...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Single Malt Report: Kilkerran WIP 7 Bourbon Wood Cask Strength

If you've read one or all of my Kilkerran reviews, you may have quickly noted my enthusiasm for this Glengyle-produced single malt.  I love the stuff.  It's one of the few whiskies that gives me hope, reminding me that new great whisky is still being made in Scotland.  And though they keep calling each of their whiskies a "Work in Progress", we shouldn't keep holding our breath for the final result.  Each of these WIPs are good to excellent right now.

But the WIPs will end, allegedly, this year as the 12 year old will enter the market.  I wonder what color the label will be.  Here are the WIP colors thus far:

WIP 1: White label
WIP 2: Gray label
WIP 3: Light green label
WIP 4: Beige label
WIP 5: Blue label (Bourbon Wood & Sherry Wood)
WIP 6: Pink label (Bourbon Wood & Sherry Wood)
WIP 7: Dark green label (Bourbon Wood CS & Sherry Wood)

Sure there are some questions.  Will they release two whiskies again: an ex-bourbon and an ex-sherry?  Which will have aged better?  Will they have a cask strength version of the 12?  Will they throw in an NAS CV like Springbank?  How about a port cask?

It's fun to speculate, but it's even better to drink what's already here.  And here is WIP 7, an 11 year old single malt, aged in former bourbon barrels and bottled at cask strength (or a high batch strength, more likely).

Sorry, I can't find a photo of
the sample bottle. So here's an official
bottle shot.

Distillery: Glengyle
Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 11 years (2004 - 2015)
Maturation: ex-bourbon American Oak barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 54.1%
Label color: Dark green
Limited release: 6000
Thank you to smokypeat for the sample!

Immediately upon nosing it, I involuntarily released a simian grunt of approval.  That forest floor note in the nose has become like a welcoming old buddy in every new WIP.  The peat reads larger in this edition than any of the previous ones, maneuvering back and forth between BBQ and salty seaweed.  Perhaps that's due to the bigger ABV?  My notes read "rocks!". So apparently I smelled rocks.  Notes of apples, pears, and vanilla roll about in the background.  With lots of air, notes of fresh cherries and mango develop.

In the palate an intensely aromatic fruit note merges with the peat and malt and earth and salt. Big fruity and almost floral esters coexisting with the grunge.  A bold herbal bitterness and spice.  Hints of almonds and dried apricots.

A very long finish.  Moderate sweets and spices.  A little bit of vanilla and sugar.  Forest floor, malt, peaty residue, and a hint of blossoms.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
Bringing the alcohol level down to the previous releases, the whisky becomes reminiscent of those WIPs but again with more peat in the nose.  There's seaweed, dirty hay, lemons, and roses.

The palate gets a little sweeter.  Very aromatic in the mouth, without being perfumy.  I wrote "Battle Flowers".  I was apparently getting poetic, as it must have reminded me of my Mathilda Rose.  Anyway, it's richly malty with just a little oak.

Rocks and soil and flower petals in the finish.  Herbal bitterness and whispers of peat smoke.  Limes in sugar.

How much did I like it?  Well, I never buy more than one bottle of anything (because money), but I bought two bottles of this.  It didn't hurt that I found a place that had priced it incorrectly.  Sorry, but they've since fixed that.

If you liked WIP 5 and/or 6, you'll like this one too.  It's fruitier and peatier than those, and has a thicker texture.  Some of that may be due to the higher strength.  But yet there seems to be less oak and more vivid spirit in this one, even with water added.  It's rich without feeling like it's been produced or prettied up.  Whatever it is they're doing, they need to keep doing it.  My goodness.

Once again, Kilkerran reigns as my favorite autumn whisky.  But, you know, it probably drinks just fine in the winter too.

Availability - It's around but slowly disappearing...
Pricing - this edition will run $70-$90 in the US; similar in Europe when factoring in shipping
Rating - 90


  1. Another great review! I picked up two bottles of this - bought one and then read all the positive reviews and got a second before they disappeared. I'm a fan of Kilkerran, too, and am really looking forward to opening my own bottle soon (once I clear out some space on the shelf! Your "forest floor" note is what I always find so appealing in these.

    1. Hey E, I think you'll find this one to be a lot of fun. My two bottles are closed at the moment too. I also have some space I'm slowly clearing out. Here's to hoping they do another cask strength version next year!

  2. I bought what I believe to be a bum bottle of this from my corner store. It had none of the great notes that I remember from Smokeypeat's bottle, but I'll retry it once my taste for whisky returns. If that's the case, it would be the first time I see evidence of bottle damage (i) in a cask strength whisky and (ii) within a year of production. It couldn't have been on the shelves longer than 6 months, and the said shelves are not in direct sunlight. The Sep/Oct heat was indeed oppressive in San Diego.

    1. I will gladly take that bum bottle from you Florin. Don't retry it, just give it to me for disposal. I feel that even a bum bottle of Kilkerran is better than most. But even though we live in basically the same city, your particular part of our fair city is like the surface of the sun and storing bottles of fine spirits there could be perilous. For that reason you should start storing all of your open bottles at my place for safer keeping. That is all.

    2. That would be the quickest bottle damage I'd ever heard of. September and October were brutal, which leaves me wondering if heat is a larger problem than sunlight. The temperatures in my dining room ruined three bottles of whisky 3-4 years ago, but the whiskies were all 40-43% and less than half full.

  3. Very glad to read this review; I've been considering picking up a bottle for awhile, and at around $50 US at my local, it seems there's no reason not to.

    1. Ooh, that's a good price. The prices on scotch were/are so good in Japan. I should have brought a trunk when I went there.

  4. I am coming to the conclusion that, at least in the US, Kilkerran represents a better value than most of what we get from Springbank.

    1. Agreed. Here are Springbank's best values, in my opinion:

      1. Kilkerran, especially this CS iat $70
      2. Longrow Peated, if you can find it at $50-$55
      3. Springbank 12yo CS, if you can find it for $80

      Other than those, they don't have anything of good value in The States. And, as we discussed before, all of their other cask strength and "wood" expressions have undergone massive price inflation.

    2. I agree with that list.

      (Ol' Jas)

  5. Its not dark green, it is more of a teal green label to me.

    Love, love, love this one. Bought two bottles. Finished one already. Probably would grab another if I ran into it in the wild. That unopened one is shaking with fear in my cabinet already. It sees the way I look at it. This year for the first time I bought a Sherry Wood one too. Not open yet, but all things in due time. I like what they are doing over there at Glengyle so much I could see myself becoming obsessed with having as many of their expressions around as possible. I usually resist such fanboy urges and spread around my whisky love, but I just enjoy every drop of these that I should have at least a few more bunkered.

    1. Yeah, I guess dark-er green. WIP3's label is a very pale shade.

      Well, Kilkerran doesn't really have a lot of expressions. :) But previous WIPs can definitely be found in the wild. I'm considering getting the Sherry Wood too. I have a feeling that version is going to get better with age, surpassing the Bourbon Wood in a few years. It should be pretty swell as a 12yo.

  6. What distinction are you making between "cask strength" and "high batch strength"?

    -Ol' Jas

    1. Mostly my cynicism towards the use of "cask strength" for every high-ish abv release. Like Uigeadail for instance, has a cask strength designation though every bottling is the same abv. There are no rules governing the use of the cask strength designation, so I'm always doubtful that water was not added to either stretch out bottle count and/or to smooth out the product a bit. It's not a complaint aimed at Kilkerran but the industry in general.

  7. I've never seen Uigeadail claim to be cask strength, except by random bloggers and the like who don't know better. Maybe it's a complaint about the consumer base, rather than the industry?

    Unless...Do "brand ambassadors" (or whoever) go too far in claims like that?

    1. I need to take a peek at the bottle and box this week to confirm. But it's possible you're right. It's bloggers and (especially) retailers who make the cask strength claim:

      Big retailers:


  8. Sku posted news about the upcoming Kilkerran 12 last week:

    Looks like they're back to plain white.

    -Ol' Jas

    1. Yep. It'll be hitting the UK shelves (not sure about the US) in a few weeks. Sadly there was none to try when I was at the distillery last week.