...where distraction is the main attraction.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Single Malt Report: Kilkerran Work in Progress 2 (2010)

Over a year ago I enjoyed my introduction to the miracle makers of Springbank.  I lined up a tremendous Taste Off of Hazelburn 8yr, Springbank 10yr 100 proof (UK version), and Longrow CV.  Since then I always spring for a Springbank if I see a bottle at a bar.  And there's always one (or more) of their whiskys in my cabinet, usually a Longrow.

As an introduction to that Taste Off, I posted a little piece about the history of Springbank and Campbeltown in general.

Kintyre Peninsula, Scotland's bait and tackle,
twig and berries, meat and potatoes, rod and reel.
Get it?
It's a peninsula joke.
In the late 1800s, thirty to forty distilleries packed into a little town, Campbeltown at Kintyre's tip.  Campbeltown was then the center of the whisky world.  But overproduction, logistics, and economics changed the whisky power structure in Scotland.  By the mid-twentieth century there were only two distilleries left in Campbeltown, Springbank and Glen Scotia.

In 2000, Springbank's ownership acquired one of the defunct (but mostly intact) distilleries, Glengyle, and began production -- using modified stills from the closed Ben Wyvis distillery -- four years later.  Loch Lomond Distillers owns the rights to the Glengyle name, so the new whisky's name was chosen, as per their website:
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.
In 2009 the distillery started releasing their young whisky as a sort of public archiving of the whisky's development (and I'm sure it doesn't hurt to get some revenue out of it too), labeling it "Work in Progress".  So, Work in Progress 1 was five years old, 2 is six, 3 is seven, and this year's 4 is eight, each limited to 12000-15000 bottles.  Once it hits 12 years in 2016 they will expand it to a full release.

Like Springbank, Kilkerran is lightly peated, but distilled twice.  They use Springbank's malt, but with much differently structured stills and fermentation times.  As a result a different whisky is born.

At the end of that post on Springbank last December, I wrote: "Kilkerran is still a baby, but they have released a malt that I will beg, borrow, and steal for before 2012 has finished. "

Done and done.

Distillery: Glengyle
Brand: Kilkerran
Age: 6 years (2004 - June 2010)
Maturation: ex-bourbon American Oak barrels
Region: Campbeltown
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Limited release: 15000

Please note: This one took a while to wake up, especially the nose.  The palate showed up first, but after 10-15 minutes in the glass the whisky switch was thrown and the nose appeared.

The color is a pale amber.  The nose immediately starts with new shoes, leather jacket, and a touch of peat. There's a hint of acetone at its edges which is the only element that belies the malt's youth.  There's some hay and tree bark in there too.  While there's some very subtle vanilla in the background, the main descriptor that I apply to the nose is: Outdoorsy.  The palate holds some surprising peat (both in vegetal form and resultant smoke).  Vanilla, cereal grains, more toffee than molasses, and some white fruit juice.  There's a little bitterness, but its very palatable, think black coffee or baker's chocolate.  The lengthy finish gets slightly sweeter.  The shoes and leather notes return here, as well as the pleasant bitter note.

More American oak sneaks into the nose now.  Coconut and some white sugars appear.  The leather and outdoor notes are silenced.  Okay maybe there's a little manure.   Yes, in a good way.  The palate gets very creamy and noticeably sweeter.  Brown sugar and fresh grass spring up.  The peat's still there along with a fragrant floral moment.  It's now insanely drinkable.  The finish is shorter, but holds that nice bitter note.  A bit of vanilla is awakened and there's some more grass (live and dead).

This one sits on the other side of the spectrum from Wednesday's Benromach Organic.  Where that one was huge sweet oak syrup, this one flexes more malt and is more outdoorsy (notice how few food-and-drink-related descriptors are in these notes).  Also, something makes this nose feel old fashioned.  Perhaps because it's a little more rugged than most popular single malts.

To use silly shorthand: If Springbank is Springbank's Campbeltown malt, Longrow their Islay-type malt, and Hazelburn their Lowland-type malt, then perhaps Kilkerran is their old school peated Highland malt?  I'd love to line Kilkerran up next to some good Ardmore to see if that theory holds up.  Heck, I'd love to line Kilkerran up next to some more Kilkerran.

Ultimately, this isn't a sweetie, though the sugars show up once water is added.  After doing some whisky review snooping, I've noticed that the newer releases of Kilkerran are getting sweeter and fruitier as the malt ages.  While I wouldn't say no to any bottle of Glengyle's malt, I do like this WIP2 version.  In fact this is really my jam (so to speak).  But your palate may differ from mine.  Remember, I like Lediag, LOVE Longrow, and would bathe in Corryvreckan if I didn't fear it would eat my soul.

Availability - Some liquor specialists (This edition is getting harder to find)
Pricing - $50-$65 (WIPs 3 & 4 seem to be going up in price)
Rating - 91