For tonight, perusing my sample library I come out with a Kilkerran flight. The first four samples, I saved from a masterclass held at Glengyle’s Warehouse 10 in 2018 [WLP], followed by a sample [I forgot I had] gleaned from the infamous The Good, The Bad & the Ugly tasting from the same year. Lastly, I polish off a bottle of the [just-now] renowned Kilkerran 8yo.
Revisiting: Kilkerran Masterclass, Warehouse 10
What a fabulously bold opening gambit, to lead a tasting with your flagship model, arguably the best affordable 12yo currently on the market.
- N: Beautiful nose. Bits of everything at just the right amounts and ratios. Sometimes the oils show more, other times it’s a hint of freshly cut green apple, a waft of peat, or a wave of meatiness,…. Expect to see these bottles at O&R festivals in 20-30 years when they are likely to be even more tremendous, properly stored after a few decades in glass.
- T: The arrival brings ‘dad noises’ every time. Is Glengyle, Springbank refined? This 12yo is decidedly more savoury than the rest of the pack [to follow], and with complexity by the bucketload, but a subtle read that requires some diligence to pick out the best. Refined for sure.
- F: What’s left is the slowing of the fans, the cooling of the engines,… and the spirit – Glengyle’s lovely coppery spirit.
- C: Beautiful whisky that displays numerous impressions from the spirits tree.
Today, it scores 89 points
Though Glengyle is certain about where they are headed – profile & character-wise – with their 12yo [and older], many of the following expressions [at this masterclass] were used to demonstrate where Kilkerran can/could go. Let’s remember that some of these were at the experimental stages and not the finished article. Having said that, next up is Kilkerran 8yo, an expression that has become part of the core range, though each small batch expression can vary enormously and don’t typically reflect the distillery profile. This will be a good warm-up for the bottle polishing that follows.
- N: This is really congenial whisky that no-one is going to complain about, a people-pleaser of a malt you might say. Compared to the 12yo, it’s far more youthful and peaty, those two things going hand in hand – and it’s far sweeter for sure.
- T: That’s a big bold arrival, well 55.7% will give you that! Straight and simple, sweet = > peat is the name of this game with echoes of Octomore, albeit far softer and simpler. The mouthfeel is luscious if get your water-management just right.
- F: I find it salivatingly milky & chocolate-y [in my mind the barley talking], the phenols giving it large to the end. This continues to appear straight as a die, except once I’d tried the whole line-up and went back to it, I found way more going on.
- C: ‘The Scottish Chichibu’ jumps into my head. I stick by what I said last time: ‘an excellent 8yo though the extra 3-4 year wait is worth it’ – well worth it. Lovely whisky in its own right however.
Scores 86 points
[Glengyle] Kilkerran 2006/2018 Un-Ob. triple distilled #2 bourbon barrel 62.1% WLP87
- N: Similar sweetness levels to the 8yo but with a completely different sweetness character. Being really fruity and creamy [icing cream], this has ‘cake competition display table’ written all over it. here, the bourbon barrel is the boss, but on the nose I really like it. Guess I haven’t been in this ‘high octane, lively ex-bourbon ballpark for a while, what with sampling O&R masterpieces [WLP], rums [WLP], cognac [WLP], and even pisco [WLP],… When you’ve been elsewhere for a while, it’s easy to view this very prevalent and popular, contemporary bourbon-forward whisky style as a refreshing novelty, and not a style presented ad nauseam. I mustn’t get deceived though, and I’m certainly a little better at spotting it now.
- T&F: Oh wow! That is one rich lively bourbon barrel, beautifully rich, and grain-like – aided by the triple distillation? The trade-off is all the complexity and subtlety of Kilkerran’s spirit lost to the cask.
- F: This juice will not drown and neither will it waiver. The one descriptor I noted was heavily sugared/flavoured root beer. So American!
- C: I saw this very differently compared to my first contact in 2018. Today [in 2020], I’m at home, not influenced by the electric festival atmosphere and all that brings to the overall impression. Beautifully rich ‘Scottish bourbon’, however, but my score is changed.
Scores 84 points
[Glengyle] Kilkerran 2004 13yo Un-Ob. Madeira cask 14/378-22 53.8% WLP85
- N: My radar is fairly good for this sweet wine cask, and this is clearly influenced by one. When it’s done right it can be very good indeed. In combination with Glengyle’s peated spirit, we have a smoky Calvados that hints at smoldering applewood perhaps. In fact, there’s plenty here to scratch and sniff, from decorating candy to Swarfega. Let’s move on.
- T: I feel no need to add to my previous notes that read: ‘Controlled sweaty-sweet fruity peaty funk, though water is needed to bring out the subtle linseed/olive/mechanics oils, and fruit-infused oils – all subtly dunnage-y’. Today I’d only leave out the dunnage-y note. Otherwise, jobs a good’un.
- F: Last time I noted ‘peas at the death’. Maybe there’s an association sensation here – apple cider vinegar – fish n chips – mushy peas? Again, there’s calvados for sure, no doubt the cask is navigating. Did the spirit survive? Just about maybe. The palate certainly gets a bruising during this high abv line-up, where saturation, blurring and confusion can easily set in.
- C: This remains a fun one. Though just a cask demonstration/experiment, it’s worth of bottling.
Scores 85 points
‘Kilkerran 11’ written on the label was enough to tell me [eventually] that this is a sample I kept from the legendary The Directors Cut tasting, aka The Good, The Bad and The Ugly [WLP]. Why did I keep this? Like the Kilkerran 8yo [above & below], it’s a peated spirit dominated by a sherry cask. Perhaps I was tiring of cask-dominance by that point. Whilst everyone raved about it, I was one of a small minority [as ever] who didn’t get along with it at all. As a result, I had a full sample decanted for another time. Nearly two years on, it’s time for that revisit.
- N: Sweaty-sweet meaty fruity vegetal peat with crystallised sugars. Very intriguing.
- T: Tastes as it smells. With plenty of action, it starts fruity, slightly ashy and desirably dry as a [meaty,… chicken] bone. Whilst being densely sherried there’s something of an IPA note to it. The result here [with some time in a sample bottle], is a moreish characterful fruity-meaty mixture.
- F: Very appealing ashy toffee chew to finish, bordering on liquid-like caramel-flavoured vapes – but so not.
- C: The tastiest naughtiest whisky ever, naughty like a sticky toffee pudding. I’d buy a bottle now! Why the difference from before? My sensitivity to sulphur, and with peat in combination. Then I think it settled in its wee sample bottle, just like our last Kilkerran of the day.
Scores 87 points
Last up, a bottle polishing of a Kilkerran 8yo it seems everyone wants to get their hands on.
[Glengyle] Kilkerran 8yo  Ob. CS [15000 bts] 57.1% WB88.43
Once again I thought I’d be the only person who wasn’t raving about this [much like the 11yo above]. Halfway down the bottle, things hadn’t changed. Then towards the heel, I got it!
- N: Sulphury sherry meets bacon Frazzles, bacon Wheat Crunchies, pub gammon > venison, and an array of BBQ/tomato sauces as well as a subtle plethora of saracha’s. It’s become much more meaty and leathery over the past few weeks though the rubberiness still resides. As well as plimsolls and burning tyres, I pick up rubbery/fire retardant chemical/silicon furniture shop vibes. Overall, smoky meaty rubbery > malt. Note the > malt, with a firm emphasis on the ‘more than/less than’.
- T: The palate follows suit. Let’s add to the descriptor list, a drop or two from a number of ‘Mexican’ sauce accompaniments, a 1/4 drop [or less] of Swarfega and a hint of English mustard=wasabi,…
- F: ,… leading to some rubbery/luscious-fruity coal > soot, action remaining a leathery=meaty > smoky > sherried-malt affair to the close.
- C: How does one judge this? Is it balanced? – not greatly. Is it cask heavy – yes. Is it sulphury – very. Is it representative of Kilkerran in general? No. Is it a singular and fascinating whisky? Yes. Is it mind-blowing? You decide. Glengyle has certainly hit a sweet spot here but I didn’t initially take to it at all. If you are sulphur-sensitive, you may struggle.
Scores 87 points