Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first of all. As you can see from the picture, I have had the opportunity to explore an entire bottle of the 2021 release over the past twelve months, but only have a sample to work from for the 2022. That’s important. I have one shot at evaluating this year’s release, and multiple tastings is a more ideal scenario in order to get the best perspective of a dram. Although I have spent a considerable amount of time with the sample of the 2022 side-by-side with the 2021, and hope my views are pretty solid based on that.
I only managed to obtain a bottle of the port cask from this year’s releases, which I am grateful for. I was going to review that here too, but I think it is a separate thing and can wait for another upcoming review, as they don’t really compare.
With these Kilkerran cask strength releases from 2019 onwards, that have been fully matured in very active sherry or port casks, you aren’t getting a huge amount of distillery character coming through; or in fact any at all. The flavours are almost entirely cask derived. The whisky from Glengyle isn’t quite robust enough to take on those flavours and still shine through in my opinion. If you try the standard 12 alongside these releases, with its predominant maturation in ex-bourbon casks, you can’t tell they come from the same distillery. Is that important? If it tastes great, that’s the most vital thing, right? Whether the flavour is derived from the fermentation, distillation or cask, as long as it is good then it is good. It’s just a point I think is worth noting.
On the subject of distillery character, if you get a chance to watch some of the tastings from the recent Whisky Exchange Old and Rare show on Facebook I would recommend it. Even without having the drams to hand, it is super interesting (for a geek like me). The Naked Distillate and Old Style Sherry Masterclass’ in particular are worth a watch. Much wiser and experienced minds than my own talking about the pleasure of very distillate forward and more sherry forward whiskies. Although they are looking at the past, there is plenty of discussion comparing to the whisky landscape today.
A bit of a segue there, which is quite a regular occurance in my writing, but I think it is relevant when discussing these drams.
Back to these two in particular, the most intriguing thing about them is how different they are. I expected a fairly similar experience with only slight changes to the notes for each one, but that has not been the case at all.
I reviewed the 2021 release last year, and you can read those views here, rather than me re-hashing the same thing. I will put my tasting notes below for the 2022, and then talk about where I am with the pair of them when compared.
Kilkerran 8 Years Old Cask Strength Sherry Cask 58.1% (2022 release)
Nose : A rather fruity and slightly floral experience. A strong scent of orange marmalade and honey, with some stewed dark fruits, strawberries with balsamic, butterscotch, crème caramel and furniture polish. That polish is a quite pronounced note on this one. I’m getting some nasturtium leaf, macadamia, toasted marshmallow, burnt wood and sour dough starter. It’s quite grassy too.
Palate : Not as sweet as you might come to expand from 8 years in a sherry cask. It tastes very dark, which was a bit of a surprise when compared with the nose. By dark I mean there’s lots of bitter black coffee, dark chocolate and old leather boots. A sweetness develops with boozy soaked dried fruit, orange peels and muscavado, but they are all encompassed in those previously mentioned darker notes. There’s also some drying oak tannins, burnt wood and black tea coming in.
The finish is drying and creamy/nutty, with a lingering burnt/bitter note that doesn’t quite sit well with me, and slightly spoils the overall experience.
Conclusions : I’m loving the nose on this one, and that helps elevate the score, but it doesn’t quite match up to the experience on the palate. I don’t mind those darker flavours, but the bitterness I am getting towards the end lets down the overall experience a little for me. It is still a solid whisky, and at £50 a bottle it represents fair value, which we always get from J&A Mitchell, but it’s one I am not too disappointed to have missed out on.
Score : 6.5/10
(Score descriptions can be found in the About page)
My thoughts on where this sits compared to the 2021 :
The appearance is the first thing I noticed with this pair. The 2021 release is a slightly darker and murkier liquid, with a deep reddish hue when light passes through it, where as the 2022 is both lighter and brighter, with more gold and orange tones. Less active casks? Younger liquid? Just different? I’m not sure.
The nose almost replicates the appearance. The 2022 is brighter, with fruity/floral notes, with furniture polish and a noticeable yeasty,doughy note. The 2022 is a deeper, richer, dirtier experience, with tobacco, coffee and a rubbery, sulphury edge I enjoy, but others don’t quite so much. The 2021 seems like an older aged sherry, and I wouldn’t have guessed they were the same age blind. Perhaps they are not? There is no rule to say it can’t be older than 8 years. Both noses are excellent, with the 2022 perhaps the pick of the pair.
The palate is where they have a few more similarities, but it is also where the 2021 starts to shine ahead of the latest incarnation. The sweet and bitter has a much better balance, and I am finding that bitter development and finish on the 2022 to not be to my liking. I’m not getting any sulphur with the 2022, which I know would be a plus for many, but I do have a soft spot for a bit of rubbery, gunpowdery sulphur in a dram.
If anybody at Glengyle is reading, can we have an ex-bourbon cask 8 year old next please? There might even be more opportunity to get hold of a lighter liquid!
ABV : 58.1%
Non-chill filtered : Yes
Natural Colour : Yes
Maturation : Sherry casks
Region : Campeltown
Colour : Amber