Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 46% | Colour: Gold
Nose: 8.4 | Palate: 8.4 | Finish: 8.4 | Overall Score: 8.4
About five years ago at my clubs’ monthly mystery tasting I decided to take with me a relatively unknown whisky. Well, unknown to most of us, that is.
It was something I picked up on a whim without really knowing anything about it or the distillery. That whisky was the Kilkerran WIP 4. Met with many a raised eyebrow and unabashed lip smacking it became an instant hit at the gathering and ultimately my obsession.
For those who know me know two things about me.
Number 1 : I have a mild case of OCD. Which means if you give me something that is numbered and part of a series then I will move mountains to make sure I have the entire collection. It’s a sickness, I admit it.
Number 2 : I am irrationally fascinated by Campbeltown whiskies. No rhyme or reason. Just am.
Now imagine my state when you put both those things together. Even more so when the spirit in question is just so damned delicious. And, thus, began my quest to collect all the WIPs.
Glengyle Distillery, makers of Kilkerran, released the WIP 1, which was a five year old whisky, as a way of sharing the spirits’ journey until it’s final form as a 12 year old. Also no doubt as a crafty means of generating revenue which is fine by me. This was, you guessed it, followed by the WIP 2 and so on until last year they released their last and final WIP (the 7) which was a stunning bourbon cask bottled at cask strength.
And, finally, around two weeks ago they released their standard entry level – the 12 year old. I have been following this journey for a while now and was understandably excited when they announced the release. After making my pre-order I somehow managed to have it with me for a tasting I hosted a couple of nights ago.
Geeks that we are we didn’t try it straight and instead decided to do a vertical with the WIP 5,6 & 7 followed by the 12.
My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%
Nose: Immediate grill charcoal. Faint coal smoke. Almost industrial diesel. Not in an overpowering way but in a way that only Campbeltown can make appealing. Himalayan pink salt. Green olives in brine. Mexican lime. Vanilla. Very mild honey. Wild heather. Dry flowers. Love the nose. There’s an old-school oiliness to this that I love.
Palate: Touch bitter. But in a good way. Vanilla. Sweet lemon. Touch of oak. Consistent layer of smoke. Wet pebbles. That salt again. Get’s sweeter mid-palate. Butterscotch. And then black pepper pricks. Solid.
Finish: Medium to long. Oak. Lindt 90% cocoa. Ceylon black tea.
Overall Comments: I love it. I love the WIP 7 a bit more but this one is quite lovely. I love it because there is an element of old-fashioned whisky making that somehow comes through it’s oiliness and the fact that it’s more savoury than sweet. Something which I really like in a whisky. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it certainly is mine. What I appreciate even more is the highly affordable price tag. Under 40GBP in a world that has gone crazy is something to be lauded. So thank you Glengyle for not being greedy gits. And for producing this gem.
Overall Score: 8.4
Springbank 13 Organic Barley
Kilkerran WIP 7 Bourbon Cask
Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 54.1% | Colour: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 95
If you read my stuff you know I have had this fascination with Campbeltown whiskies for the longest time. And, as I’ve said a million times, there is literally no rationale for that.
However, it’s a good fascination to have I feel. Springbank keeps me quite suitably entertained thanks to Longrow and, of course, Springbank itself. Though, Hazelburn needs to try harder.
Glengyle, makers of Kilkerran, are the other reason why I’m still holding on to the Campbeltown fetish. I came across Kilkerran when they released WIP 4 and I remember introducing it to my whisky club here who had not yet heard of this distillery. The raised eyebrows and lip smacking that followed was testament to the spirit inside.
The WIP, or Work In Progress, is a good way of showing to the general consumer the journey of a whisky as it matures through the years until becoming standard. It is also a smart way of generating some much needed revenue as time goes by.
The very first Kilkerran was released as a five year old whisky under the WIP 1 label way back in 2009. Since then every year they have released a subsequently numbered release. Till WIP 4 there was only a bourbon maturation but WIP 5 onwards there has been a Sherry and Bourbon Oak split.
I think it’s a nice way of seeing how the whisky is coming along and especially nice to compare it alongside the different maturations. Alas, this year is the last of the WIPs since 2016 will see the spirit reach 12 years of age and be considered the ‘standard’ bottling of this awesome distillery.
I have pretty much tried them all, except for WIP 1, and have been keenly noticing how the whisky has been evolving while at the same time establishing it’s signature style.
However, the one that I was most interested in was this years’ Bourbon Cask release because it was the first Cask Strength of the series. And if you know me you know that saying ‘Cask Strength’ in front of me is like saying ‘Injured Atlantic Fur seal’ in front of a Great White Shark. Me being the shark, of course.
My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at cask strength of 54.1%
Nose: Wet pebbles. Limestone. Sand. Crisp barley. Hint of warm milk. Vanilla. Mild herbs. Touch of cardboard. Drying for some reason even though there’s no wine here. Almonds. Baby ginger. Quite like this nose. There’s some quality wood and distillate at work here. 23/25
Palate: Citrus. Orange blossom. Cointreau. Cardamom. White peppers. Coffee. Vanilla. Chocolate. What perfect weight here. Get those wet pebbles again. Starts of savory and then takes on a nice sweetness. 24/25
Finish: Very long. Quite dry. Oak. Fresh grass. Coats your mouth with honey. Very pleasing sweetness. 24/25
Overall Comments: This is a beautifully constructed whisky. I’m a sucker for good old fashioned whisky making. Good distillate cut right. Good quality wood. Optimum storage conditions. Everything just working towards making this one of the greats of the coming few years. Let’s just hope they continue doing what they are doing and not one day plan on sending their whisky to space as a distraction.
Yes, you Ardbeg. You!
Longrow 11 Years – Rundlets and Kilderkins
Distillery/Brand: Longrow | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 51.7% | Color: Full Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93
There is something strangely fascinating about this bottle. I love the packaging with it’s bronze plaque-ish label on the front and it’s embossed lettering. It’s quite grand.
I picked this one off the shelf along with the CV of the same name to do a little head to head comparison. The CV, now discontinued, had gained quite a reputation along the way and so I was eager to see how this one would stack up against it’s brother.
The Rundlets & Kilderkins (R&K from now on) is a type of very small barrel which can be anywhere from 60 to 80 liters big. Or small, if you like. The idea is that smaller the cask the greater the interaction between spirit and wood and, hence, greater it’s influence.
These casks don’t come ready made and instead get re-proportioned from larger barrels. A Rundlet is basically one seventh of a butt making it one of the smallest cask unit holding around 74 liters and essentially used to mature wine. A Kilderkin, Dutch for small cask, was traditionally used to store beer and can hold around 80 odd liters. Think of it as a quarter-cask if you will, only a bit smaller.
This single malt is 11 years old, distilled in November 2001 and bottled in Januray 2013 and has an alcohol strength of 51.7%
Nose: Whoa! Big! Salty. Briny. Toffee. Chocolate. Coffee. Pine needles. Hay. Heather. Meaty. Boiled sausage. White salt. Black salt. Fortified wine. Soot. A different kind of peat. Ash. Dry leaves. Red licorice. Toffee apples. Medicinal. I love this nose. It’s brilliantly complex. Just layer upon layer of beautiful aromas.
Palate: Grape. Sweet wine. Chocolate. Spice. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Nutmeg. Brown bread. Roasted coffee beans. Rich earth. Butter on toast. It has a lovely crisp charring amid the coffee and the grapes.
Finish: Mocha. Mocha. Mocha. Coffee. Oak. Cinnamon. Dry leaves. Hint of smoke. Tar. Bitter chocolate. Drying.
I prefer this to the CV. Both from a packaging and over all experience and complexity point of view. The flavors are on point. The balance between char and sweet is admirable.
Longrows are notorious for breathing well over time which is why I’ve decanted some to have a go at it in six months. This could quite possibly be my favorite Longrow.
Distillery/Brand: Longrow | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89
I had picked up a bottle of this, now discontinued, peated expression a few years ago. Having decided I wasn’t ready at the time to savor it’s charms I let it grace my shelf all this while. Until last night, that is.
I have always been fascinated by Campbeltown expressions, especially the stuff that comes out of Springbank. They produce three expressions the year round. The unpeated Hazelburn, the lightly peated Springbank and the ‘heavily’ (by Campbeltown standards) peated Longrow.
For me it was a case of irrational fascination followed by a realization that these flavors were something I could really sink my teeth into. Because the Longrow can take some getting used to I tell you. But when you do it’s oh so worth it.
The CV (for Curriculum Vitae – yes, you read that right) is Springbank Distilleries’ way of introducing consumers to the different flavor profiles that they represent. So in the case of this Longrow the spirit inside the bottle comprises of three different vintages and four types of oak.
Six years old whisky from bourbon casks, ten years old from port and rum casks, and 14 years old from sherry casks blended together to produce this fine expression. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%
Nose: Mild peat. Lemon. Orange sweets. Hint of salt. Sweet caramel. Touch of sulphur – enough to be noticed and not enough to cause pain. Grass. Greens. Rice pudding. Husk. Cereal. Cardboard. Golden syrup. Black sesame creme brulee. It’s a controlled nose. I like it.
Palate: Starts off savory. Mild peat. Rice husk. Mild peppers. Brown bread. Starts getting sweeter mid-palate. Sugarcane juice. The delivery is medium bodied and I like how it changes while still on the tongue.
Finish: Long. Peat. Ash. Soot. The finish really kicks in the charcoals much more strongly than either the nose or the palate.
I like how it journeys from mildly sweet on the nose to savory on the palate and finally quite charred on the finish. Tells me that the spirit is complex and successfully draws from it’s so many influences.
This has now been replaced by the NAS Longrow Peated which I haven’t had a gander at. Various opinions tell this was not a happy change but I won’t comment on that until I pick one up for my self. Till then I’m quite happy to have this one sitting uncorked on my shelf.
Kilkerran WIP 2 Oak Cask
Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 46% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93
I seem to be on a bit of a Campbeltown run of late having reviewed around 6 or 7 in the last month alone. It’s been fun, I’ll have to admit. Some nice Longrows, some decent Springbanks and, my favorite of the lot, the Kilkerrans from the Glengyle Distillery.
The name of ‘Kilkerran’ is derived from the Gaelic ‘Caenn Loch Cille Chiarain’ (which translates as ‘head of the loch of Saint Kerran’).
I reviewed two Kilkerrans earlier this month. Both sixth editions of the Work In Progress series. The Work In Progress, or WIP, series is a line of expressions from Campbeltowns newest distillery. Basically what they did was release an expression every year since 2009 when their whiskies reached 5 years of age.
The plan was to release one every year until they hit the standard 12 years. So far I have been a fan. I can only imagine how good the 12 year old will be.
Having tried the WIP 4, 5 & 6 (both sherry and oak finishes) I managed to snag an earlier bottling. This one is a WIP 2 released in 2010 making it six years old, matured in bourbon casks and bottled at 46%.
Nose: Cereal. Barley. Light honey. Grist. Hint of lemon. Green leaves. Fresh grass. Light wood. White grapes. Mild fennel. Cucumber peel. Beeswax. Beautiful nose. Perfectly controlled.
Palate: Smooth. Cereal. Lemon. Spices. Mild herbs. Leafy greens. Wood. Barley. Get’s fruitier mid-palate. Green apples. Lemon zest. Peppers. The lovely delivery feels young and has a nice element of grist.
Finish: Medium. Spices. Oak. Dry grass.
This is what happens when you don’t compromise on the quality of your casks or your trade. No matter the age you can create truly exceptional whiskies if you do things well.
Longrow Red 11 Years Old Australian Shiraz Cask
Distillery/Brand: Longrow | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 53.7% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87
Longrow is the peated brother of Hazelburn and Springbank out of the tremendous Springbank distilleries. If you want to know how I feel about Campbeltown whiskies you can read my other reviews. Let’s just say I’m extremely fascinated by them.
A few weeks ago I had a taste of the new Red series by Longrow. They are peated 11 year olds matured in casks that previously held red liquid. The first one of the series was matured in Cabernet Sauvignon. The second one in Australian Shiraz and finally the third one in Port.
I tasted the Port finish first and quite liked it. The one I have in the glass right now has been matured in Australian Shiraz casks. First six years in a re-fill hogshead and then the last five in the Australian Shiraz.
My sample is from a brand new bottle and has been packaged at an impressive cask strength of 53.7%
Nose: Mild peat. Oak. Aniseed. Hay. Cardboard. Red grapes. Salmon scales. Red licorice. Fresh cherries. Vermouth. Black pepper. Balsamic. Cherry drops. Let it breathe and the peat becomes stronger. Few drops of water really open up the nose and makes the flavors really stand out.
Palate: Bitter. Wood. Black pepper. Dark chocolate. Cinnamon. Dark cherries. Apples. Raisins. Red plum. Vanilla. Nuts. Like on the nose a few drops of water make the delivery creamier. More tart. Spicier. And sweeter.
Finish: Long. Oily. Red licorice. Cough drops. Water made the finish longer.
Overall a decent quality dram which takes very well to a bit of water. Even though it makes it a touch bitter.
Another competent whisky from Campbeltown.
Longrow 14 Years
Distillery/Brand: Longrow | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 46% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89
Every time I write a review of a single malt from Campbeltown town I spend the first few minutes gushing on about how irrationally infatuated I am with this region for no particular reason at all.
But I’m happy to reveal that my fascination is quite justified. Barring a few bad apples (Glen Scotia 18, anyone?) it has largely been a parade of interesting and generally above-average whiskies to come out of this small region.
Specifically Springbank which produces three completely different expressions from basically the same hardware which I think is sheer genius – the Longrow being my favorite with Hazelburn as my least.
This, now sadly discontinued, 14 year old, has been finished off in sherry casks. There’s not a lot of literature to find, unfortunately, and my research didn’t turn up a whole lot. For example I don’t know how long it was finished for or the type of sherry it was.
My guess is three years finishing in Marsala – largely because it has such a dry nose and palate. This particular sample is from an open bottle about a third finished packaged at a nice 46% ABV
Nose: Mild peat. Sweet perfume. Mild chocolate. Salt. Brine. Hint of citrus. Wet bandage. Apple cider. Brown sugar. Banana. Ginger. Starts of quite sweet followed by something coastal before finally settling down to a savory finalé. Lovely nose.
Palate: Medium bodied. Spicy at first. Cinnamon. Oak. Brown honey. Gets fruity mid-palate. Plums. Apple. Citrus. Pineapple strudel. Ginger. Salt. Slightly burnt. Not as good as the nose but good nevertheless. Evenly spreads over your palate. Gets dry towards the end.
Finish: Fairly long. Dry. Cinnamon powder. Wood. Lingers.
An accomplished whisky need not be over the top to tick all the boxes. Nicely controlled elegance.
Longrow Red 11 Year Old Fresh Port Cask
Distillery/Brand: Longrow | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 51.8% | Color: Copper
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 88
My obsession with Campbeltown continues. And my latest area of interest is the Longrow – the peatiest of the three whiskies produced at Springbank. The other two, of course, being Springbank and Hazelburn.
It started when I pulled out a 14 year old Burgundy Wood Longrow more than two years after opening it. Having not cared much for it earlier it’s transformation had me transfixed. It had become quite magnificent.
I then decided to start looking at these peaty Campbeltowners with a bit more interest. And so far I’ve not really been disappointed.
The Longrow Red series is an annual bottling of 11 year olds matured in casks that previously held a red spirit. The first one was matured in Cabernet Sauvignon, the second one in Australian Shiraz and the one I’m talking about matured for 11 years in port casks.
Quite a reddish / orange hue to this cask strength spirit served at 51.8%
Nose: Quite sweet. Cherries. Red licorice. Cough syrup. Strawberries. Smooth caramel. Sandalwood. Black pepper. Mild peat. Pinch of salt. The nose is quite tart but still decently balanced.
Palate: Red berries. Black pepper. Cinnamon. Oak. Red apples. Maple syrup. Cherry cola. Pomegranate. Quite nice on the palate. The flavors hold quite well. It gets spicier mid-palate.
Finish: Long. Minty. Cinnamon. Oak.
I like the concept behind this range. The whiskies themselves may not be earth shattering but at least someone somewhere is trying to do something interesting. And I respect that.