...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Single Malt Report: Kilkerran Work in Progress 5th Release Bourbon Wood

Tuesday was Work in Progress 3, Wednesday was Work in Progress 4, Today is Work in Progress 5 (Bourbon Wood).

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

In each of its first four years, Kilkerran's "Work in Progress" malts had a single annual release.  For the fifth edition, Glengyle Distillery chose to change things up by putting out two simultaneous bottlings, possibly as a way to demonstrate how the whisky was developing in two separate types of casks: Former bourbon barrels and former sherry casks.  And, with any luck, the whisky would be well received and they'd sell twice as many bottles.  Well, they're in luck.  The fifth WIPs have been very well received.

And I'll make it very easy on you, here are a few links:
Serge Valentin gives the Bourbon Wood a very positive review.
Later, he posts that it was his personal favorite whisky of 2013.
Then Sku of Recent Eats and LAWS was very enthusiastic about it, here and here.

Before I even started this week's tastings, I was a very big fan of all things Kilkerran, so you probably know which direction my review is going.  Thus if you so desire, you can skip to the score then click away.  But if you stick around for more words, I'll try my best to give you my perspective.


Distillery: Glengyle
Brand: Kilkerran
Age: 9 years (2004 - 2013)
Maturation: ex-bourbon American Oak barrels
Region: Campbeltown
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Label color: Blue
Limited release: 9000

The color is still a nice amber shade.  And the nose still has the piney forest floor notes!  In fact, the nose is somehow even more potent in this edition than the previous two.  There are toasted grains, anise, sharp cheddar, a savory sort of peat moss, and a pinch of chili powder.  Citrus fruits are starting to show now at this age: lemon zest, sharp grapefruit, and some cardamom spice.  The oak doesn't show much except as the occasional whiff of pencils.  It all gets spicier with time.  The palate starts off doing the reverse of WIP4, going creme brûlée --> peppery spice --> hot cereal.  Then sometimes it goes custardy --> savory --> briny.  There's some apples and brown sugar on oatmeal.  And here's the peat, showing up a little smoky.  Citric sugars start developing over time.  It finishes peppery, grassy, barley juicy, and salty.  Limes and peppercorns.  Candy cane mint and taffy.  An extensive length for something of its age and ABV.

The nose holds moss, yeast, apples, cracked pepper, cheddar, lemon, and a hint of peat.  The palate is light on the sugar.  Some salt and an amber lager.  Toffee pudding with a cigarette.  The finish grows saltier, maltier, and savorier, with hints of smoke and oranges.

The nose gets musky and earthier.  Then, toasted grains along with something savory.  The palate gets sweeter and the beer becomes more of a Belgian ale.  Floral notes start showing up, along with butterscotch.  The finish is all barley and sugar.

Let me sum everything up.  The whisky swims very well.  The oak remains reserved, while the peat does not shy away.  While I love WIP2's bold "outdoorsy" quality, WIP5 Bourbon Wood is the first Work in Progress wherein the quality of the palate and finish can stand proudly next to the nose's.

I do not like encouraging the whisky buying/hoarding craze -- it's a bug that has bitten me much too often -- yet I know how I feel about this "Work in Progress", so let me choose my words here...

As I nosed and sipped this whisky last night, I began to wonder if maybe we should all tone down the talking and dreaming about the potential quality of the future Kilkerran releases.  Instead, perhaps we should see the present clearly and appreciate what we have here right now.

Availability - Many specialty liquor retailers.
Pricing - $60-$70
Rating - 91 (dropped to 90 points in a subsequent review)