The Kilkerran 12 Year Old is finally here. This is the whisky that many of us whisky nuts have been waiting for. That said, I’ve probably only been waiting a good year I suppose, ever since I tried the Kilkerran Work in Progress 7 Bourbon Cask. You can read a bit more about Kilkerran, or rather Glengyle distillery, in that previous review.
The new Kilkerran 12 Year Old is the first official core release from Mitchell’s Glengyle Distillery. (Kilkerran rather than Glengyle, which is already the name of a blended Highland malt – and also because that name is more commonly associated with Speyside instead of Campbeltown.) Kilkerran single malt is lightly peated, not chill filtered, and has no added colouring, and production has been overseen by the legendary Frank McHardy, who was tasked with bringing back Glengyle Distillery to life in 2004. Glengyle Distillery has released a series of increasingly popular Kilkerran Work in Progress whiskies, experimenting with different types of maturation. There are even more limited releases available, such as Rum Wood finishes.
It’s all well and good releasing these limited, experimental releases, but the new 12 Year Old is a bold statement: it’s the calling card, representative of the house style, so it’s very important for a distillery to get it right.
Kilkerran 12 Year Old uses a mixture of cask types: 70% of this has been matured in bourbon casks, and the remaining 30% in sherry casks. Bottled at 46% ABV, this whisky costs just £35. This sort of price for a well-crafted whisky is the sort of thing that exposes the producers who might be charging you more than you ought to be paying for a bottle of whisky of that age. That is certainly a statement in itself.
Kilkerran 12 Year Old Tasting Notes
Colour: yellow gold.
On the nose: a wonderful mix of gentle peat and these intensely malted barley notes initially, which are meshed together perfectly. More mossy than ashy, more earthy than medicinal. Stewed apples. Digestive biscuits. Cream cheese. Vanilla. Lemon drizzle cake. Herbal notes on the back-end, and coastal.
In the mouth: remarkably voluptuous, oily texture. A fruity start: green apples, peaches, apricots, grapefruit, golden syrup drizzled over the lot. Then the hint of peat drifts in – light, sweet stuff rather than aggressive, heavy smoke. Nutmeg. Very herbal and with a great mineral note: rosemary, thyme, a bit of brine – no, a lot of brine. Lemon juice. Pepper. Custard creams. Digestive biscuits. A touch of bitterness from the wood, but not much at all – it’s obscured by the light peat that follows on from the finish and that maltiness that was so prominent on the nose, and balanced with some wonderful syrupy, vanilla goodness. There’s a broad spectrum of flavours, but the balance between them is bang-on.
The Kilkerran 12 Years Old is gorgeous and, when you take into account that it costs a mere £35, it’s hands-down the best whisky of 2016 for me so far. It’s up there with the Work in Progress 7 Bourbon Cask, but just a bit more balanced and elegant. I think fans of Springbank, Old Pulteney, Talisker and Bruicladdich/Port Charlotte will get a lot out of this.
There’s a purity about the whole thing: the branding is unfussy, uncluttered; the whisky is classic, perhaps old styled. It’s robust. And honest. The pricing is outrageously good: it’s like acquiring a brand-new Land Rover Defender for the price of a Dacia Sandero.
Which is to say, whether you’ve been drinking whisky for years or you’re reasonably new to the stuff, you should most definitely get yourself a bottle.