Kilkerran 12 Year Old

It’s here! Glengyle’s first standard expression. The hotly anticipated Kilkerran 12 year old.

kilkerran12Kilkerran 12yo (46%, OB, c.2016)
The later Work in Progress bottlings were split between bourbon and sherry for a time but we’re told this is a mixture of 70% first fill ex-bourbon casks and 30% sherry casks.
Colour: Pale gold
Nose: Heather fried in lemon and salted butter. Substantial floral notes and fresh vanilla pods. Sherry notes are there too with light raisins and toffee. With time fresh apple starts to come through.This is noticeably more complex nose than the Work in Progress bottlings that i just reviewed. With water grapefruit rind and wax appear.
Mouth: A beautiful, clean sweet lemon arrival. Then an ashy peat appears turns up. With water I find sherbert lemons and honeysuckle.
Finish: Long, ashy, but refreshing. It’s like the end of a summer barbecue.
Conclusion: This is a complete whisky. A perfect daily dram. It does everything and is remarkably refined for a 12 year old. An instant classic. 90 points. SHARE

A modern classic that is enriched by a brooding undercurrent, subtle and complex despite its youth, Kilkerran 12yo goes well with Nils Frahm.

What does SAMPLE, SHARE or SAVOR mean?

Kilkerran Incoming!

I’m still waiting for my bottle of the inaugural Kilkerran 12yo to arrive so in the mean time here’s a bit of homework courtesy of their Work in Progress series.

kilkerranwip4Kilkerran Work in Progress 4 (OB, 46%, c. 2012)
Colour: Hay Nose: It doesn’t smell young. I’m getting bourbon casks but I know this is a mix of sherry and bourbon matured whisky.Sweet malt with fresh fruit and spices. Followed by pear, hay, and wax, developing a lemon oil note with water  Mouth: Oh, you can tell Springbank are behind this. The arrival has sweet fruits, tinned peaches, pineapple sherbert and wood spice, then the heavy Springbank signature kicks in. It’s hotter than the nose suggests. Finish: Creamy cocoa Comments: An auspicious start to this tasting. Thoroughly enjoyable.  A bit hot on the mouth but this is young whisky after all. Swims well. 88 points.

kilkerran2006Kilkerran Single Cask 2006/2015 (OB, 57.3%, c. 2015)Colour: Burnished Gold Nose: Alcoholic. This is cask strength but the nose suggests the cask hasn’t had much impact on this burly spirit. With a bit of time citrus fruits come through, digestive biscuits and pineapple. I’m not getting the calvados on the nose Mouth: Powerful. This needs water and patience. After the a swim this starts to yields a sweet agave arrival turning bitter, herbal. Lots of parsley. With more time and more water you start to get leather notes Finish: Red chillies Comments: Don’t forget your water glass for this one. I don’t think the cask did what it was meant to do so an interesting choice for a single cask release. Still young and certainly not tamed yet. 82 points.

kilkerranwip7Kilkerran Work in Progress 7 Sherry Wood (OB, 46%, c. 2015)
Colour: Gold Nose: Very distinct sherry notes. Sweet toffee, stewed apples, chocolate and a few blueberries Mouth: Noticeably more mature straight away. The wood has done the job. Dark chocolate and something savory – Marmite? Whatever it is it works! Finish: More chocolate Comments: It feels like this whisky has hit maturity. This isn’t as complex as the WiP 4 and I think that’s because of the absence of bourbon casks. There was a cask strength bourbon matured WiP 7 which some reviewers have raved about, but good luck getting your hands on that now! 86 points.

Kilkerran is shaping up to be an outstanding single malt. True to the ethos of their Springbank parents, Glengyle distillery have managed to produce a modern single malt that is firmly old-school in character. I can’t wait to get hold of the 12 year old!

How does a whisky prove its age?


Some whiskies are losing their age statements while others are bringing age statements back due to pressure from customers and commentators alike. Whatever the current fashion there is no denying that old whiskies with an age statement are demand consistently high prices. So here’s a question – when you buy a bottle, how do you know the whisky inside is actually the age it claims to be? How does a whisky provide proof of age?

To answer this question I asked artisan blenders and champions of transparency Compass Box Whisky. This is the very same Compass Box who last year broke EU law by disclosing the age of every component part of their This Is Not A Luxury Whisky and Flaming Heart releases. In response they launched a transparency campaign asking that producers be permitted, but not obliged, to tell customers the age of every whisky in the bottle.

I asked Elif Yontucu, Operations Manager at Compass Box, how they verify the age of the whisky that goes in to their blends. This is what she said:

“There are strict controls in place regarding the age or age of youngest spirit (AYS). Spirit (whisky) cannot move without the knowledge of ‘’date of filling to wood’’ and customs and our bottler would check this at the point of receipt of casks”.

“When we purchase casks from our suppliers, there is a transfer of ownership which is recorded on paper. This includes age of cask (fill date) and litres of alcohol in that particular cask. This information is then sent to our bottler and they record this in their system. They won’t be able to receive any casks without the ‘’fill date’’ information. So when casks from different ages are blended, they record the age of the youngest cask used in that blend”.

“Once bottled both customs in the UK and customs at any borders spirit crosses can ask for evidence of AYS which can be provided by the manufacturer of the whisky. I am told by our bottler that many auditors from official bodies and from their customers would also check this on a regular basis as well as trading standards and the Scotch Whisky Association”.

So there you have it. It turns out there are a lot of check and balances in place to ensure that producers, bottlers and distributors can verify the age of their whisky. Thanks to Compass Box for being so informative!

A trio of Vintage Balblairs!

The sometimes overlooked Balblair can be excellent, so let’s try three official bottlings.

balblair02Balblair 2002 First Release (46%, OB, c.2013)
Colour: white wine Nose: spirity at first, giving way to apple, cream, vanilla and fresh grass Mouth: citrus arrival, turning to butter cream, oily in the mouth Finish: surprisingly long, dark chocolate and a touch of licorice, very enjoyable! Comments: Great quality whisky. Not massively complex but well made, very clean, clear and refreshing. 88 points

balblair1997Balblair 1997 Second Release (46%, OB, c.2013)
Colour: pale straw Nose: really nice, complex, salted butter, apple, custard, red berries Mouth: sweet arrival again, but then something earthy and almost savory in the development, followed by cream  Finish: black pepper and oak  Comments: So interesting to see the extra cask engagement, though I’m not sure the oak influence is adding to this one. I prefer the younger version. 86 points

balblair 1989Balblair 1989 Third Release (46%, OB, c.2013)
Colour: pale gold Nose: the spice and oak is starting to get going now, cinnamon, clove, and some grapefruit rind Mouth: surprisingly simple, white pepper, orange, apple Finish: marmalade and some bitter oak Comments: feels simpler than the younger expressions 85 points


Proof that sometimes a younger, simpler expression can be the most pleasing. Always an education to do a vertical like this, especially with the help of the stated vintages – a touch which I really like!

EU Referendram

On the day of the UK’s EU referendum I took a tour of some European malt whiskies including a new Ardbeg.

moissonsDomaine des Hautes Glaces ‘Les Moissons’ (42%, OB, c.2016)
This is an organic single malt made in the alpine region of France and is matured in a combination of virgin oak, Cognac, and white wine casks. Colour: white wine Nose: it’s all cask to start with white wine vapors, then getting sweeter notes of almond and cherry. Very reminiscent of an aged grappa, but not a high quality one Mouth: more almond, pastry (almond croissant?), with growing lemon citrus Finish: Short, apricot and dark chocolate Comments: I really wanted this to be good, but it just didn’t live up to expectations. I enjoyed the grappa notes but it wasn’t as good as a decent grappa, certainly not a decent whisky. 75 points

mackmyraMackmyra Iskristall (46.1%, OB, c.2016)
This one features Mackmyra’s signature spirit with an added finish in Pedro Ximénez casks. Colour: deep copper Nose: noticeably young, chocolate raisins. The sherry is prominent and they seem to be using good casks. Mouth: sweet arrival with toffee and almond with a spicy finish. With water it becomes spicier and more bitter on the finish. Comments: I find this to be an average spirit in a pretty good sherry jacket. I’d be very interested to see Mackmyra after longer maturation.  82 points

slyrsSlyrs Bavarian Single Malt Whisky (43 %, OB, c. 2016)
This German single malt isn’t easy to get hold of in the UK but it’s been winning wards and we’ve got some to try now. Colour: deep gold Nose: ok, I’m seriously getting sauerkraut. Really, its quite pronounced. Also some vegetable stock and sherry. Weird. To begin with the sweet and savory of this nose doesn’t work at all but over time it’s appeal does start to grow. Mouth: completely different to the nose with lots of dry citrus, melon and lime juice. I really like this! Comments: It’s like a sauerkraut margarita. The nose will put you off but the taste will make you want to keep drinking it. Confusing! I wonder what would happen if you decanted it a few times? 84 points

hammerheadHammerhead 23YO 1989 (40.7%, OB, c. 2016)
This Czech single malt, we are told, was distilled jut before the iron curtain fell and has been matured in Czech oak casks. Colour: burnished Nose: melon, dry sherry, some leather notes developing Mouth: stewed apple, creme brulee, licorice Finish: drying Comments: this one needs time. it is a pleasing, rather complex malt which deserves your attention. Also very good value for money. 86 points

millstoneZuidam Millstone 100 Rye Whisky (50%, OB, c.2016)
I’ve heard good things about this Dutch rye. It’s 100 proof, 100% pot still and was matured for 100 months (8 years, 4 months). Colour: mahogany Nose: wood spice, clove, cinnamon Mouth: big, oak, plum, tannin. With water it gets sweet and fruitier.Conclusion: a simple but very enjoyable rye. This is good quality stuff. 85 points

dark cove

Ardbeg Dark Cove (46.5%, OB, c.2016)
To finish off we have the new limited edition release from Ardbeg, matured in ex-bourbon and ‘dark’ sherry casks. Colour: deep copper Nose: sweet, raisin, bbq, savoury Mouth: wow, there are very dstinct waves of sweet caramel, bbq meats, coffee, tobacco, ginger fruit cake Finish: excellent, long licorice, menthol Comments: It’s a lot like Uigeadail but with extra char and a but less sherry. Wowsers.  91 points

Quite an odd combination of malts in hindsight and despite ending with an outstanding Ardbeg I keep thinking about that Slyrs with its very odd nose!


An Arran Mini Vertical

The reputation of Isle of Arran Distillery is growing all the time. Not only is the quality consistently good but the value for money is excellent. Lets try a few teenagers.

arran cs3Arran 12 yo Cask Strength Batch 3 (53.9%, OB)
Colour: Amber. Nose: Pineapple, lemons, lots of fresh fruit. With water it really gets going with more of the above plus grpefruit rind. Mouth: Sweet fruit arrival turning sherbet sour. Mouth coating and very complex for a 12 year old whisky. Finish: chocolate and with water some lemon oil. Comments: a hugely enjoyable cask strength fruit bomb. A really good one to water down over time and observe the changes. 88 points.

arran14Arran 14 y0, (46%, OB, c. 2015)
Colour: Deep gold. It looks like this has more sherry contents than the 12 cs, but we will see. Nose: Yes, much more sherry in here than the 12. Toffee,sweet pastry. With water it starts to get leathery. Mouth: Big bold arrival, apricot, caramel, and chocolate brioche. Finish: Malty, turning bitter. Comments: This a really well matured spirit. Its a decadent malt at a very reasonable price. 89 points.

arran17Arran 17 y0, (46%, OB, c. 2014)
Colour: Deep copper. This one was a limited edition released in 2014. It was matured exclusively in sherry hogsheads so lets see whats in this! Nose: Very rich and complex, sherry and spice. With water its sweeter with butter andn nutmeg. Mouth: Sweet arrival, more spice, chocolate, oranges. Finish: The sherry takes over with spice plus a small amount of smoke. 89 points

Two Independent Mortlachs

mortlach 7165Mortlach 17 yo 1997/2014 (46%, Signatory, casks 7165+7166)
Colour: straw. Nose: a contradiction. sweet and savoury, minerals and fresh fruit, ginger biscuits. Mouth: Oily, greasy sherbert, lime, grapefruit, lemon Finish: medium, lemon .Comments: Challenging but enjoyably so. 87 points


mortlach 6079Mortlach 24 yo 1990/2015 (56.5%, Signatory, cask #6079)
Colour: straw. Nose: toast, complex green fruits, smoke .Mouth: Huge. another oily greaser. Salty, savoury, becoming sweeter with water Finish: smoky and bitter.Comments: another demanding malt, but it’s really something. I’m glad I tasted them this way round. The 97 was a good preparation for this massive 1990. 89 points

Three Clynelishes

My first post so I thought I’d make it a good one! Clynelish is an absolute favorite of mine, I could probably dedicate a blog to searching for the perfect Clynelish. Anyway, lets get started. 
clynelish14Clynelish 14 yo (43%, OB, c.2016)

Colour: amber Nose: wax, peach, fresh fruits. Mouth: sweet honey turning sour and waxy. Finish: more honey and wax. Comments: excellent combination of sweet honey, fruit, wax and spice. 86 points


sv 12373Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2014 (46%, Signatory, casks 12373+12374)
Colour: straw. Nose: complex fruit, lots of melon and melon rind. Less waxy than the official bottling. Mouth: drier arrival, very oily and mineral. Grows sweeter with water, stewed apples. Growing in complexity over time. Finish: drying lemon. Comments: a more austere Clynelish and with time in the glass a very rewarding one. 87 points


bbr 6871Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2014 (55.4%, Berry Bros and Rudd, cask #6871)
Colour: straw. Nose: the wax is back! This one is more savory with some salt, leather and tobacco, apple and ripe banana. Mouth: Thick, fat, very juicy with spice fresh fruits – salt and pepper mango, that’s it! Finish: peppery and fairly long. Comments:Perhaps the most interesting of the three but the fruit and pepper doesn’t quite go together. 85 points 

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