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:

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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?

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

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Whisky Lady – May 2018

May had some terrific sessions! All three Mumbai based tasting groups met plus we had a few extras too! Plus I had a chance to catch-up on previous tasting sessions notes as well.  Read on…

All three tasting groups met, with most notes to follow next month…

The Whisky Ladies enjoyed a theme of “Northern Lights” exploring:

Whereas our original group tasted two Highland drams and an Irish pot still whiskey:

For our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents, I took them on a European Tour with:

In addition to our normal tasting evenings, we were fortunate to have a few industry extras in April and May with:

  • An evening with Caitlin Hill, Brand Ambassador for Bruichladdich and Botanist over a  quartet of cocktails and food pairing*
  • An evening with Stuart Harvey, Master Blender for IBHL with Balblair 05, 99, 00 and Speyburn 15 year*
  • An evening with Samantha Peters, Digital Marketing for IBHL with Speyburn 10 year 43%, Balblair 05 46%, Old Pultney 12 year 40%*

Which was augmented by a terrific evening at KODE with Keshav Prakash featuring a trio from the Vault Collection – Compass Box Asyla, Kilchoman Machir Bay and Edradour Caledonia.

In May, tasting notes were shared for our original club’s April session featuring The Vault Fine Spirits Collection, ably penned by our Guest Writer Nikkhil:

There was also a Minis evening playing around with finishes:

An informal evening with a few friends resulted in revisiting a few drams and sampling for the 1st time Shelter Point Cask Strength 2017 Winter Release 57.2% (Bottle 594/1088)

And for a final bit of “catchup”, back in March, the Whisky Ladies took a  remarkable “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia:

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

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Minis – Glen Scotia Double Cask 46%

I will admit, I didn’t really know what to expect with this one. My minis sampling cohort had picked up a set in London more than a year or so ago – sparked mostly by a “What the heck! Let’s try a set from Cambleton.” Then this extra bottle somehow made its way back to Mumbai too!

The double cask in this case is  PX Sherry and Bourbon. And it just so happened to kick off our minis evening exploring a few different finishes.

Glen Scotia Double Cask 46%

  • Nose – Pear and apple combine like the New Zealand hybrid papple! Or raw guava…. with a lovely honey vanilla, fresh, then caramel stroopwafel, shifting into a Christmas pudding or mince pie, sweet spices, orange… After tasting, delicious baklava dripping in honey, nuts, doughy, cinnamon. Then shifted to dusty vanilla rose. Kept moving back and forth between citrus and white fruits, hard core treacle and denser rich cake. Wonderful!
  • Palate – Strong character – spice, more of that Christmasy flavours – this time a Christmas orange with cloves, some wood, some real depth without being too “heavy” and sweet, a bit dry too
  • Finish – Bitter spice, long with black pepper

I will admit to having very modest expectations and was completely impressed. What a fabulous range of aromas, robust palate, citrus then morphing between pastries and citrus oranges and back to treacle.

Glen Scotia Double Cask is their “entry” level whisky before shifting into a range of age statements. Here is what they have to say about this whisky:

Our Double Cask is matured in the finest first fill bourbon barrels before being finished for up to twelve months in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks producing this outstanding single malt whisky that provides the perfect balance of rich spicy fruits, overlaid with the characteristic sea spray and vanilla oak finish for which the house of Glen Scotia is famous.

  • Nose – Amber. Very sweet. Initially it is all creme caramel, caramelised fruit sugars, wood sugar, toffee and fudge before some apple and peach come through. In time a charred note of bourbon with a pleasing dusty dryness. Has some power.
  • Palate – Sweet start and quite fat and though the alcohol gives a little tongue-tingling buzz the result is a good mid-palate weight. The dry distillery character is there still, but there is now depth to counter. Water slightly dismantles the different elements, but adds some dried mint.
  • Finish – Deep and dark.

What a terrific start to our minis sampling – set the bar high with substance. And now I cannot wait to try a small sample set of Glen Scotia minis waiting in the wings for another session…

Our Fabulous Finishes Minis eve included:

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Minis with fabulous finishes – Glen Scotia, Nomad, Shelter Point

Believe it or not, we had a problem of plenty… lots of different minis to potentially explore picked up our several trips.

A tasting companion neatly organized into different possible sets and the one we elected to try was whiskies with finishes… we initially planned to sample four but in the end we were content with just these three:

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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Sherry Element – Kilkerran 10 year WIP #6 Sherry Wood 46%

Last in our Sherry Elements evening was a Kilkerran from Campbeltown.  As it was our original club, we tasted strictly blind… leaving the reveal until all three whiskies were sampled.

Kilkerran 10 year “Work in Progress” Batch #6 Sherry Wood 46%

  • Nose – Peat,  medicinal capsule, stern, burnt wood, forest, a coal steam engine, then started to shift into lemon, licorice, coca cola, BBQ Sauce yet still some of that camphor peeping back, then shifted to candy floss super sweetness, what was so terrific was the way it kept evolving, even revealing brine
  • Palate – Sweet, thin, honey water, then as we kept sipping, it took on more character, yet very sweet – almost too sweet… then with more time the sweetness began to drop and it became much more balanced
  • Finish – After taste had peat, bitter and very long… then just as the nose… began to evolve and over time had a marvellous balance of sweet sherry and nuts
  • Water? Must admit none of us were tempted…

This time, our speculation on colour was that it seemed natural. We also thought it had a lower strength alcohol – somewhere between 43 – 46%…

Our conclusion was that this is a whisky that stands on its own, growing, taking its time to reveal more… one that needs you to wait… wait for it… wait for it… and be rewarded.

And the reveal? Bright cheerful pink packaging accompanied the Kilkerran sherry dram. For most this was a 1st experience with Kilkerran though we are certainly familiar with other Campbeltown drams with Springbank, Hazelburn, Longrow

Opened in March 2004, Kilkerran, is the first distillery to open in Campbeltown in over 125 years, and the first new distillery in Scotland this millennium.

And what do they say about their Work in Progress #6 Sherry?

  • Released in 2014. Only 9000 bottles available worldwide.
  • Nose: Bold and Beautiful. Clear, but subtle, European red oak notes, a real sherry matured star.
  • Palate: The sherry notes goes deeper on the palate. Dark chocolate, dates, prunes, hard toffee, molasses and gingerbread syrup. Honey-BBQ coated ribs without any of the smoke.
  • Finish: This Whisky holds a great poise, almost ballerina like. There is a true harmonious balance between all the components in this dram. It has a seamless, resonant finish, echoing in a deep, loving, sherry tone.

What did we sample in our “Sherry Elements” evening?

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Sherry Elements – Oban, Amrut, Kilkerran

As a whisky tasting group, we’ve sampled many a sherry matured cask over the years.. however we have not had an evening dedicated to different elements of sherry… until one fine evening in November 2017.

What did we sample?

And what made each of these distinctive?

1st off the Oban was not your standard familiar friend – the 14 year – no siree! It was instead a 15 year limited edition initially matured in an ex-bourcon cask then a Montilla Fino Cask.

Next up was an Amrut Intermediate Sherry purchased some 7 odd years ago and carefully kept. Again a combination of bourbon and sherry… with quite a complex and different character than the Oban.

And the Kilkerran? The Campbeltown offering was again Sherry wood… with a peaty element too.

None were full force sherry, each had a unique dimension, making our evening a most enjoyable exploration. All had been carefully collected over years by our host… none can be readily obtained today… of if you do, likely not quite the same as what we sampled.

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Peaty Mini – Longrow Peated NAS 46%

Up next up in our peaty miniatures sampling was an opportunity to revisit Longrow from Campbeltown.

I will admit to a certain fondness for the lone Campbeltown distillery with their trio of styles:

  • Springbank – Most enjoyable dram… including a remarkable 1996 sample
  • Hazelburn – Their un-peated range. Had a most enjoyable evening with a Hazelburn 12 year. Still regret missing an opportunity to purchase their 8 year 1st bottling!
  • Longrow – Their peatier range, once upon a time made an appearance in my whisky cabinet…

The miniature offered an opportunity to sample the NAS avatar simply called ‘Longrow Peated’.

Longrow Peated NAS 46%

LongrowHere’s what we found:

  • Nose – Peaty wet rag or wet dog, organic, earthy, spice. After tasting, the nose took on a slightly tart or sour dimension to the peat.
  • Palate – A lovely tingly peat, viscous, spice peat, pepper, a quite mineral element, very tasty
  • Finish – Peppery peat, delightful

Overall, we found it refreshing to side step sweet to just enjoy a nice peaty dram.

We also sampled it in the Norlan glass – fabulous! It brought out a lovely woodsy quality on the palate and really brought out the best of Longrow on the palate.

Here’s what the Springbank folks have to say:

Longrow Peated offers those who enjoy a heavily peated whisky the chance to enjoy a lingering smoky taste that travels through the senses like the smoke billows from a kiln.

  • Nose: Very creamy, vanilla custard. The smoke develops and toasted marshmallows, herbs and rich fruits appear over time.
  • Palate: Incredibly well balanced – rich and creamy with a slight medicinal hint. The smoke is always present and washes over the palate in waves.
  • Finish: The gentle smoke lingers and lingers.

We sampled from a closed miniature in October 2017… a full bottle would set you back around $60.

And what else did we sample in our merry mini malts evening?

And here’s more malt miniatures from my The Whisky Exchange:

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Springbank 12 year cask strength 54.2%

While I was off gallivanting around North America and UAE, my fellow Mumbaikers were exploring whiskies… This is a guest post by Nikkhil Shirodkar, a member of our original Mumbai whisky club.

  • Nose: This time smoky. Think cured meats, bacon and ham. Lovely notes of orange rind and rose petals. Now some ginger, toffee and leather. Superbly balanced.
  • Palate: Beautiful heather notes with vanilla and menthol. Almost reminded me of the old Highland Park 18. The meaty notes turn into gentle vegetal peat. ​Old books/library​ with leather seating. It kept evolving with lovely sherry notes, roasted apricots and that menthol note again.
  • Finish: Long and warming. A touch of lime, dark chocolate and peat interplay in a magical way! A clear winner.
  • Water: With water the peat smoke gets amplified with pepper notes. Some Pastis? Lovely! Despite the strength, no burn or rough edges. Good mouthfeel.

Reveal: The host teasingly gave away the location to be Campbeltown. From there it was a no-brainer! We were left unimpressed with the Burgundy finish. Maybe as a stand alone whisky it would be a perfectly nice dram but not if it is followed by the vastly superior Springbank 12 year. The host however was of the opinion that the 10 year old – which was the official standard – is superior than the current 12 year old version. It would be interesting to do a comparative tasting.

Official notes:

  • Nose: It’s reminiscent of walking in an autumn forest full of pine and chestnut trees, before returning home to the iodine of a Campbeltown malt and ending with a delicate hint of peat.
  • Palate: A gorgeous richness on the palate which is balanced between citrus marmalade on toast and caramelised toasted marshmallows, not forgetting flavours of vanilla and pepper. It’s a lip licking meaty dram.
  • Finish: A delicious, viscous, smooth liquid with a salty edge. It brings back memories of a ham joint which has been marinated in a rich honey sauce and slow baked in the oven.

This whisky was sampled blind, opened in September 2017 in Mumbai for this tasting. With Springbank, it releases its cask strength avatars by editions which tend to sell out quickly. This edition was released in January 2017 and is no longer available.

PS – You can get Springbank 10 year and 18 year in India! Check out The Vault Fine Spirits.

Whiskies sampled in September 2017 by our original club included:

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