Kilkerran 8 year Cask Strength 56.2%

From thriving to languishing to a recent resurgence, the Campbeltown whisky “region” that technically lost its status according to the Scotch Whisky Society. Today Campbeltown has only two producers – Springbank Distillery with its ‘extra’ plant Glengyle and Glen Scotia. Some of the distilleries that closed with prohibition and depression became brands under the Springbank family – Glengyle, Hazelburn and Longrow.

What do the Springbank/Glengyle folks have to say about their Kilkerran brand? A fair bit on the bottle label:

Mitchell’s Glengyle Ltd. are very proud to be continuing and adding to the great Campbeltown Distilling tradition and the choice of name reflects that Kilkerran is derived from the Gaelic ‘Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain’ which is the name of the original settlement where Sait Kieran had his religious cell and Campbeltown now stands. Kilkerran is thought to be a suitable name for a new Campbeltown Malt since it was unusual for the old Campbeltown distilleries to be called after a Glen, a custom more usually associated with the Speyside region.

A not to subtle dig at Glen Scotia?

But I digress… on to the most important matter at hand… what did we think of the Kilkerran 8 year seated cask strength whisky? Note… we sampled completely blind so the tasting notes are based purely on our thoughts and speculation before the “great reveal.”

Kilkerran 8 year Cask Strength 56.2%

  • Colour – I rather fancifully dubbed it “light sunshine”
  • Nose – Initially quite an oily peat, almost kerosene, sharp, a hospital dispensary, but then it began to mellow in the glass, revealing a fruity sweetness, some light seaweed and hint of brine, a bit of blue cheese or wet socks, shifting back to the peat with campfire embers, an earthy aroma, then more citrus sweet like a lemon tart and then betel nut
  • Palate – Fabulous! Peat perfectly balanced with sweet cinnamon and spice. Just a great balance between the three elements like a well cooked beautiful meal. Some chilli spices, more of that paan character too.
  • Finish – Sweet cinnamon
  • Water -This was a whisky that welcomes water and enables so much more to come to the fore…. Absolutely fabulous with water with a delicious creme caramel, milk chocolate, very creamy quality, like a salty caramel cheese cake, a bit perfume too

There was no doubt we loved it however a few remarked how the peat in the nose was initially so intense it took over the show. However after time to oxidate and the addition of water, everything clicked into perfect harmony. Particularly the balance on the palate was simply outstanding.

Our speculation turned to discussion the quality of peat – what was clear was this was no Islay yet most hesitated to guess beyond that. Overall we found it well constructed and clearly cask strength.

The reveal of Campbeltown and for most of us, only our second Kilkerran, was a cementing of a growing opinion that these folks clearly know what they are doing.

What else do we know? That it was distilled at Glengyle in Campbeltown, is non-chill filtered with no added colouring. We understand it is a 50 PPM.

This was their 1st release which is now sold out, so if you were curious about how much would this set you back…. will need to check out a different version of this whisky – currently retailing at Master of Malt for approx £49.96 – complete value for quality!

Here is our pedigree trio:

  • From Ireland – Midleton Barry Crocket No 10205 46%
  • From Australia – Sullivans Cove 16 year (2000/2016) 47.5%
  • From Campbeltown – Kilkerran 8 years Peated Cask Strength 56.2%

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Pedigree Malts – Midleton, Sullivans Cove, Kilkerran

There is no doubt that the world of whisky has changed and will continue to change. What has emerged are a few players that are truly “pedigree” even if their origins are not your typical Scottish… Brands that are being recognized for their consistent calibre…

We were treated to such a trio on a fine monsoon swept evening in Mumbai… Each was sampled completely blind with the reveal done only after all three were given our full and careful consideration.

What did we try in our Pedigree Malts?

  • From Ireland – Midleton Barry Crocket Legacy No 10205 46%
  • From Australia – Sullivans Cove 16 year (2000/2016) 47.5%
  • From Campbeltown – Kilkerran 8 years Cask Strength 56.2%

While none of these are the “traditional” pedigree vintage whiskies, each has a dedication to quality that shines through.

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A Phenomenon Revisited – Compass Box Phenomenology 46%

Compass Box’s Phenomenology is one of those whiskies that is both phenomenal and a phenomenon. I have yet to encounter a whisky that provokes such a range of reactions – with highly individual perceptions.

I first had it with our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents back in February 2018. Where our host very generously asked if I would like to take the bottle home to share with others. Would I?? Oh yes indeed!

And the perfect evening presented itself in June 2018 with the Whisky Ladies. We were a lovely small group and after our Highland Hijinks trio, our evening didn’t seem quite finished…

Enter Phenomenology…

And what a remarkable experience it was. Just to give a feel for the contrasting responses, I’ve deliberately kept them separated by speaker for the nose… read, discover and see if this possibly could be the same whisky!

Just a sampling of the aromas different ladies found are noted below:

  • Floral, lots of jasmine, honeysuckle, perfume
  • Almond, like Amaretto, shrewsbury biscuits
  • Citrus, salt, melon or more precisely cantaloupe, a licorice saunf and surprisingly sharp
  • Almond, dum biryani
  • Salted caramel, toffee, rhubarb, orange rind, musk, tobacco leaf
  • A kaleidoscope of aromas, fresh green apples, french vanilla, pure dessert, icing sugar powder, blue cheese, toasted rice, yoghurt

As for the rest, our combined experience was:

  • Palate – A light hint of peat, great “teeth”, whiff of skunk, cedar plank with salmon, sage, had a great mouthfeel, light spice
  • Finish – Citrus and floral, mild spice, black cardamom

To say we loved it was an understatement. It was complex, challenging, sparked conversation. And not only did we each find largely quite different aspects, even individual women found multiple elements too… this was no one-dimensional dram. No siree!

Above all – how could such contrasting characters emerge from the same whisky?

Here is where the folks at Compass Box excel, they share their secrets, telling the world exactly what goes into the bottle so one can attempt to dissect, deconstruct, discover and above all learn and be inspired…

What is fascinating is the bulk of this blend comes from Glenlossie – a distillery I’ve yet to try as a single malt and has no specific official bottles outside of Diageo’s Flora and Fauna range. Yet its been around since 1876 quietly producing whisky for blends.

And what does it add to Phenomenology?

  • 72% total liquid volume with a malt whisky matured in re-charred hogshead
  • And what does it add in terms of its flavour profile? Fresh, Fruity, Apples
Next up? Tamdhu with 24.5% matured in first fill bourbon cask adding Caramel, Oak, Spice. In this case, one I’ve tried but long ago and not at a time when I took any tasting notes, which means I have no particularly memory.
And the last 3? A split between rather familiar distilleries:
  • Highland Park with 2% matured in re-charred hogshead bringing burnt butter, bonfires, tar
  • Talisker with 1% matured in refill butt adding salty, coastal, brine dimensions
  • Caol Ila with a mere 0.5% matured in a hogshead throwing marshmallow, vanilla and sweet smoke into the equation
With this knowledge, do we understand more? Perhaps. And yet the proof is in the pudding so to speak… the way in which the whiskies were blended in such a masterful way to produce something unique and quixotic. And well worth revisiting.
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North Star Discovery – Glenrothes, Ardmore + Islay

There is something so fabulous about being truly surprised.

Which is why our original Mumbai tasting group keeps to its habit of tasting blind. Sometimes we reveal each whisky immediately after tasting, other times we wait until we have sampled all three whiskies.

In this case, it was after tasting all three drams and what a reveal! Why?

As it introduced North Star Spirits, a new independent bottler based in Glasgow. Starting in just 2016, we understand it is a “one man” operation by Iain Croucher, earlier part of A.D. Ratraay group.

Interestingly, he has a distribution relationship in Germany with Sansibar – which is another independent bottler that caught my attention recently for its ability to spot good casks for relatively reasonable rates.

My photos do not do justice to their packaging which is …

What did we sample?

  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Glenrothes 20 year (Oct 1996/Oct 2016) 54.6% 1 of 252 bottles
  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 57.1% 1 of 198 bottles
  • North Star’s Cask Series 002 – Islay 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles

Unfortunately North Star bottles have already captivated attention that it is best to pre-order online as they seem to be snapped up quickly!


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Bruichladdich PC 12 year 61.1% (Blackadder Raw Cask)

We have another Blackadder Raw Cask whisky… this time from Bruichladdich… or rather more specifically from Port Charlotte.

Port Charlotte 12 year Sherry Cask No 622 (July 2003 / May 2016) 61.1% Blackadder Raw Cask range. Bottle 209/284

  • Nose – Chocolate, dark fruits, what do you want! Smoke, peat, sherry, peppers, earthy, mineral
  • Palate – Outstanding – beyond connoisseur quality, sacred ash, spice, a 3-D fullness, fruits… from orange to dark berries, dry with just the right balance between spice, sweet and a chaser of peat.
  • Finish – Holds, spice, green capsicum, a bourbonesque close… also marvellous
  • Water – Please do! Then wine notes are revealed, much sweeter, brought out the peat, dampened the spice, lots of gorgeous dark fruits, delicious

Had the best qualities of a brash youngster yet the complexity of a more seasoned character. This was clearly no ordinary Port Charlotte… and one we felt privileged to try.

With a bit more patience, it took on an even spicier character – like biting into a green chillies vs our normal experience where spices tame and get subdued over time. I truly wished we had more to try as had the sense that it would have kept evolving and revealing even more dimensions.

It certainly re-sparked by interest in exploring more from Bruichladdich… and Port Charlotte specifically… Here are just a few tried til date:

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Chieftain’s Choice 22 years (1993/2015) 52.7%

There are an increasing number of independent bottlers putting out single malts with the distilleries kept deliberately undisclosed. In this case, the bottle was part of Chieftain’s Choice, from Ian Macleod, which tend towards rare whiskies  – be it the distillery such as ones that are now closed, age or something specific that makes it unique.

Chieftain’s Choice 22 years (1993/2015) 1st Fill Sherry Cask No 3612 52.7%, 579 Bottles 

  • Colour – Bright ruby
  • Nose – Pure sherry bomb – in every way. Press hard and the different dimensions of prunes, raisins, bitter, rum soaked tart, stewed brandied fruit, then even sweet almond milk is revealed.
  • Palate – Honey sweet with spice then pure sweet with some tannic woods – again perfect sherry balance
  • Finish – Exceedingly sweet

We pronounced it “Pure desert!” And while it reminded us a bit of a Glendronach, that is pure speculation and we could be off completely.

What do we know for certain beyond it being matured in a 1st fill sherry cask? Only that it is from Speyside… and it is an exceptionally good example of an unadulterated sherry cask.

If ever anyone is able to share more, we would be most curious to know!

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Whisky Lady – June 2018

June was quite full with all three tasting groups holding their regular sessions plus a few interesting visitors with:

With our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, we shifted gears to have an evening dedicated to open bottles – a complete mixed bag of what was lying around. Which in our case meant a merry trip through:

For the Whisky Ladies, it was a night of Highland Hijinks!

And our original group? We were introduced to a remarkable new independent bottler – North Star with a terrific trio of:

  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Glenrothes 20 year (Oct 1996/Oct 2016) 54.6% 1 of 252 bottles*
  • North Star’s Cask Series 001 – Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 57.1% 1 of 198 bottles*
  • North Star’s Cask Series 002 – Caol Ila 8 year (June 2008 / May 2017) 58.3% 1 of 230 bottles*

Last month, I took our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents on a European Exploration and caught up with all the tasting notes which had a clear divide between ones we quite enjoyed…. and those we decidedly did not!

The thumbs “down” category included:

And in the thumbs “up” category?

In addition to our normal tasting evenings, we were fortunate to have not one but two IBHL sessions in April and May respectively with:

Evenings with Krishna Nakula, India’s Malt Maniac are always a pleasure. This time we ambled through a rather remarkable range of whiskies…

*Tasting notes coming soon…

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

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Highland Hijinks – Aberfeldy 18 year 40%

Last in our “Highland Hijinks” trio was an 18 year old from Aberfeldy. For the most part, one has Aberfeldy in Dewars blends, less frequently in official bottles however they are now regularly having a  12 and 21 year bottling with the 18 year launched in 2014 for travel retail.

I often think of 18 years as being the “sweet spot” for many Scottish single malts that truly demonstrate the quality and character while still being almost affordable vs 21 years which tend to rise steeply in cost.

For many of this, we simply haven’t tried  much Aberfeldy and it is increasingly rare to have “adult” age statements, so we looked forward to sampling!

And what did the Whisky Ladies think?

Aberfeldy 18 year 40%

  • Nose – Spirity, brash, seemed younger, then with a little effort could start to discern some citrus orange, honey or caramel, followed by nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamon… with the nose becoming increasingly pleasant
  • Palate – Simple, sweet, easy on the palate, like sipping sugar or honey water with a slight injection of fruits, some spice
  • Finish – Where is the finish? Barely there

Overall we just had to admit it was a disappointment. One truly expects more from an 18 year old whisky. We found the nose had more promise then the palate was frankly… bland. Don’t get us wrong, we do appreciate a nice subtle nuanced dram, this one just didn’t have enough character to captivate our attention. Likely on its own, it may be easier to appreciate, but in a trio, it simply didn’t shine.

Talk turned to a rather crude hindi phrase which more politely could be explained as teasing but no real action. That about summed it up.

What did the Whisky Ladies sample in our night of “Highland Hijinks“?

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Highland Hijinks – Glenmorangie The Duthac 43%

Glenmorangie is known for taking its typical highland of sweet honey, citrus and floral to play with different casks, particularly finishes, to create a different profile. The Duthac is one such variant – using a combination ex PX Sherry and Virgin Oak. Originally launched for travel retail, it was named after St Duthac who ‘rests’ near the distillery.

And what did the Whisky Ladies think?

Glenmorangie The Duthac 43%

  • Nose – Grape, initially quite restrained then heavy caramel, some clove, sweet spices, vanilla.. after the 1st sip the aromas shifted to plum skin, apricots, butterscotch
  • Palate – One remarked how it “crackled on the tongue” with the 1st sip then settled into a “typical” Glenmorangie – sweet, lightly fruity, honey, sweet spices with mild candied ginger
  • Finish – Slightly bitter, sits there with a linear yet solid quality
  • Water – Did absolutely nothing significant initially then a remarkable thing happened – the finish took on a distinctive watered down “Thumbs Up” (desi cola) taste!

Overall it was pronounced a terrific party whisky. After time, it settled into a yummy pudding pie or creme brûlée. Nothing exceptionally distinctive yet nothing challenging or off-putting. Nice, easy dram for more sociable occasions.

What do the folks at Glenmorangie have to say?

  • Aroma: Seductive aromas of pear, toffee apple, Brazil nuts in toffee, with an underlying spicy note, some toasty oak. With a splash of water, some creamy vanilla fudge is encountered, along with the classic Sherry cask note of linseed oil.
  • Taste: Mouth-filling flavours of milk chocolate, toffee, Brazil nuts, leather and some aniseed. The spiciness is definite, but gentle, with hints of ginger and clove.
  • Finish: The aftertaste once again reminds drinkers that this is a Glenmorangie, with vanilla, apricots in cream and some almond marzipan.

What did the Whisky Ladies sample in our night of Highland Hijinks?

Other Glenmorangie  sampled over the years….

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Highland Hijinks – Old Pulteney 12 year 40%

Up first in our “Highland Hijinks” evening was Old Pulteney – for many this was a revisit of a familiar friend, for others it was an introduction.

Normally we taste only from closed bottles with the contributor taking the remaining home to enjoy with others.

However this was an exception – opened just a month earlier with IBHL’s Digital Marketing head Samantha Peter during her visit to India. As only a select set of Malty Mumbaikers could join that private evening, it seemed only fitting that the remaining whisky wander its way to the Whisky Ladies.

Which means both this bottle had oxidized a bit and was courtesy of our friends over at Old Pulteney.

And what did the Whisky Ladies think?

Old Pulteney 12 year 40%

  • Nose – A delicious mild apple cinnamon, a bit of zing and spice, peaches and apricots, a little wood, some brine, kept evolving shifting into a light refreshing perfume spray, lots of toffee
  • Palate – Sweet, restrained, honey with a bit of chillies too, citrus, coriander seeds, caramel, with the spice at the back
  • Finish – Lightly bitter, salted almonds, mild yet of surprising length
  • Water – No desire to add

Overall it was most satisfying. For many the aroma was the best part and they kept coming back to take a whiff and enjoy.

And when we finished trying our Highland trio, several came back to the Old Pulteney remarking how it really held its own – even at 40%.

What did the Whisky Ladies sample in our night of “Highland Hijinks“?

Other Old Pulteney tasting experiences:

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