The popularity of Kilkerran whisky from the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown is growing rapidly. This has been demonstrated by the release of the 8 year old cask strength Oloroso sherry release from late 2019, which is now revered by fans and highly sought after on the secondary market. Then towards the end of 2020 came the release of their oldest whisky to date, a 9000 bottle run of their first 16 year old release. As soon as it became available at any retailer it was gone. In recent days the release of the latest 8 year old cask strength, matured in Oloroso sherry again, has sold out within moments of being available at any retailers. The insane appetite to grab the Springbank and Kilkerran releases is quite astonishing.
Kilkerran only produce whisky for around 12 weeks towards the end of each year, using staff from their sister site at Springbank, and produce around 92,000 litres of new make spirit during that time. In the early days they produced almost half that figure. When you consider they have a theoretical capacity of 750,000 litres, they are only producing just over 10% of what they could be due to the restraints of running two distilleries side by side. This means all future releases are likely to be available only to those with the fastest fingers, or a good relationship with their retailer. The 12 is the only bottling which is likely to be available in significant enough numbers to be readily available.
The malt used at Glengyle comes from Springbank’s own maltings and is peated to between 12 and 15 ppm. The difference between the two comes mainly from the different stills used and the double distillation, rather than the 2.5 times at Springbank.
Let’s take a look at the flagship 12 and the new 16 before comparing the two;
Nose : Lemon and orange dominate along with the peat smoke. A little apple, sweet confectionery barley sugar and some vanilla along with some earthy notes. Really bright and inviting.
Palate : Lovely oily and coating mouthfeel. Sweet lemon and orange citrus and peat come to the fore once again with some vanilla and creaminess. Turns bitter on the palate with plenty of saline developing. Oak notes and pepper spiceness.
Nose : Sweet citrus lemon and orange peel, hint of peat, but so much compared with the 12. Barley sugar and some tropical notes – pineapple and grapefruit.
Palate : Fairly sweet with more of the lemon, orange, honey and a little peat. Really juicy and well rounded with lots of salt coming through after a short while. Black pepper and oak comes through towards the end and lingers a while.
As you’d imagine they are very similar and share a lot of the same DNA. The 12 year old is made up of around 77% bourbon and 23% sherry maturation and the 16 is almost entirely bourbon, with 2% Madeira in the mix too.
The 16 is juicier and much more rounded on the palate and the peat is a little more restrained thanks to the longer maturation. The extra sweetness will certainly appeal to those who like that kind of profile. The 12 is more overtly peated and minerally, and has more of the Campbeltown signature, which is a style which really appeals to my tastes.
All in all both are excellent malts, but the 12 has the edge for me. The price point and availability are also two other big positives which go in its favour. If you have yet to sample Kilkerran, the 12 can be had for less than £40 in the UK and is a must buy.
Kilkerran 12 – 9/10
Kilkerran 16 – 8.5/10