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Friday, September 9, 2016

Single Malt Report: Kilkerran 12 year old (2016)

I'll close out Campbeltown Week with this:

Aside from my gaggle of birthday whisky samples, the new Kilkerran 12 is the only single malt I've touched over the past three weeks.  I can't remember the last time I focused on one bottle for so long.  Moving to a new house and weathering months of humidity sort of brought this about, but also I can't think of another current whisky I'd rather dig into.

While I'm always rooting for Kilkerran's success, I found the flood of geek tweets raving in excitement for this whisky's impending arrival kinda silly.  Kilkerran had already released 10 different single malts over the past seven years, and the majority of them -- whether it was the six, nine, or eleven year old -- were excellent.  No magical change occurs in an aged spirit at the twelve year mark.  It's just a good comfortable number to many whisky fans, and the particular age the distillery had decided to utilize as some sort of humble coming out party.  Maybe I should have just called this post Kilkerran Work In Progress, 8th Release.

So, yes, whisky people, the 12 year old is here (or actually not here, but in Europe), go purchase a bottle if you're bursting with mania.  I was actually more excited about last year's cask strength release and would really love to see them do something similar with their 12 year old sherry casks.  But yeah, it was fun to open this bottle.  It's nice to feel positively about a new single malt release.  Heck, I even posted a pic on Twitter, which I will not link to because it's silly.  Man, I hope this post is less silly.

Distillery: Glengyle
Owner: Mitchell's Glengyle Limited
Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 12 years (2004 - 2016)
Maturation: 70% ex-bourbon casks, 30% ex-sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Label color: White

For reasons you'll see below, I compared the neat version with a reduced 40%abv version, so my notes will look different here.

When neat, the whisky's color is a light gold.  When reduced to 40%abv, it immediately gets very cloudy.

When neat, the peat arrives first, reading more medicinal than other Kilkerrans.  Also an unmistakable smoked fish note.  But it's very malty throughout.  The sherry cask element feels louder than 30%, coming across more nutty and chocolatey than dried fruity.  Otherwise, layers of lime, honey, and pear form the foreground once the peat recedes.  A bright thick bourbon barrel note appears around the 30 minute mark.  It also develops a nice citron note if you accidentally warm the glass up too much.

When reduced to 40%abv, the peat clears out, leaving behind a synthetic oily component.  Some beach sand.  Peaches and cardboard.  A hint of leather peat meets hay and bleach.

More heat than expected when served neatly.  A significant marzipan / almond cookie note comes from the sherry casks.  Fresh apricots and a rye-like spiciness.  Feels a little like Springbank 10yo with a little more grunge.  A nice silky texture throughout.

When reduced to 40%abv, acidic fruit leads the way, along with fruitier sherry cask notes.  Sort of Bunnahabhain 12-ish.  There's some toffee and tongue drying tannins.  It's better than the nose, though it still has a flat weird oak note.

Hints of peat and earth, when neat.  There are those almond cookies.  Lots of baking spice, as well as hints of smoked fish and smoked almonds.

When reduced to 40%abv, it's acidic, peppery, and malty with a mild sweetntess.

Though I get none of the forest floor characteristics I so love in Kilkerran, the 12 year old has a lot of really nice rich sherry cask notes.  Though the palate could stand lose some of that raw spirity heat (of which I find much less in the cask strength WIP #7), the mouthfeel is outstanding.  The nose is also very good as all of its seemingly dissimilar elements come together nicely.

I really really do not recommend adding more than a couple drops of water.  I've never had a Kilkerran fall apart so violently like this one did when reduced to 40%abv.

This is still a very good whisky thanks to some great sherry casks and the texture that comes from the lack of chillfiltration.  But unless the second half of this bottle drastically improves, I won't be buying a second one.  It's still better than most of the major single malts on the market, but I'd take a handful of the WIPs over this.

Availability - Europe, so far
Pricing - $35-$50 (minus VAT, w/o shipping), I hope the US price will be similar!
Rating - 86 (neat only)

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