Kilkerran 12

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Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 46% | Colour: Gold
Nose: 8.4 | Palate: 8.4 | Finish: 8.4 | Overall Score: 8.4

Review
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

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Kilkerran WIP 7 Bourbon Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 54.1% | Colour: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 95

Review
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!

Rating: 95

Kilkerran WIP 2 Oak Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 46% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
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.

Rating: 93

Kilkerran WIP 6 Sherry Wood

Kilkerran WIP 6 Sherry
Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 91

Review
Glengyle Distillery, where Kilkerran is distilled, opened it’s doors in 2004 and is the newest distillery in Campbeltown. It is also fast becoming my favorite from the region, too, given the quality of the spirit that leaves through it’s doors.

What is nice was every year after the third (when it legally qualified to be called whisky) Glengyle release a sherry and a bourbon matured expression entitled Work In Progress. So the WIP 1 was a four year old spirit released in 2009.

Now I know this is done purely for commercial reasons but when the spirit works so well and has been so expertly crafted it then becomes a pleasure to be actually part of that journey.

The WIP 6 marks ten years of the distillery’s operations which means this years’ release has some decade old spirit in it.

Matured in European sherry and bottled at 46%.

Nose: That briny coastal sea salt which can be found in the bourbon wood expression is present here as well. Herbs. Earthy mild peat. Cigar leaf. Pecan nuts glazed in sugar. Light soy sauce. Red wild berries. It’s a comforting red sherry that I like.

Palate: Creamy fruit cake. Cinnamon dust. Chocolate bananas. Herb infused brownies. Oaky with a hint of peat. Prunes. Lovely ginger spices at the end. This is such a classic sherry matured palate.

Finish: Long with oily oak. Caramel marchiato. Cinnamon.

Lovely spirit with controlled sherry influence.

Rating: 91

Kilkerran WIP 6 Bourbon Wood

Kilkerran WIP 6 Bourbon
Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran | ABV: 46% | Region: Campbeltown | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 22 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
One of my first whiskies ever was a Springbank 10 Cask Strength and truth be told I didn’t know what hit me. In a good way. This is way before I knew my cask from a cork. Some days I still don’t but, hey.

And, thus, began my fascination with this small giant of a region, Campbeltown. Springbank led to Longrow which led to Hazelburn which led to Glen Scotia and which finally led to these work of art expressions from Glengyle Distillery, the Kilkerran Work In Progress series.

Not all whiskies from this region are great but like a father who has a favorite child I tend to forgive a lot. Luckily with the Kilkerrans there’s really nothing you need to forgive.

The first one I picked up was a WIP 4 and I remember introducing it to my whisky club who had no idea what it was. The look on their faces when they tried it for the first time was priceless. Such a young and vibrant whisky it completely blew them away.

The WIP 5 was an equally big hit with them the following year. And so when I picked up this years’ installment I couldn’t wait to put it on the tasting block!

Kilkerran opened it’s doors in 2004 so you can be sure there’s some 10 year old spirit in the WIP 6. Matured exclusively in bourbon wood and served up at 46%.

Nose: There’s a coastal briny-ness which stays with you through out but it’s balanced out by a delicate freshness that comes from young(ish) spirits. Nutty. Oily walnuts. Sweet apricots covered in sticky sugar. Green apples and vanilla with the mildest of peat.

Palate: Juicy pears and green apples. Honey drizzle almonds. Black and white peppers with a hint of lemon citrus. Lovely mouth feel. This medium bodied spirit is on point.

Finish: Medium with oily custard.

This is an excellent spirit without the frills. I love it when the integrity of the spirit stands out above all the distractions we have come to expect from this industry.

Rating: 89

Kilkerran WIP 5 – Bourbon Wood

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Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
ABV: 46%
Colour: Sunlight

Nose: 22
Taste: 22
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

Review
Kilkerran is the rising star of Campbeltown and the Work In Progress series is a testament to that. This installment is matured in Bourbon Wood and is roughly 8 or so years old.

Nose: Fresh. Very fresh. Hay bales sit atop a grassy knoll of warm lemon apple stew and crumbling ginger biscuits fresh out of the oven. Like a picnic basket open in the wind.

Palate: Honey smooth with lemon chocolate sprinkled with the mildest of white peppers.

TFinish: Long and coats your mouth with a lemony limestone consistency interlaced with hints of spice.

A very tasty dram to say the least.

Rating: 88

Kilkerran WIP 5 – Sherry Wood

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Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
ABV: 46%
Colour: Sunlight

Nose: 23
Taste: 22
Finish: 23
Balance: 22

Review
I’m a big fan of the Kilkerran Work In Progress series. These are remarkably robust expressions belying their fairly young(ish) age. This one has been matured in Sherry Wood and given that it’s the 5th installment in the series should make it any where between 8 and 9 years old. I say should. I don’t really know for sure.

Nose: It has a crispy fresh nose. There’s fruity musk with lots of chocolate orange, boiled almonds and a perky pink melon. There is also that mildly tart sour dough quality to the proceedings as well. Quite a clean and arresting bouquet.

Palate: Quite silky and traverses your mouth coating it in lemony sugarcane and chocolate covered dates. The grated ginger on top adds that much needed layer of complexity.

Finish: Decent finish with torn green herbs sprinkled with lemon and a dash of something bitter.

Thank you Campbeltown. Now this is what I’m talking about!

Rating: 90