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  • Writer's pictureHarold

Kilkerran 15th Anniversary

It's hard to believe "the other" distillery in J & A Mitchell's portfolio, and still the youngest in Campbeltown (for now), will soon be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It seems like only yesterday fans of the Glengyle distillery were arguing over which country/market should get their preferred cask type from these 15th Anniversary bottlings. Although, I'd say most were just happy to get their hands on any bottle at all.


It was 10 years after the distillery started production when the team over at Glengyle decided to re-rack six puncheons, which were all initially being saved for the small, but quite possible chance there were any leaks/mishaps/whatnots from "The First Six Cask Selection" series. These six "back-ups" were re-casked into 13 refill bourbon barrels for the remaining 5 years of their essentially, reverse double maturation. Each of these "single casks" were then sent off through various international allocations. There's a great YouTube video available from a tasting back in 2021, I believe, that goes over the whole series, but the gist of it was that there were only 13 "single casks" made available for 16 international markets, which meant six of the "smaller" markets had to share 2 casks, while the UK not only received one of their own...but a distillery exclusive as well...you know what, I can already see this is going to get a bit confusing...how about you just check out the chart below...

Kilkerran 15th Anniversary bottle allocation chart
**Please note this obviously unofficial (and highly sophisticated) chartwork should be seen as nothing more than my personal guide/frame of reference, and in no way reflects any legitimate statistics...except for everything that was found on the internet...so everything basically.**

Now before I go any further, it's worth mentioning this series was one of the first times my brain understood that the Scotch whisky market, for a very long time, has been getting away with calling expressions (like the one's in this series) "single casks," even if the new make/liquid/juice inside (please don't call it juice) was spending a pretty lengthy amount of time in multiple casks before their respective bottlings. And sometimes even getting batched together and split into multiple secondary maturation casks. Again, a process very commonly done, and still regarded as a "single cask" maturation process. So, far be it for me to lay any blame or unnecessary credence at the feet of J & A Mitchell for such widely accepted behavior. However, it's also worth noting that this sort of conduct, or misleading information should be addressed sooner, rather than later (by the SWA) before the exceedingly growing market of internet-savvy consumers start to feel like they're getting a bit duped.

 
Kilkerran 2004/15 Year |Single Cask| Oloroso Wood - 51.5% *15th Anniversary - US Exclusive*
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase

Kilkerran

2004/15 Year |Single Cask|

Oloroso Wood - 51.5%

*15th Anniversary - US Exclusive*


I'm still wondering how they got away with only labeling the initial cask maturation on the front label, rather than stating the last vessel, which is often the case. Regardless, we Americans were surely delighted, when one of the "oloroso wood" allocations made its way to us...which just so happen to coincide with the 8 Year Cask Strength (Batch 4) landing here at the same time. The color-rich duo made quite the impact once upon our shores...as many American whisky fans, perhaps unaware Springbank even had a sister distillery, decided maybe they should give this dark stuff a try!


Appearance: Old oak/Brown Sherry

First Whiff: Pumpernickel beer bread croutons.

Nose: Wood heavy, of course...but that good, old wood style. There's a very rich, weighty...perhaps waxiness even that makes it a bit restrained. Turkish figs, musty old grapes and prune juice jump out at first but there's a sweet and tangy-meatiness there as well...buttery marmite, black cherry bitters and cacao nibs.

Palate: Thin and leathery with almost no alcohol bite. There's a tar-like oiliness...creosote and soy sauce which blends with the nutty, dried fruits...crushed walnuts, dates, and dried apricots.

Finish: Medium length, very...dusty cocoa-like, more of those cacao nibs with a bit liquorice-smoke towards the back.


Summary: Classic WINEsky where the wood just completely blanketed the spirit. I think the OB 16 year old, which was introduced a year later, serves as a great baseline comparison to what I would call Kilkerran's typical "house style," and based off of that...I really struggled with finding any real Kilkerran DNA. The nose was pretty spectacular, though...showing off some real quality sherry wood. Over-oaked...yes but certainly OAKay enough, if you like that style. And perhaps, not-so-surprisingly, very similar to the 8 Year Cask Strength (Batch 4), which does more to pump up that whisky than degrade this one, for me.

IDS SCORE: 86

 
Kilkerran 2004/15 Year |Single Cask| Fino Wood - 52.1% *15th Anniversary - The Nectar, Belgium*
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase

Kilkerran

2004/15 Year |Single Cask|

Fino Wood - 52.1%

*15th Anniversary - The Nectar, Belgium*


Similar to everything mentioned here already, this was originally aged in a Fino sherry puncheon for 10 years, then re-racked into a refill bourbon barrel for the remaining 5 years.

Appearance: Copper

First Whiff: Seashells and salted caramels.

Nose: Chalky, slightly putty-esque and pungent. Warming with underlying mineral notes...pencil shavings, bubblegum, buttery Butterfinger and some raw honey.

Palate: Creamy and sour. Super woody, cigar box/fresh cedarwood shavings. Tart green apples dusted with nutmeg and almond paste. Slightly oily...linseed oil mixed with a bit of sour, orange-y stone fruits...peaches/apricots and kumquats.

Finish: Long, warming but mostly dry with some crisp apple cider-acidity on the end.


Summary: Dry and wood-heavy with some wonderful aromas reminiscent of another Campbeltown favorite of mine, located on High Street. The wood maturation was pretty on-the-nose here with the dominant notes coming from the light bodied, dry and fruity Fino wood sprinkled in with that warm bit of honey, toffee and orchard fruits from the bourbon wood. Certainly more refreshing and character-retaining than the oloroso version.

IDS SCORE: 87

 

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