I’m a bit behind the times on this one having missed out on a bottle when it was released at the tail end of last year, however after a concerted effort to hunt it down – which meant trawling through the Kilkerran trade list, then emailing and calling shops – I was fortunate to locate and buy two bottles. There’s a lot to be said for chasing down a dram; an invigorating joy which put a spring in my step. Even more so given that this release was matured for 8 years in 100% re-charred oloroso sherry casks, is cask strength, and has such well-received reviews.
Kilkerran Distillery has a fascinating history. Originally known as Glengyle Distillery, it was founded in 1872 by William Mitchell (of Springbank fame), sold on in 1919, and then unfortunately ceased trading by 1925, another casualty of the whisky industry downturn that hit Campbeltown particularly hard.
It remained silent for the next 75 years and by the turn of the century the site was nothing more than the shells of buildings providing nesting opportunities for the local bird population. As the year 2000 arrived, Campbeltown itself was only home to two distilleries – Springbank and Glen Scotia – and the SWA were considering revoking its status as a distinct Scotch Whisky Region, however Hedley Wright, Springbank’s Chairman, bought the site and 4 years later after much re-design and construction, Glengyle Distillery was re-opened. This also brought Campbeltown’s functioning distilleries to three, the same as the Lowlands Region, thus ensuring the areas distinct regional whisky status.
The new owners also had to come up with a new name for their whisky. In 1941 the distillery and brand name were sold off to a company who then failed to re-start the site and whisky production. This meant that although Mr Wright had acquired the site, he would need to re-brand the whisky they made as Glengyle was being used by a blended Highland malt. They eventually settled on the name Kilkerran:
Secondly, and more importantly, Mitchell’s Glengyle Ltd are very proud to be continuing and adding to the great Campbeltown Distilling tradition and the choice of name reflects that. Kilkerran is derived from the Gaelic ‘Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain’ which is the name of the original settlement where Saint Kerran had his religious cell and where Campbeltown now stands. Kilkerran is thought to be a suitable name for a new Campbeltown malt since it was unusual for the old Campbeltown distilleries to be called after a Glen, a custom more usually associated with the Speyside region.www.Kilkerran.scot/about/
So, what have we got? A deeply reddish whisky, bottled at an unwavering 57.1%, NCF and NCA.
Nose: Initially it’s the sherry I notice – fragrant and looming large from the glass. The cask influence tapers off and I get more leather and wood, ash and smoke. I do not pick up the high ABV on the nose either, very little sulphur. On this basis, I doubt I will be adding water. 9/10
Palate: Fruity sherry notes yet again, and as suspected this needs no water. A mellow warming from the 57.1% and it’s reminiscent of cherry menthol chewing gum. I find it a bit more oaky now than on the nose, but it’s balanced well enough that this isn’t too strong or in your face. Some dark chocolate too and wee moments of smokiness too. 9/10
Finish: A drawn out finish – fruity, then smoky, and finally I’m left with a faint tobacco-like aftertaste by the end. 8/10
This is a monster of a whisky. With an RRP of £50, it’s potent, punchy, affordable goodness, and I would go as far as to say it’s even worth the current auction prices which are touching £75, which the flippers will be glad to read. Of course, that’s on the basis that they read this review…