Watching a distillery grow is an interesting process. Hear me out here:
The distillery has an idea of what it wants to make, and how it’s going to raise the money to do so. With how much money that investors are now asking for (because their kids ain’t gonna get a yacht otherwise) you have to schedule it out.
Barring the recent expertise in creating a yeast strain that does well at young ages or being rich enough to fund a distillery yourself (as well as not wanting a high ROI out of your own distillery) that means a distillery will figure out ways to make money.
Sell Vodka, Rum, maybe even Poitin/White Dog/Varnish remover, and eventually they’ll get to a point where we can drink something with some age on it.
Kilkerran is one of those distilleries where I missed the initial boat. I showed up in a country (England) well after the first Work in Progress releases came out. Was able to try two of them. Then I left, happy I tried any, and waited for new releases.
Here we are a few years later and the idea of having no selection for Kilkerran is now laughable and denotes me as a fool. I kid of course, we don’t have a Bruichladdich of original bottling options or an Arran of independent bottlings, however we’re now at a point where you don’t have to buy the whisky that’s released to build up cash to have an idea of where they are going: You have multiple options!
Today I’ll be looking at four original bottling Kilkerran that are available (assuming you bid early). I’ve said before I wanted to see the final product before making up my mind on Kilkerran. Now is that time, so let’s see, shall we?
Kilkerran 8 Cask Strength Batch 5 is a pretty simple concept to wrap your head around: It’s cask strength, 8 years old, and prior to it there were 4 other batches. Where are my reviews of those batches? Right next to my colon, feel free to root around with your snout.
But that’s not all! About the whisky, not my butt, just to clarify. It’s also aged in First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks. Frankly this is the part of the review where I attempt to balance out the hype of a Campbeltown that’s cask strength and aged in a cask worth a damn. But it’s hard to be cynical, since I literally love cask strength whiskies that have been aged in first fill casks. I’m not even annoyed it’s not my fave sherry cask (PX).
So let’s see if this will crumple what little hope I have left in the world, shall we?
Price: € 90
Bottled: January 12, 2021
Cask Type: First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks
Colour: 10YR 6/8
Nose: Hazelnut, grassy, industrial grease, brown sugar
Nutty, grassy, and grease. Which I totally expect from a sherry aged Campbeltown. If you’re not smelling grease, then you probably did less menial labour than I did in your youth. Small hands work great on machines.
Not over sherried, good balance, still has some of the Kilkerran spirit, yet works, just like automatic looms and Nutella.
Taste: Licorice, pear, cashew, oily, memories of playing with moss
More to the taste. Water brings out this really vegetal note that I remember when I was a kid and played with moss. That’s totally not a joke either, parents let me run into the woods on a regular basis to play around.
Ahem… Think a vegetal, very earthy but clean note if you weren’t left to the rock where the moss grows. Also there’s some nice strong spiced notes. Lovely Autumnal notes.
Finish: Walnut, molasses, wood, beeswax, charcoal, key lime, cloves
The finish is really nice. It plays with bitter and woody notes, has some smoke to it with some earth, and is quite sweet. Very strong notes, nothing simplistic to it. Also very unique and would be good as a before dinner drink. And during dinner drink. Perhaps a bit left over for after dinner too.
Conclusion: Really well made whisky. Solid all the way through. First off I feel like it plays to the Campbeltown spirit while also taking the strong sherry notes and blending it along.
So based on this, I’d say that Kilkerran leaned in on what people like about Campbeltown drams, and took something that could overpower it and didn’t. Which is pretty great. Also it doesn’t taste like a simple Oloroso cask. I didn’t realize it was until the sheer amount of nuts hit my face, which is when I do my best thinking.
If this doesn’t prove that Kilkerran is more than a group of Work-In-Progress, then I probably wouldn’t have had the gumption to scrounge up additional drams. So grab this if you can!
The majority of what I drink is from single casks. It’s less expensive, it’s more likely to be cask strength, it differs from the standards, and I’m more likely to have not reviewed it before.
Thus I’ve been waiting for Kilkerran single casks. Yes, Glengyle is in there with Springbank, and as part of Cadenheads there will be single cask releases. I don’t have to wait for the warehouses to get overfilled and then buy something with a weird name or a generic region to try a single cask.
Glengyle opened in March of 2004. The 7th, if you want to be precise (per their website). Now having a single cask from 2008 or 2012 means that the company has already done their trial and error. They probably have changed what they are doing. However the whisky persists.
The next two whiskies were laid down in the first year of the company making whisky. What does this mean? It’s potentially the only way to try older Kilkerran. It’s also taking a chance that nothing has changed.
Just think about that for a second: A company that released 9 different whiskies called “Work in Progress”, and this is whisky from some of the first runs.
So while I can’t make any major opinions based on these, I am interested. Let’s see how they taste, shall we?
Kilkerran 15 2004 Single Cask – Port Wood
Price: € 233
Vintage: May 2004
Bottled: September 2019
Cask Types: Port Pipe & Refill Bourbon Hogshead
Number of bottles: 246
Bottled for: Hanseatische Weinhandelsgesellschaft Bremen
Colour: 5YR 4/8
Nose: Xmas spices, custard, honeydew melon, orange, black pepper
Strong port cask influence as well as some hints at the base spirit. It’s hard to argue about too much cask influence during this time of year. Well, if you enjoy Xmas spices as much as I do it’s difficult at least.
That said, regardless of the time of year, this has bathed in port, and the nose is missing any “typical” Kilkerran notes. It’s not even asking for the manager!
Taste: Cinnamon, pear, mineral, machine grease, coffee, plum
More Kilkerran notes on the taste. Which I’m happy for, because if I wanted to drink port then I’d have more money. Ahem, I mean… I’d drink port.
Bitter, spicey, some of the grease notes, and just a bit of sweetness to balance it all out.
Finish: Ginger, custard, raisin, cinnamon, guava
Very dry finish. Custard and raisin notes try to steer it away, but the whole thing finishes like a straight woman in the desert seeing a naked Trump sipping a Chardonnay: Very dry.
Conclusion: Dry dram, nice attempt however it’s over done by the cask. I get the feeling they were still seeing the different aspects from the final product and as such they didn’t shine as much.
I didn’t mind it, don’t get me wrong: I’m stoked to have tried a Kilkerran this old, full stop. However the nose is mostly port, the taste is where it shined (though lacked complexity) and the finish was very, very dry. It’s flawed but tasty. It’s a whisky I wouldn’t be annoyed at obtaining a bottle of, however I’m happy I only had a sample in the end.
Kilkerran 15 2004 Single Cask – Fino Wood
Vintage: May 2004
Bottled: September 18, 2019
Cask type: 10 years in Fino Sherry / 5 Years in Refill Bourbon Hogshead
Number of bottles 222
Bottled for: The Nectar, Belgium
Colour: 5YR 5/10
Nose: Leather, strawberry, pecan pie, popcorn
Man, starting with a leather note? Why don’t I drink more Fino Sherry whiskies? Oh, yeah, they are hard to come by.
The awesome leather note aside (which I’m trying to stamp down my bias on), there’s some nice sweet notes, good butter, and some cereal aspects that all pair nicely.
Taste: Pecan pie, orange juice, brine, almond
Nutty, orange heavy, salty, and a bit of bitter nuttiness after some time. I feel like these tasting notes are cut off. Like I get going on, what I expect is going to be a really cool and tasty whisky and then it leaves like your father when he felt like drinking some milk for 10 years.
Finish: Orange, mineral, grassy, brown sugar, raspberry
Wow, I don’t like orange notes. Ignoring that, it’s a very nice finish. I’m not getting much of the nutty notes from the Kilkerran anymore, but the mineral is a nice addition. That said, I think the Sherry has taken over here.
Conclusion: Hints that the best is yet to come. Picking this whisky up depends on what you’re into, like most things in life.
If you’re going for another Fino whisky, damn the distillery, than it’s one of the easier, less expensive ways to pick up such a beast. It’s over sherried, true, but it also has lovely acidity and leather notes, as well as a butter, fatty notes, more complexity than the one above, and sadly strong orange notes (sadly for me, probably not for thee).
If you’re going for an older Kilkerran, then it’s debatable. The sherry is quite strong, it’s missing some of the greasiness, and even the nuttiness that I’m finding (so far) in Kilkerran goes away by the end.
Thanks to muskox for the sample!
Kilkerran Heavily Peated Batch 1 doesn’t help my original idea behind this review at all. Originally I wanted to have different Kilkerran that showed where they are now. Thus I bought the first bottle.
My samples, on the other hand, were all of either the past (in the case of the older releases) or in this case, the future. Right now Kilkerran is working on a Heavily Peated version. Right now it’s at 84 ppm (I could not find an official statement to that, so please correct me) and is a blend of ex-Bourbon casks and ex-Sherry casks.
Peat? Campbeltown? Sherry? Sustainable packaging? Yeah, I’m in. Easily. Screw my original idea, let’s do this!
Bottled: February 20, 2019
Cask type: 55% Ex-Bourbon & 45% Ex-Sherry
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: Campfire, brine, orange oil, hazelnut, cinnamon
Hey, did you know this was peated? You can tell because of the way it is.
Old memes aside, there’s a strong hit of peat that comes in the form of cinnamon and campfire, followed by some nice strong nutty, brine, and orange? Damn, nearly perfect. It is just batch 1 though, even though for half a second I thought it was batch 4 and that makes me question my accounting knowledge.
Taste: Lemon, coal, grassy/anise, raisin, guava, brown butter
Interesting mix of coal and lemon. If the nose gave Laphroaig vibes than the taste gives Caol Ila vibes.
That said there’s still some of the raisin I got above, and some of the tropical fruit, so it’s not just some amalgam, it’s its own whisky.
Finish: Graham cracker, cinnamon, molasses, peanut
Interesting finish. Given the high peat level I expected it to be similar to the rest: Peat and sherry. Instead it’s dry, has developed cereal notes, is still nutty, and the peat element is similar to a light peat that’s been well developed, aka Cinnamon.
Conclusion: Exactly what you want from a peated dram. Well maybe not the finish but I still loved that so you can fuck right off.
Way to strawman people Tom. Moving on…
Sweet, mixture of sherry and peat, it’s not over sherried, and shows off aspects we get from the standard while adding peat to elevate the whole thing. Yes, they could have scrapped the previous and made the heavily peated it’s own thing. Think Longrow to their Springbank.
Instead they took on the hard role of adding peat and nailed it. I’ve been sleeping on these releases and won’t be in the future. At least I’ll try not to.
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