...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


  1. I was able to get Work in Progress 4 (thanks to the two Davids of K&L) for $63. According to their write-up, Springbank is actually planning to release Kilkerran at 10 years (meaning 2014). This fits in with the rest of Springbank's line-up which starts at 10 years.

    Now I'd love to taste the other barrels they are experimenting with (Oloroso Sherry, Fino Sherry, Port, Rum and Madeira). Springbank in a Madeira cask was one of Ralfy's favorites.

    1. Though the Whisky Yearbook says they're waiting until the 12yr, you might be right about 10yr, as that would make sense as far as the Springbank brands go. It would be interesting to find out the (future) best age for Kilkerran.

      The Davids are still selling their Springbank Madeira cask from last year which sounds delicious, but I'm trying to find a way to sample it rather than going in for a $100 blind purchase.

    2. If you're up for paying $99.99, the Longmorn 20 year old at K&L looks real affordable compared to the $106 Longmorn 16 being offered by Beltramos (why is Pernod pricing Longmorn so high I wonder?). Oh, and that Longmorn 10 year old is an even better value if you want to taste some Longmorn.

    3. Apparently the old 15yr official botting was grand and in high demand. Maybe Pernod thought that by adding a year they could hoist the price without losing too many buyers. But most reviewers say that the 16yr isn't as good. In any case, that price is too high for me, thus I watch the indies for potential Longmorns

      I've actually been eyeing those K&L Signatory Longmorns quite a bit. Let me know if you get one. I may be leaning towards the 10yr.

    4. The Longmorn 20 was actually bottled by The Exclusive Casks (an indy exclusive to the UK until now) and judging by the dark color (no e150a coloring) spent those two decades in ex-sherry casks. I actually pre-ordered a bottle because it was a steal compared to the official Longmorn 16. Hilariously even the label mentions "this should be more expensive."

      I ended up also getting the Signatory Benrinnes because it's a whisky we rarely see here. The Signatory Longmorn 10 also looks good and it's next on my buying list. All I can say is the Davids picked some interesting casks this year.

    5. Ah yes, it was the Longmorn 10 and Benrinnes that I've been looking at. Yeah, the Davids really did pick some fascinating malts this time around. I intend to get one before they're all gone.

    6. If Benrinnes is what you're after, you can also just pick up a bottle of Stronachie 12yo (HT, Bevmo) or 18yo (TotalWine). I had the 12yo, it has a very interesting profile, they call it "beefy", in the same class with Mortlach, and I agree. Except Stronachie is not heavily sherried. I liked it but didn't love it. The K&L is cask strength though...

    7. I've never had Benrinnes/Stronachie, so thanks for the notes! I'd heard that Benrinnes can be beefy, though I'd wondered if that had something to do with the European oak casks they chose or if it is the malt's characteristic. I was going to check with K&L what wood was used on their Benrinnes before making any choices.

      What appeals to me about the Longmorn is that it's from a ex-bourbon hoggie with new oak heads. That sounds delicious even if it ain't cask strengthed.

    8. The K&L Benrinnes was matured in an ex-bourbon cask so it might not be noticeably "beefy." The Alchemist bottling of Mortlach I bought was also aged in an ex-bourbon cask and I couldn't identify a "beefy" note. It was a very nice vanilla bomb however.

    9. Wow, I gotta try a Mortlach from ex-bourbon some time. I've had some ideas of Macallan and Aberlour from ex-bourbons and they always highlight the great malt within.

      I'm going to have to flip a coin to choose between the Benrinnes and the Longmorn.

    10. *ideas* = drams

      I don't know how that happened. I must be too sober.

  2. "Florida?! But that's the nation's wang!"

    This Kilkerran sounds delicious! I see that HT has a bottle for sale, but they don't mention the release number.

    1. You can look at the color of the carton. The one reviewed by Michael is grey, the newer ones are beige.

    2. I'll second what Florin said.

      WIP1: White label
      WIP2: Gray label
      WIP3: Greenish label
      WIP4: Beige label

      HT used to have WIP2 for $48.99. As of last month they're selling the WIP4 for $59.99.

    3. Sadly I missed picking up a bottle when it was still relatively cheap in OR. Tops $80 now, which is just ridiculous. Springbank's new importer seems to be trying to milk what little volume they have as hard as possible.

    4. Jeepers creepers. No wonder you've been hitting up The Source. This is the same reason why I've been window shopping the UK retailers for Springbank bottles too.

  3. Kintyre is indeed one of the most pornographic geographical forms out there, bringing up the 6th grader in any whisky drinker...
    But then again, we also have the paps of Jura, and further afield, the Grand Teton, or pre-2007 euro coins showing Scandinavia without Norway, like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24712609@N00/2905061707

    1. I probably spent a few of those coins without ever appreciating the depiction on the back. Why did they leave Norway off the map?

    2. Norway should have never been on that map, since they don't use Euros (they are not even in the EU). My guess is that the EU got embarrassed of having phalli on their coins and found some ulterior reasons to embrace the whole Europe. In fact, I was not aware of the change until last night! :)

    3. That's a good point, I forgot that Norway still isn't in the Union. And, yeah, the new(er) coinback just shows the whole continent, even (gasp!) Russia. :)