Blink and a year has passed in whisky. The unstoppable force of nature and maturation is relentless, bringing us new releases, a new entry in the Macallan Teletubbies series and another step in the peat in progress effort from Kilkerran.
Nothing it seems sits still nowadays. Even here on MALT, we’ve come off the back of our busiest month ever (October 2019 with over 200,000 views) and a cracking week of content with 7 articles from 7 different writers. Things are coming together, as is we hope, this latest effort from Campbeltown’s newest distillery.
The debut Kilkerran Heavily Peated earlier this year was released to universal acclaim. There was very little to complain about. We all knew it was young, but already the promise was evident. Back this up with a more traditional approach at Kilkerran and the community aspect that we wholeheartedly support – no one wants to talk about Bruichladdich’s new shiny Chinese store, or selling out, do they? Here’s a distillery that is family owned and eventually will be owned by a trust for the town of Campbeltown. In an era of corporate binging and profit chasing this is refreshing. We acknowledge that everyone has to earn a decent crust, as that’s how our consumer society operates and rightly so.
However, some are stretching things to new limits and focusing on the numbers. Whisky isn’t just about numbers as you’ll know from visiting here. As Adam rightly pointed out, its about flavour if you care to remember. This fact is lost upon some releases and distilleries in the stampede to bottle whatever they can get away with and some are really taking the Rees-Mogg. That’s why we’re here! Flavour! To experience and enjoy whisky, not to buff and polish your bottles, or to chase the latest release from GlenSorry in a state of rabid delirium.
At the end of the day, we are where we are. Delivered by some unsavoury behaviours from a profit driven industry and consumers who need to calm down a little. Perhaps the pending 25% tariffs on whisky will force a sense of realisation for some. Already the industry is scaremongering about X-amount loss of jobs, yet I believe whisky is a global phenomenon. When a door closes, another opens, or slowly creeks ajar. All you need is the awareness to give it a good shove. Something you’ll overlook, if you’re too busy moaning about a decision, which is out of your hands.
In reality, one of the first new releases to be affected by this potentially, is the Kilkerran Heavily Peated batch 2 release we have here. From memory, Springbank and co. brought forward their releases to avoid the black hole that is Brexit – yes, we’re still kicking that can down the road. In doing so, they’ve embraced the ongoing spat between the USA and the EU over planes. Personally, I don’t see another election changing anything. Sure, we’ll get rid of some deadwood and inept leaders, but there won’t be a majority and the angst will be ramped up once again. For those south of the border, moaning about the last 3 years, think of us in Scotland. We had a referendum 2 years prior to that, so its felt like 5 years (if not more) of being stuck in neutral. And it is turning into a merry-go-round.
At least the basis of this Kilkerran is heavily seeded in value. The price for a single malt, from a distillery that isn’t efficient as many others, is hugely welcome. It shows that you can charge a fair price for a single malt that isn’t wrapped up in marketing excess – the stuff that you’re really paying for at Glenfiddich for example. I know from my American friends, they were already paying a premium abroad for the Heavily Peated, but they appreciated the opportunity to purchase it and at what was still a reasonable price. The distillery doesn’t have the economies of scale of say a Lagavulin, nor the financial muscle behind it, but they produced a peated newbie that frankly showed up your Port Charlotte 10 and the Lagavulin 8. Whiskies that are overpriced and heavily branded – what did we say again? It’s all about flavour!
My hope is, that these tariffs will prompt consumers to question price and if it is reasonable? If not, then see it as an opportunity to look elsewhere and consider another distillery, whisky or bottler that might lead to a fruitful discovery.
Recently, there was some discussion in Justine’s Kavalan review around pricing. Mark kindly chipped in to explain things. Our 1-10 scale is simple and not camouflaged and even the whisky phylum Porifera delved into the art of scoring. I’m done with the topic, but from an editorial point of view, I do find it refreshing that we value price. We don’t overlook, or ignore it. Rather, we tackle it head on and if a writer doesn’t feel the price is justified and wants to mark down (or up), then that’s their prerogative. As long as they say what they’re doing in the conclusion, or article, then I don’t have any issue whatsoever with it. And I believe 99.9% of our readership feels the exact same way. In fact, they welcome the opportunity to see pricing debated and also the interaction we offer with comments here. Long may it continue.
This Batch 2 is bottled at 60.9% ABV and has been matured in 55% ex-bourbon and 45% ex-Sherry Casks. As always, it features natural colour, is non-chill filtered and retails for a respectable £37.95 from Master of Malt. This is the exact same ratio of casks utilised in Batch 1, albeit that was bottled at a slightly lesser strength of 59.3%. We’ll do a comparison in the conclusions, as I’m still enjoying my Batch 1 bottle that has really developed in the past few months and in doing so, would warrant a 7 score today.
Kilkerran Heavily Peated Batch 2 – review
Color: white gold.
On the nose: Plenty of peat and autumnal vibes. Sea salt, brine and no alcohol burn. Honey, a metallic element to it and the peat feels more integrated and aromatic. A sweet, peat but not engineered like Ailsa Bay. Rock candy, lime peel, coffee and sweet cinnamon. Airing for a while, the peat sits back with baked red apples and french toast stepping into the void. Goldeny syrup, calamine lotion, salted caramel, chocolate mint leaf and icing sugar. Water turns the peat more earthy and less salt with dried bark, but otherwise subtle changes.
In the mouth: Yes, peat, and a used candle wick, more brine and lemon with a pleasing oily texture. Dried fruits, rubbed brass, burnt toast with olives, limes and green mango. Salt once again, not a huge finish with chocolate and generally, it feels a little tight. Water results in a wet blanket thrown over a campfire that is suddenly pulled away, and more fruit. Resting for a while, driftwood, dying embers, dried fruits and sooty. An oily texture with burnt toast, olives, limes and green mango.
Simply put, another winner from Kilkerran in terms of flavour and value. There is nothing here to grumble about whatsoever. If you like what this distillery has done previously, or peat, then it is an easy recommendation.
As a comparison, I tried both the Heavily Peated releases side by side. There is very little difference. Batch 2 has a more robust peat nature and oily texture, whereas Batch 1 feels more restrained with added fruits. I’m happy to have both to hand to share and explore.
There are commission links within this article, but as you can see they don’t affect our judgement. This bottle might have also sold out by now as well, if so, then apologies.