extra US$500,000 in his pocket to boot.
His calm, confident yet matter-of-fact attitude and loose fighting style makes earning half a million dollars in the same time it takes to read this sentence seem easy [click here for more #thingsthatlastlongerthanAldo].
McGregor puts his success down to the fact that ‘nobody can take that left hand shot,’ but adds, ‘he’s powerful and he’s fast, but precision beats power and timing beats speed’.
The same can be said of Kilchoman’s rapid success. In 2005, founder Anthony Wills could have built a behemoth to match Kilchoman’s Islay cousins, but a decision to strictly focus the distillery’s USP as a small-scale farm operation has allowed the company to carve itself a niche. Similarly, an unwavering dedication to select only quality casks for maturation enabled the distillery to release its first whisky at just three years’ old. The first run of 8,000 bottles sold out within two weeks. Even its flagship Machir Bay bottling is a vatting of whisky aged just five to six years.
Even now, 10 years on from the date Kilchoman’s stills came to life, Wills and his team, including master distiller John MacLellan, are not rushing to compete against the capacity and marketing might of other single malt brands. Yes an expansion of the plant is underway, but Wills is reluctant to add any more stills to retain that farm distillery character Kilchoman is so renowned for.
At the same time, the distillery’s first mainstream 10-year-old bottling – an exclusive one-off expression was sold at a charity auction just this week – is likely to be a few years in the making yet.
It’s Wills’ determination to operate Kilchoman at a slow, steady pace and expand in a way that’s right for the brand that has cemented the distillery’s place among Islay’s whisky set.
Much like McGregor, Wills is taking a measured approach and as we learned from this weekend’s fight, precision beats power; timing beats speed.
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Latest news 16 December 2015
The first bottle of Kilchoman 10 Year Old whisky has sold at auction for £7,000.
Latest news 03 March 2016
The Islay distillery’s Sherry-influenced malt will form part of Kilchoman’s core portfolio.
From the editors 08 June 2016
The construction and early life of the Islay distillery is part cautionary tale, part inspiration.
Festivals and events 27 May 2016
Islay’s newest distillery showcased its maturing quality, sharing the day with neighbouring Jura.