...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Kilkerran Work In Progress, Sixth Release (Sherry Wood)

Of the ten standard Kilkerran Works in Progress, there is only one I have yet to review, until now. For some reason, it took a loooooong time to source a sample for Work in Progress, Sixth Release (Sherry Wood). But now it's here in front of me. Let's close this up. Thank you, Gridley's Redemption!

The WIP List with review links:
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)

Distillery: Glengyle
Owner: Mitchell's Glengyle Limited
Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
Age: ~10 years (2004 - 2014)
Maturation: sherry casks
Label color: Pink
Limited release: 9,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a added? No

NOTES

I'm getting "clean" sherry casks on the nose. Lots of dried fruits, but no raisins. More like dried apple and dried pineapple. Roasted almonds. Dark chocolate with dried raspberries. That midpoint between white peaches and roses. Subtle peat notes don't arrive until much later on.

The palate has the nose's dried fruits (especially dried pineapples), but with dried currants added to the mix. Raw walnuts, mulling spices, tart limes and herbal bitterness fill the midground. It gets tarter with time, but no sign of peat to be found.

Dried cherries, dried currants and raw walnuts show up in the early sips' finishes. Later sips pick up distant moments of smoke, hay and herbal bitterness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This feels cask-forward, but never sweet, gooey, nor oaky. Perhaps a mix of refills and dry casks seasoned with dry sherry were used. Not many refills, though, because this is one of the least peaty Kilkerrans I've ever had. If memory (and my notes) serve me right, this fits into the WIP Sherry Wood family, but is still its own whisky. Thank you, Glengyle, for this series! It was terrifically nerdy, and also delicious. New distilleries, take note, if you dare!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Kilkerran Work In Progress, Second Release (re-review)

I often thought of Kilkerran WIP #2 (gray label) as my favorite whisky of the Work In Progress series, with #5 Bourbon Wood and #7 Bourbon Wood as its main competitors. Then I went through a bottle, finding it very good but not astounding. Then during the final in-person Columbus Scotch Night event of the pre-Covid era (technically, February 2020), the group tried the whisky alongside two other Kilkerrans, and I had the same sensory response: very good, but not nearly as amazing as I'd once thought it was. I took home a sample of the whisky from that bottle, saving it for some unknown evening.

That unknown evening has arrived tonight. Work In Progress #1 has been poured as well, in order to provide perspective.

Distillery: Glengyle
Owner: Mitchell's Glengyle Limited
Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
Age: ~6 years (2004 - 2010)
Maturation: bourbon and sherry casks (I think)
Label color: Gray
Limited release: 15,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a added? No
(from an event bottle)

NEAT

Ah there's the nose I always look forward to. Dead leaves, soil, wet concrete, a hint of engine grease on one level; fresh peaches, lychee candy and white gummy bears on another; with dark chocolate and mild seaweedy peat joining them together. Its palate reads much calmer than WIP1's. In fact it's comparatively austere. Salt and herbal bitterness frame barley, hay, earth and lemons. A tiny bit of sweetness appears much later on. It finishes with barley, lemons, soil and bitter herbs.

I've never added water to WIP2 before, but I'm going to try a few drops now to see if it opens anything up.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 2mL of water per 30mL whisky

The nose feels more closed than opened now. Less peat, less fruit, more dark chocolate. The palate gets much sweeter. Most of the character vanishes, leaving behind some oranges and salt, which is how it finishes as well. So don't do this.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Yeah, don't add water, instead appreciate the palate for being lean, focused and oak-free. As you can probably tell, I still find the nose gorgeous gorgeous, as if it were from a whisky era earlier than this one. That must be the romantic idea I held onto for so long, a sturdy old school autumn malt. I still enjoy this whisky, but when my final bottle of WIP2 is opened, it will be accepted for what it is.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - $54.99 in May 2013
Rating - 88

Monday, June 27, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Kilkerran Work In Progress, First Release

Though last week I bemoaned, "Whew, all these young malts are beginning to get to me," I have made an executive decision to break out some young single malts that will hopefully represent better examples of whisky in its early bloom. And I'm going to start with one of my favorite retired whisky series, Kilkerran's Work In Progress. I'm going to try an old favorite, and as well as the only two WIPs I've yet to review. I'm beginning with one of the latter, Work In Progress, First Release, pouring from my bottle.

For those who haven't read my previous WIP raves, I'll recap 'em. Springbank's parent company (re-)opened Glengyle in 2004, then started to roll out annual whisky-as-status-updates known as the Work In Progress series once the whisky was of legal age. The year after reaching Batch 7, the distillery offered up their first 12 year old single malt. I enjoyed some, adored others, seeing many of them as "ready to go", as opposed to "works in progress". But I never reviewed the first batch. And I had a bottle. Then I opened it and now I am really drinking it, making it an official TIRD!

Distillery: Glengyle
Owner: Mitchell's Glengyle Limited
Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
Age: ~5 years (2004 - 2009)
Maturation: bourbon and sherry casks
Label color: White
Limited release: 9,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a added? No
(from my bottle, upper half)

NOTES

In the nose, cocoa mixes with the Kilkerran dried leaf / forest floor note, followed by fruits (peach skins, lychee, lemon and dried cherries) and starches (fresh whole wheat bread and witbier). After 20 minutes, orange zest and roses. After 30 minutes, apples and seaweed.

Bright citrus tanginess matches the autumnal forest peat beat for beat in the palate. Bitter herbs, mild honeyed sweetness and a distant bonfire arrive next. After 40 minutes, I find a pair of Hampden notes: diesel and olives.

It finishes with dried leaves, a little bit of seaweed, limes, yuzus, honey and a hint of kiln.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

The old Ben Wyvis stills worked wonders from the start. While this 5-ish year old is not as round and focused as it could be at thrice its age, all the great components are already there, matching up and spinning together better than many other whiskies thrice its age. It neither reads raw, nor feels raw on the tongue. And the casks are present only to work their invisible chemistry. This is my style.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - $59.99 in April 2013
Rating - 87

Friday, June 24, 2022

Three Yoichi Key Malts

Given the choice of Nikka's two Japanese distilleries, Miyagikyo and Yoichi, I'll always pick the latter. With more than a decade of maturation, Yoichi can hold its own with, or surpass, Scotland's best peated whiskies. Of course, "more than a decade of maturation" is quite the qualifier, presently. The Key Malts I have here today are likely very young, judging by the Miyagikyo set I reviewed on Wednesday. It may not be Waterford-young, rather Kilchoman-young. But of the two sets, this is the one I've been looking forward to.

Sapporo Triplets


Yoichi
Woody and Vanillic - 55%abv
Yoichi
Sherry and Sweet - 55%abv
Yoichi
Peaty and Salty - 55%abv
The nose is woody indeed. With peat thrown in, it registers like mesquite. After 10 minutes the vanilla bursts in, carrying mint and sugar with it. Rosemary, hazelnuts and dried apricots stay in the background.The nose starts out earthy with a little bit of wood smoke. Vanilla, lemon and caramel sit on top. Nutty sherry on the bottom. It develops a cheesy yeastiness with time."Laphroaig Jr." (per my notes) on the nose. Old bandages and antiseptic. Ham, dry peat, citronella candles and eucalyptus.
The palate is REALLY HOT, like 65%abv. Very sweet too. Once the tastebuds recover, they pick up something a lot like Craft bourbon. There's burnt wood, wood smoke, mint and pears. Maybe some kiwis in the distance.Generic sherry cask notes lead the palate, with black raisins and cherry syrup. The peat barely makes it to the midground. Basic.The palate shows a good balance of smoke, sweet and bitter. Notes of lime, mint leaf, fresh ginger and cayenne ease in gradually.
It finishes hot and sweet, with mint and lumber.The finish offers dried cherries and currants. Very little smoke, but plenty of woody bitterness.Lime, ginger, wood smoke and a touch of herbal bitterness fill the finish.
Diluted to 45%abv:
The nose has sugar cookies and pine, with hints of farm and dried herbs. The palate is very bitter and very sweet, with vanilla extract and pineapple. Nothing but bitterness and vanilla in the finish.
Diluted to 45%abv:
Sulfur and roses in the nose, followed by vanilla and golden raisins. The palate starts out well with dry oloroso and lemon, but then the black raisins and tannins take over. It finishes with maraschino cherries and woody bitterness.
Diluted to 45%abv:
The nose feels gentler and more pulled together. Lots of ocean and dry peat. The palate becomes tarter and more herbal, with kiln smoke filling every corner. It finishes with dry herbs, limes and kiln.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Woody and Vanillic - The whisky fulfills the label's promise. It's also the worst Yoichi I've ever tried. I don't know why they'd punish the lovely spirit so. The nose saves this one from getting a lower score, as is often the case with over-oaked whiskies throughout the world.

Sherry and Sweet - Another bummer, this one somehow underperforms Miyagikyo's Sherry & Sweet, even though the Yoichi has much less sulfur. It'd be forgettable were it not for the constant reminder that this is somehow Yoichi, and not a lazily sherry-finished mass production from Scotland.

Peaty and Salty - Huzzah. One good pour. This Yoichi hits all the right notes, reading like a stronger, better version of their standard NAS release. Yes, it's quite young, but it's mezcal-free, well-balanced and very drinkable even during this humid season.

I'm short on words words words here. Disappointment is what I'm feeling, like that "Really?" reaction I had when tasting an early batch of Suntory's Distiller's Reserve whiskies. Seriously, I just poured Yoichi product down the sink. It's more like "Yoichi loses", rather than "Miyagikyo wins" this week. Back to Scottish stuff next week.

RATINGS:
Yoichi Woody and Vanillic - 74
Yoichi Sherry and Sweet - 78
Yoichi Peaty and Salty - 85

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Three Miyagikyo Key Malts

Beatrice rounded up

Belated Happy Father's Day wishes to all the pappies out there. I hope you had plenty of time to drink alone, like I did.

Damn, that came across precisely as dark as I'd intended it.

Anyway, I'm back. The older folks out there might remember that Nikka's Japanese distilleries had a few 12yo versions of their Key Malts in previous decades. I had a chance to try a pair in Shinjuku, seven years ago.

But on this past Father's Day Eve, I did a side-by-side-by-side comparison of the trio of Miyagikyo Key Malts that were released in 2015-2017. All three were NAS (boooo), bottled at 55%abv (yay?). They were named Malty and Soft, Fruity and Rich, and Sherry and Sweet.

Were they any good, and did they do exactly what it says on the tin......?

Sendai Triplets


Miyagikyo
Malty and Soft - 55%abv
Miyagikyo
Fruity and Rich - 55%abv
Miyagikyo
Sherry and Sweet - 55%abv
Yep, malt on the nose. Malt, marshmallows, green apples and VOCs start things off. Complexity builds with time as orange peel, anise, grapefruit juice, caramel chews and a hint of barrel char appear.The VOC/raw note appears here too, but more forward than in the M&S's nose. It does have fruit though, specifically kiwis, oranges and yellow nectarines. Malt as well. Some banana pudding. Hint of toffee, hint of farm.Oloroso-style dry nuttiness leads the nose, followed by malt (again), brine, honey butter and the same raw note as the others. It picks up gunpowder and black raisin notes with time.
Wow, the palate is green. Barley, grass, thyme, rosemary and a hint of yeast fill it edge to edge for a while. Notes of ginger and tart kiwis materialize after some time.The palate reads more floral than fruity, and less graceful than expected. I find unripe peach, mild lemon, toasted rice and a hint of savoriness first. It gets sweeter slowly, picking up perkier citrus and Ito En's Genki sweet tea.This one has the thickest mouthfeel of the trio. A big A'bunadh-style sherriness leads the palate. Sweet cherries, bitter walnuts, dried currants and salt follow later.
It finishes with grass, ginger, malt and lime.The finish is both sweet and drying. Tannin, perhaps? It's also sort of dusty, with mild notes of lemon and lychee.Luxardo cherry syrup, milk chocolate, black raisins and a hint of dates in the finish.
Diluted to 45%abv:
Nice nose: malt, apples, roses, oranges and nut bread. The palate and finish get fruitier, with kiwis, limes and lychees, balancing the sweet and tart well. 
Diluted to 45%abv:
The nose loses its excitement and complexity. It feels blander, though it does hold onto flowers and citrus. The palate is bitterer, rougher. Peppery and acidic. It finishes tangy, tannic and lightly sweet.
Diluted to 45%abv:
Honey, raw nuts, dried currants and mild sulfur make up the nose. More sulfur on the palate now, with lots of dried fruit in the background. It finishes with tannins, raisins and sulfur.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Malty and Soft - It was malty, but I'm not sure about soft. None of these three were soft, possibly because they're all very young. But I really liked the greenness of the M&S's palate, as well as the nose's variety. Once dilution brought out the fruits, this one became the easy winner of the bunch. Still, this may not appeal to all palates.

Fruity and Rich - Japanese single malts can be gorgeously rich (and you have to be rich to buy them), but this one ain't rich. And the M&S may actually have been fruitier. But the palate got more interesting once ignored the "fruity" description, and the nose was very engaging. Just please keep it neat.

Sherry and Sweet - I'd read some complaints about the sulfuric nature of this one. When neat, I didn't sense that much of an issue, but at 45%abv there was some serious S. As mentioned in the notes, this Key Malt had a stylistic similarity to some Aberlour A'bunadh batches, though I'm not the biggest fan of that series. Curiously, despite the sulfur, this was the most forgettable of the three Key Malts.

Whew, all these young malts are beginning to get to me. I'm pretty sure M&S and F&R would have improved with 12+ years in casks, though who knows what would have happened to the S&S&S. Were I able to time travel and redirect part of my 2015 trip to Miyagikyo Distillery, I'd be happy to get the Malty and Soft. But I wouldn't change one moment of that voyage, and I don't have a time machine, yet. So it was great to have this opportunity to try these Key Malts.

RATINGS:
Miyagikyo Malty and Soft - 87 
Miyagikyo Fruity and Rich - 83
Miyagikyo Sherry and Sweet - 81

Friday, June 17, 2022

Waterford Bannow Island 1.1 Irish Single Malt

I'm finishing up this Waterford Week with Bannow Island 1.1. Yep, it's 3 years old. Yep, there are a bunch of casks involved. To that point, perhaps drinkers need to be careful before we say, "I can't wait until it's older!" At some moment in time those casks are going to topple the spirit. Excellent blending may be able to fashion something interesting from that mix for a couple years, though one can kiss any "Irish" elements goodbye. After that, it's just another over-oaked thing on the market. A balance will need to be established, and I'm hoping this 3-4 year old range is not the peak.

Anyhoo, Bannow Island appears to be "Bannow Peninsula" on Google Maps because the channel that separated the island from the mainland was silted up in the 14th century, per Wikipedia. Internet research! This release's Overture barley comes from Ed Harpur's farm.

Distillery: Waterford
Owner: Renegade Spirits
Region: Waterford, Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Barley strain: Overture
Age: 3 years old (2016-2020)
Maturation: 35% first-fill Jack Daniels, 20% new American oak, 25% French oak, 20% Oloroso casks
Outturn: 8616 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Of this week's five Waterfords, this one's nose is the closest to the earth. It starts with barley grist, corn meal, baker's yeast, roses and citrons. Subtler notes of chocolate malt and orange blossoms arise after some time. The salty and slightly bitter palate has toasty grains, tobacco and orange blossoms, with a lime juice note appearing later. It finishes with the grains, sunflower butter and grapefruit.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

The nose feels a bit emptied out. Barley, blackberry jam and roses are all that remain. The diluted palate actually reads hotter and rawer than the neat one. Barley and pencil graphite up front, hints of limes and roses in the background. The finish has also faded, with hushed notes of barley and bitterness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

For a few moments this Waterford was my favorite of the bunch, especially on the nose. But it turned brittle in less than 20 minutes, and water seemed to strip it further. Will time help it? And what is that magical peak time? One doesn't want the new oak to overcome the great early nose, nor any aggressive sherry wood to wipe it out entirely.

In two years, these Waterford whiskies will turn eight years old, depending on what remains. If their pretty blue bottles don't have a giggle-inducing price, perhaps I'll give one or two a try. But not before then.

Availability - getting scarce in Europe
Pricing - $60-$120 (w/VAT, w/o shipping)
Rating - 78, but drink it quickly and keep it neat

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Waterford Sheestown 1.1 Irish Single Malt

Yesterday's Ballymorgan gave me some hope that I'll find a good Waterford. Sheestown 1.1 now gets a try. Again, I can't get over the casks being used: First-fill JD, new US oak, French oak, and Oloroso. What was that about Irish terroir again?

But farmers are awesome and I'll pretend like "tēireoir" is more than marketing fluff, so I'll give Philip O'Brien of County Kilkenny (beautiful countryside) a shoutout for his Irina barley here.

Distillery: Waterford
Owner: Renegade Spirits
Region: Waterford, Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Barley strain: Irina
Age: 3 years old (2016-2020)
Maturation: 35% first-fill American oak (Jack Daniels and Seagrams), 21% new American oak, 25% French oak, 19% Oloroso casks
Outturn: 9000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose is quite floral, going from flowers to flower candy after some time. It also has a good dose of dried berries (blueberries and currants?). Bits of ginger candy and barley too. The palate has a bit of iron and ethyl, but it also has a greater measure of apricot and raspberry jam. It's sweet but tart oranges and tart raspberries balance that out. Iron shows up in the finish, but it disappears in later sips. Roses, raspberries and tart citrus remain.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

Flowers and berries up front in the nose, corn syrup and yeast in the back. No sulfur. Lots of floral eau de vie in the palate, a mix of berries as well. It finishes with tangy berries, flowers and ethyl.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Found one! I like a Waterford! 10th try is the charm. This is nearly newmake (or poitín), but it's good. And it's difficult to know what the right age would be for this whiskey. The casks may kill it before its first decade is through, and 3.9 years is too damned young. But maybe five years? Six? Will Reynier allow it? I'd say six years is right about......now.

Availability - still available throughout Europe
Pricing - all over the place
Rating - 80