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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Kilkerran 8 year old Cask Strength

Oh yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. This is a 2017 release that I'm reviewing here. The 8 year old cask strength all ex-bourbon cask Kilkerran, to be exact. While the 12 year old release generated excitement last year, the announcement of this CS tickled the fancy of a certain sub-sub-sub group of whisky fans: the Kilkerran Work In Progress Geeks. Here was a high quality Campbeltown distillery proudly releasing a full strength single-digit whisky that brought back happy memories of their previous baby whiskies.

But here's the thing. I've struggled with this whisky, aside from the fact that the first bottle I bought was crushed in a USPS sorting machine. The first four or five pours from my (replacement) bottle registered insanely hot, more 65%abv than 56%abv. That heat smothered everything. And I was kinda bummed. So I left the bottle alone for two months.

I brought it back out for this week's reviews. The tasting set up included Kilkerran WIP 7 Sherry Wood (reviewed on Monday), this 8yo CS reduced to 46% abv and then the 8yo CS at full strength...

Distillery: Glengyle
Owner: Mitchell's Glengyle Limited
Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
Age: minimum 8 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon casks
Limited release: 9000
Alcohol by Volume: 56.2%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from my bottle)

Thank goodness the heat has mostly vanished from the nose. Now there be lemons, limes and blue Mr. Sketch markers. Tropical fruit candy, roses and Jolly Ranchers. Hot cereal (Tobermory-style), elephant exhibit and wort. Ah but the hot hot heat remains in the palate, keeping things narrow. Minerals, limes, peat and barley. Peppery and bitter, with a little bit of caramel sauce. The finish also feels closed. Not much besides lime, vanilla, salt and heat.

And diluted:

WITH WATER (46%abv)
The nose is farmy and fruity. Red and pink Jolly Ranchers. A collection of seemingly disparate notes — vanilla bean, band-aids, burnt peat, flowers and limes — come together well. The burn has left the palate. Now it's sweet, bitter, smoky and dirty. Ginger candy, vanilla, overripe peaches and farmy peat. Not much going on in the finish, again. Pepper and peach. Mouth drying tannins.

It's much better diluted, though the nose is pretty good either way. It's a sharp young thing that doesn't care much about delivering an easy drinking experience. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. The one element that remains concerning is the nearly DOA plain finish.

As mentioned on Monday, the Kilkerran WIP 7 Sherry Wood won the tasting. I was left thinking that this 8yo could have used a small percentage of the distillery's good sherry casks to lift it up a bit. That worked for the 12 year old. In any case, I don't think there's a need for Kilkerran geeks to rush to buy this whisky, unless it's for completion purposes.

Availability - Europe and US specialty retailers
Pricing - $60-$80 Europe, $80ish US
Rating - 83 (with water, several points lower without)


  1. Mildly disappointing since I was hoping that a younger release would replicate what I liked about the WIP series, but it may be that the first distillation was exceptionally well done and it will take a while to bring subsequent releases up to snuff.

    1. The key here may be the missing sherry casks. I THINK some or all of the first four WIPs had some sherry casks in the mix. The 12yo does and they certainly help it out.

      Also, I hope they do a 15yo sherry wood release in a few years. Though my expectations would be through the roof for it.