Kilkerran, as previously explained, is the name of the whisky produced by the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown. They’re a part of the Springbank family and, as I’ve also noted before, the Kilkerran profile bears lots of genetic markers of the Springbank/Longrow line. This profile has until now been accessible only through a few years worth of “Work in Progress” releases—(not-so) small batches released every year after the distillate got past the legal minimum of three years, showing the progress of the aging barrels. Unlike Bruichladdich with their Port Charlotte line, the Kilkerran WIPs were not put together in complicated ways and were thus likely to be pretty good indicators of what the profile of the eventual regular release would be. I will say that I’ve liked every edition of the WIP that I’ve tried (though I’ve only reviewed a couple so far) and I’ve thus been looking forward to the regular release, which I’d thought would be ready at 10 years of age. Well, the distillery waited till it was 12 years old, which brought us to 2016. Towards the end of the Work in Progress series they started putting out parallel sherry and bourbon wood expressions; it turns out that this 12 yo is a vatting of 70% ex-bourbon and 30% ex-sherry casks.
My sample is from Michael K. of Diving for Pearls. He liked it but didn’t love it. Perhaps this is why he made the sample bottle all but impossible to open.
Kilkerran 12 (46%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Sooty and a little rubbery off the bat but it turns soon in the direction of wet cloth, mustard seed and brine; lemon too (preserved lemon). The peat expands as it sits and it gets generally more coastal: iodine, kelp, sea shells. Water pushes the soot back and, well, washes it out more generally too.
Palate: Pretty much as advertised by the nose, except less of the lemon and a little bit sweeter. The same but more so on the second and third sips. The texture is just a bit thinner than I would like but that’s my only quibble. Develops a little bitterness with time (quinine). Water makes it a bit sharper and brings out more of the lemon.
Finish: Long. The soot and salt expand. As on the palate with water but still quite salty.
Comments: Very Springbank/Longrow and very good. Also, peatier than I was expecting it would be; on the other hand, I didn’t get very much of the sherry component. Not the most complex whisky but they don’t all need to be. If not for the fact that this is the only regular release on offer from the distillery, I would say this is on the short list of the very best entry-level bottles. I am also going to predict that this distillate is going to take age very well. I look forward to a 15-18 yo version in a few years time. In the meantime, I am going to get a bottle of this and am going to suggest you do too. I agree with Michael, however, about exercising caution with water: I think it’s far better without.
Rating: 88 points.
Thanks to Michael K. for the sample.