...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Single Malt Report: Kilkerran Work in Progress 3rd Release (2011)

"Michael, since I am also boycotting Diageo, what other distillery's single malt should I try since I no longer purchase bottles of Talisker?"
-- No one ever

Good question, No one ever.  There are many non-Islay moderately peated high quality single malts on the market.  Highland Park, Ardmore, and Longrow are the first brands/distilleries that to come to mind.  They each peat their whisky differently, but most of the time their malts' peating expresses itself at medium levels.  Last May, one of my readers, Mantisking, recommended Kilkerran as a good alternative to Talisker.  Brilliant idea.

I am a BIG fan of Kilkerran's single malts (here's my rave review about WIP #2).  They come from the Glengyle distillery in Campeltown and are owned by the same company that runs Springbank.  (I recommend Chemistry of the Cocktail's envy-inducing distillery writeup for more information.)  They reopened and started distilling again in 2004.  Each year's release is still being called "Work in Progress" as Kilkerran progresses towards a 12 year old single malt in 2016.  Work in Progress #1 was a five year-old bottled in 2009, Work in Progress #2 was 6 years old in 2010, etc.  Like Kilchoman, these young malts from a small distillery are very impressive, easily kicking the teeth out of their older competitors when it comes to quality.

So, since I just bombarded you with a bunch of Talisker reviews.  How about a few Kilkerrans?

I'll start with Work in Progress (WIP) #3 and then, each day, work my way over to their newest releases.  Keep in mind, each bottle has similar packaging, but are color-coded per release:

WIP1: White label
WIP2: Gray label
WIP3: Light green label
WIP4: Beige label
WIP5: Blue Label


Distillery: Glengyle
Brand: Kilkerran
Age: 7 years (2004 - 2011)
Maturation: ex-bourbon American Oak barrels, possibly some ex-sherry casks?
Region: Campbeltown
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Label color: Light green
Limited release: 9000

The color is light amber......good start.  The nose is piney and minty, with new sneakers and baseball card 9-pocket plastic pages.  Then peat moss, dirt, and unripened stone fruit.  Barley, actual barley.  A whiff of sugary candy, very subtle vanilla, denim, and moldy books.  The palate starts with dense toffee and butterscotch with some lemon zest around the edges.  Some pleasantly sharp spirit, with a little bit of smoke and menthol.  Then in the middle, it's as if one just dropped one's Werther's Original into the dirt but picked it up and ate it anyway.  With time, maybe there's hint of an old moldy sherry cask?  A burst of orange and lime skins in the finish.  Then brown sugar, menthol, a smoky toffee, and a caramel-covered prune.

I actually got so involved with this one that I was too far down the glass when it came time to add water.  I'm infatuated with the nose.  The other parts are good too, but the nose was undecorated dirty malt.  Love it.  WIP2 was a little more gritty (in a good way) as there was less oak influence.  But the oak isn't aggressive here (maybe due to refill casks?) as it plays well with the other elements.  That hint of sherry is entertaining, sort of a slight seasoning.  The peat also remains in the background rather than the foreground, peeking out when the time is right.

So, like the second WIP, Work in Progress #3 is for someone who likes some barley and earth and zip in his whisky.  It is still youthful, but the spirit is so good that it's a pleasure when it sings out.  I would happily choose this 7yo over almost every OB 12yo out there.  So I can't imagine what this single malt is going to be like on its twelfth birthday.

Availability - WIP 3 is getting tough to find, some specialty retailers may have it
Pricing - $50-$70
Rating - 89