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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Single Malt Report: Kirkland 18 year old Speyside Sherry Finish

During this Thanksgiving week, I'm determining my level of thankfulness for two inexpensive store brand single malts:  Trader Joe's 10 year old Highland (reviewed on Monday) and Kirkland 18 year old Speyside Sherry Finish (reviewed here today).

While not terrible, the Trader Joe's single malt was mild-to-bland on the palate, almost a light beer type of whisky.  Kirkland's single malts are provided by Alexander Murray & Co., just like TJs'.  So they also have 40%ABVs and are inexpensive.

Like yesterday's TJs sample, this one was provided by Florin (a prince).  When he and I first tried this whisky two years ago, we found some similarities between it and Tomatin 18.  But Tomatin is not in Speyside, so if anyone has anything theories as to what distillery provided this "Speyside", please let me know in the comments below.  This whisky has been replaced at my local Costco by a 20yo sherry finish Speyside and a 18yo sherry finish Highland at different times, but there may still be bottles of this one left on shelves at other locations.

Label: Kirkland
Distillery: ???
BottlerAlexander Murray & Co.
Type: Single Malt
Region: Speyside
Age: minimum 18 years
Maturation: probably ex-bourbon casks to start and ex-sherry casks to finish
Alcohol by Volume: 40%

The color is an orange gold.  The nose's most prominent straightforward notes are honey, nutty sherry, fuji apples, and maple.  But it also shows quirkier things like vinyl, graphite, new shoes, and wet sheep.  The palate is mellower than the nose, malty and tangy.  Milk chocolate, caramel, honey, and peaches make up much of the delivery.  A chemical bitterness intrudes here and there.  Burnt black raisins and wood pulp also have cameos.  The finish grows more citrusy and the bitterness improves a bit.  The wood pulp lingers as do those burnt black raisins.

(I'm ambivalent at best about whiskies resulting from brief finishes in ex-sherry casks, so that should be taken into account when considering my conclusions.)

This was an improvement over the Trader Joe's 10yo right from the start.  And it's better than one would normally expect from a 40%abv store brand whisky.  But I wouldn't say this is a particularly great single malt.  Again, the nose is the best part, showing some decent complexity possibly coming from the age.  The palate works occasionally, but something keeps screwing it up -- whether it's e150a or some crap casks.

We consumers should not be lured by an 18 year age statement, as in "Woo! 18 year old whisky for only $30! I'll buy a case!".  An older whisky doesn't guarantee quality and a bargain isn't necessarily a great find.  (This is coming from someone who has been hunting bargains for his entire life.  This year alone I've purchased a half dozen cheap whiskies which have provided me nothing but regret. More about this issue another time.)  I think $30 is a reasonable price for this single malt.  The quality is significantly better than the Trader Joes 10yo, arguably better than Glenmorangie Lasanta, but falls short of Tomatin 18yo.

Level of thankfulness: I'm thankful I had multiple opportunities to try this whisky.  And I'm thankful to have a little extra that I can utilize to improve TJs' 10yo...

Availability - Costco
Pricing - $29.99-$32.99
Rating - 78