A small handful of distilleries have such a good reputation now that they practically need no marketing. Take the Kilkerran brand – or rather Glengyle distillery. Within about five minutes of me banging up a social media shot of this particular bottle of whisky, seven people messaged me privately to ask where the hell I got a bottle.
That has never happened before. But it’s the kind of signal to me that says, this is something to be excited about. I’ve been banging on about Kilkerran for a good while; but this a rarity, because this Kilkerran is something you can only get from visiting the location as part of a Cadenhead’s warehouse tasting.
But truth be told, I didn’t go to there to get a bottle, but I know a man who did – Jason, co-editor of Malt, the former Whisky Rover. (He has his uses, and his being in Scotland to supply me with practically contraband whisky is one of them.)
He was up at Campbeltown recently for a warehouse tasting. So there’s not much preamble to this – he was up there, the bottle was for sale, he messaged to see if I wanted a bottle and I replied yes before he’d finished typing.
You see, we do like Kilkerran here at Malt. The Work in Progress 7 Bourbon Cask shall go down as one of the all-time great whiskies of recent times – we flagged this early doors, but it sold out very quickly. Every other release from Kilkrran has been good to great. There’s not been a bad one among them – and even the average ones are interesting and full of the character and quality that’s lacking from a lot of Scotch whisky these days.
So here’s an utter rogue of a Kilkerran. It was from Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tasting, and you probably can’t buy it anywhere else. It might pop up at auction, but the numbers will be pretty limited. So I’ll keep my preamble short and sweet, in order not to piss you off too much. (Because yes, it’s wonderful.)
Kilkerran 13 Year Old – Port & Bourbon Cask Review
Colour: old oak, burnt umber, with a red glow. Outrageous colour.
On the nose: the port influence is there right off the bat: plummy, jammy, damson-like notes, which fade to bring that real dirty-malty Kilkerran density. Morello cherries and strawberry sauce. Maple syrup. Musty notes of old cellars, something one might find in a far older whisky. A slightly toasted note. Weirdly it’s the fruits that dominate over any dirtiness and smokiness, the port cask really stamping its authority on the dram, but when the fruits fade the light peat comes to the fore. After this: jam tarts, toffee fudge.
In the mouth: remarkably velvety, silky texture, that just allows the jammy fruits to swagger into your gob. Charred meats with HP sauce smeared on, burnt bangers on the barbecue. Damsons, balsamic vinegar. A wonderful balance for such strong flavours, of the bitterness of the peat and char, with the black fruits: blackcurrants, blackberries, even the slight tartness of cranberries. Cloves towards the very long finish, with maple syrup, black pepper, sage and a hint of mint.
Filthier than a top-shelf mag at a service station. In a world where we see utterly bland whiskies being pumped out for top dollar, fourth-fill cask whiskies being wheeled out by independent bottlers as ‘subtle’ drams, and whiskies being polished and brightened artificially by filtration techniques, this is probably the most welcome thing a drinker (not a collector) could want.
It isn’t for everyone, I’ll admit that. But If I could drink only one bottle from what I’ve tasted this year (and I’ve tasted a ridiculous amount) this would be a serious contender for the top spot. Just a shame it’s almost impossible to find.